First edition cover
|Cover artist||Archie Ferguson
|Genre||Novel, transgressive fiction|
|Publisher||W. W. Norton|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3566.A4554 I58 1999|
Invisible Monsters is a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, published in 1999. It is his third novel to be published, though it was his second written novel (after Insomnia: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Already). The novel was originally supposed to be Palahniuk's first novel to be published, but it was rejected by the publisher for being too disturbing. After the success of his novel Fight Club, Invisible Monsters was given a second chance, and a revised version of it was published. The first edition was released in paperback in 1999, and on June 11, 2012, it was published in hardcover, in a revised edition titled Invisible Monsters Remix (ISBN 978-0393083521). The novel has been adapted into a graphic novel by comic artist KGZ, a.k.a. Gabor Kiss.
The story concerns an unnamed disfigured woman who goes by multiple identities which include Daisy St. Patience and Bubba Joan — identities that were given to her by Brandy Alexander, 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 by Evie, and asks the narrator to tell her life story. She remembers how she first met Brandy, and the story is told in a non-linear sequence of memories.
The narrator is the daughter of a farmer. Her older brother, Shane, who is believed to have died from AIDS after running away from home, garnered most of her parents' attention so in an effort to have some attention for herself, our narrator seeks out a career in modeling.
Her best friend in modeling school is Evelyn "Evie" Cottrell. They participate in an infomercial together and "perform" in front of customers in department store displays. It is about this time that Evie begins a secret relationship with the narrator's boyfriend, Manus Kelley.
While driving down the highway, the narrator is shot in the face. The shot rips off her jaw. She 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 the narrator is learning to speak without a lower jaw. Also during these sessions, Brandy attempts to teach the narrator how to give herself a new life, a new identity. She gives her a new name, Daisy St. Patience, the first among many new identities given to our narrator.
Evie isn't aware of this new identity transformation our narrator is going through, and Evie begs her to come live with her. As soon as she arrives, Evie informs her that she has to leave for Cancún for a couple weeks, leaving our narrator alone in the house. The first night, someone breaks in, and it is revealed to be Manus Kelley, holding a huge kitchen knife.
Because of the rapid non-linear motion of the novel's events, the narrator has often referred to Manus as Seth, an identity given to him by Brandy, and it is not until this moment in the novel that the reader learns that Manus and Seth are the same person.
The narrator locks Manus in a closet and sets fire to the house. The narrator forces Manus to ingest pills and medication before releasing him only to lock him in the trunk of his own car. She flees to the only place she can think of, Brandy's apartment.
While at Brandy Alexander's apartment (which is a hotel room), she meets the Rhea sisters, Brandy's roommates. The three are drag queens and performers who are paying for all of Brandy's operations. At the hotel room, the narrator learns that Brandy Alexander is really her brother, Shane, and that he strives to look like his sister (our narrator). Brandy then leaves with our narrator, now called Daisy, and Manus, now called Seth. They travel the country, and while pretending to be viewing rich homes for sale, steal whatever drugs or medication they can find in the medicine cabinets. Later, the narrator hears of Brandy's stories of sexual abuse from their father and later from a policeman, who she concludes must have been Manus.
One day, they are pretending to view a home, and it turns out the realtor is the mother of Evie Cottrell. Her mother reveals that they are marrying Evie off to save themselves trouble, and also discloses that Evie used to be a man. Our narrator steals a wedding invitation and the trio attend the wedding. Here again, the narrator sets fire to the home, and thus we are returned to the opening scene of the novel.
It is revealed that Brandy originally met Evie in a transgender meeting or conference. Brandy told Evie of her sister's gun accident, and it is revealed that Brandy has known that the narrator, Shannon McFarland, was her sister from the beginning of their friendship. Who could have shot the narrator is another part of the plot, with multiple possible suspects being named. When Brandy makes her revelation, the narrator reveals that she shot herself to escape from being beautiful. This parallels Shane's decision to become a woman; as he is not actually transgender, "Brandy's" choice is just to disfigure himself beyond being in the control of others. Sitting in Brandy's room, Shannon realizes that she has never truly loved anyone. She looks down at Brandy and realizes that she loves her brother. She leaves her pocket book with all of her identification; she tells a sleeping Brandy that since Shane is still confused about what he wants out of life, he can have the only thing she has left, her identity. The novel ends with Shannon leaving the hospital and into the world to find a new start.
In the Remix version, it is revealed that Shannon, now going by Daisy St. Patience full-time, has created a cemetery after her parents have died, in which you can bury relatives you disliked or hated with spiteful sayings carved into the tombstones. Additionally, Daisy creates a group for disfigured girls called "Elephant Women." In the end, we see her at her wedding, getting married to an unidentified man.
- Narrator, aka Shannon McFarland — A former fashion model, now disfigured by a mysterious gunshot injury. She goes by many different names throughout the book, most notably Daisy St. Patience and Bubba-Joan.
- Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, aka Princess Princess — A transgender woman whom the narrator meets in the hospital shortly after her own mysterious gunshot injury. Brandy encourages Narrator to hide her disfigurement and attempt to live a new lifestyle.
- Evelyn "Evie" Cottrell - Narrator's former best friend, also a fashion model.
- Manus Kelley - Narrator's ex-fiancé, an ex-police officer. He goes by many different names throughout the book.
- The Rhea Sisters - Three male drag queens who Brandy describes as being family.
Invisible Monsters Remix
Originally released in paperback in 1999, the first hardcover edition of Invisible Monsters was published on June 11, 2012. This edition is a restructured version of the novel, entitled Invisible Monsters Remix. It contains a new author's introduction, explaining that the linear structure of the first edition was not the novel's original intent. Instead, this new edition of the novel presents the chapters in mixed order with instructions on which chapter to read next, similar to Choose Your Own Adventure books, and new chapters have also been added.
MacLaren Productions Inc. acquired rights to the novel in 2009 and planned to begin production of a film adaptation in Vancouver in spring 2011 but this never materialised. The company established the website www.invisiblemonstersfilm.com to help raise support where people can demand the book be made into a movie by submitting their email, name and location online. A Facebook group has also been set up under the search name "Invisible Monsters Film" to raise awareness for the film and generate support.
References in popular culture
The Walkmen's "Brandy Alexander", which appeared on their 2006 album A Hundred Miles Off and in the film In Bruges. Jeffree Star's song title "Your Heart Is My Piñata" is a direct reference to the Katty Kathy quote of the Rhea sister's invention, with Jeffree's debut album "Beauty Killer" containing several references to the novel.
- Kiss, Gabor. "Invisible Monsters Comic Book". Retrieved 20 November 2011.
- "MacLaren Productions signs option for "Invisible Monsters"". MacLaren Productions Inc. 2009. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- Invisible Monsters Film website. Accessed January 6, 2011
- Invisible Monsters Facebook Group. Accessed April 13th, 2010
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- Invisible Monsters book details on W. W. Norton & Company Website
- Review of Invisible Monsters on Unreality Shout