INVISIBLE MONSTERS (Chuck Palahniuk) 1. INTRODUCTION When someone told you there’s an earthquake going on somewhere in the country, you smile but you don’t quite know why. You giggled to yourself when a famous celebrity died with unknown reasons and you laugh hysterically when one of your close friend mysteriously commited suicide. It’s that kind sick fascination that had me read this book cover to cover in all its twisted glory. This is a story about a disfigured beauty and her cross country journey with a beauty-queen and her boy toy.
Her past, and all their weird secrets that will definitely have you looking at the drama of our lives in a new different way. 2. BODY 2a. Theme Invisible Monsters is about the disfigured, transsexual, gay, ugly, or otherwise unpresentable “monsters” in this society, the outcasts and mutants who have made mistakes and are glad of it. It’s also about the artificial life, the pristine correctness of beauty and the nuclear family, fashion, real estate, prescription drugs, and television commercials. It shares with Palahniuk’s other novels the theme of self-destruction, of hitting bottom, and of rebuilding on top of whatever’s left. b. Setting Fancy Mansions in North America (Mostly Pacific and North West) and some parts of Canada 2c. Plot Summary The story concerns a disfigured woman who lost her lower jaw after being shot. Her name is Shannon, but she is frequently referred to by other names given to her by Brandy Alexander, a transsexual, with whom she spends the majority of the book. The novel opens on the wedding day of Ms. Evie Cottrell, whose house is burning to the ground. Brandy has been shot, and asks Shannon to tell her life story. Shannon remembers how she first met Brandy, and the story is told in a non-linear sequence of memories.
Shannon was the daughter of a farmer. She felt ignored because her older brother Shane got all of their parents’ attention. While burning trash, a full can of hair spray had exploded in his face. Shannon was angry because she felt neglected by her parents; eventually in pursuit of attention she became a model. The police think that Shane’s accident might have been child abuse and interview him to determine whether it was. Later, Shane gets a really bad sore throat. The parents assume that it is strep throat, but when the test results come back, it turns out he has gonorrhea.
The parents think that Shane is a homosexual and Shane runs away. In fact, Shane had been raped by a policeman pretending to interview him about his accident. It is later revealed that the police man who raped Shane is Shannon’s future fiance, Manus Kelley. Shannon’s best friend in modeling school is Evelyn “Evie” Cottrell, a rich Texan who lives in a giant mansion by herself. Shannon and Evie participate in an infomercial together and “perform” in front of customers in department store displays. It is about this time that Evie starts a relationship with Manus.
While driving down the highway, Shannon is shot in the face. The shot rips off her jaw. Shannon immediately drives to the hospital where she recovers. There she meets Brandy Alexander. They quickly become friends. Brandy is learning to speak like a woman and Shannon is learning to speak without a lower jaw. At this time Manus cheats on Shannon with Evie. When Shannon is let out of the hospital, she stays at Evie’s house while she goes to Cancun for a photo shoot. Then, Manus comes inside with a knife because he thinks that Evie is the person who shot Shannon.
It is then that Shannon kidnaps Manus, sets Evie’s house on fire, and takes Manus to Brandy Alexander, not knowing what to do. While at Brandy Alexander’s apartment (which is a hotel room), she meets the Rhea sisters. The three are drag queens and performers. At the hotel room, Shannon learns that Brandy Alexander is really her brother, Shane McFarland, and that as a woman he wants to look like her (his sister). Next, Brandy, Shannon, and Manus (who was kidnapped by Shannon after burning Evie’s house down in a rage) travel all around North America, visiting open houses of rich people to steal drugs to re-sell on the streets.
At this time, Shannon starts feeding Manus estrogen pills because she is in love with him and realizes that if she cannot be with him, she must destroy him. The three finally decide to return home where they learn that Evie was once a man (Evan) and that she is going to get married. They crash the wedding and Shannon sets fire to Evie’s new house. The groom cannot be found anywhere and is discovered having sex with Manus in the kitchen. This infuriates Evie and she shoots Brandy, mistaking her for Shannon (because Shane has been totally reconstructed to look like Shannon).
While Brandy is bleeding to death, they tell each other their true identities. Brandy is actually Shannon’s brother and put the hairspray can in the trash himself because he was tired of being normal. Shannon’s actually shot herself, as she hated being defined by her beauty. Brandy survives her wound. Shannon allows her sibling to take over her old life as a model, and Shannon goes away to become “invisible”. 2d. Characters * Shannon McFarland — Former fashion model, narrator. The narrator goes by many different names. Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme — A transsexual Shannon meets during her stay in the hospital who is only one operation away from becoming a woman. Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme encourages Shannon to hide her disfigurement and attempt to live a new lifestyle. She also is Shane McFarland, Shannon’s older brother. The Rhea sisters called his parents and told them he died of AIDS. * Evelyn “Evie” Cottrell (formerly Evan Cottrell) – Fashion model. Shannon’s former best friend. * Manus Kelley – Shannon’s ex-fiance, police officer. * The Rhea Sisters – Three drag queens who are paying for The Queen Supreme’s sex change operation . CONCLUSION Invisible Monsters is another stunningly good read by Chuck Palahniuk. The plot itself is outstandingly good, and is accompanied by an extremely powerful message about the superficiality of modern culture, and our increasing obsession with physical appearance. There are some excellent moments of supremely dark humor, alongside some sobering descriptions of the gruesome practicalities of plastic surgery. Well worth a look. 4. AUTHOR Chuck Palahniuk is a novelist who has become closely associated with Generation X culture.
Born Charles Michael Palahnuik on 21 February 1962, Palahnuik gained major recognition after one of his novels was turned into a film. Fight Club, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt, turned Chuck Palahniuk into a best-selling author overnight. Palahniuk’s style of writing is sparse. He writes in short sentences and uses the main character’s voice to tell the story. He has often been described as a shock writer who uses graphic and horrific descriptions in order to shock the reader on an ever increasing scale. At many of his readings of his novel Haunted, people were said to have fainted due to the gory content of the stories.
One of Palahniuk’s trademarks is to intersperse his stories with pieces of factual information. This technique serves to draw the reader further into the story. However, many of the so-called facts are actually fiction. With Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk became hailed as the modern voice of anti-materialism. Both the film and the book behind it struck a chord with many people who were dissatisfied with large corporations and the influence they had on people’s lives. Some people have criticized Palahniuk’s writing as nihilism, a tag that he has rejected as an easy label used by the media.
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