Choke (novel)

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First edition cover
Author Chuck Palahniuk
Cover artist Rodrigo Corral
Bob Larkin
Country United States
Language English
Genre Satire, Black comedy
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
May 22, 2001
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 304
ISBN 0-385-50156-0
OCLC 44905122
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3566.A4554 C47 2001
Preceded by Invisible Monsters
Followed by Lullaby

Choke is a 2001 novel by American author Chuck Palahniuk. The story focuses on Victor, a sex addict, who must find work in order to afford the care that his mother is receiving in her nursing home. Victor first resorts to being a con man, then after receiving money from various "good Samaritans", gets a job at a colonial reenactment museum before building a dream home for himself. The novel was later adapted for film by Clark Gregg.

Plot summary[edit]

Choke follows Victor Mancini and his friend Denny through a few months of their lives with frequent flashbacks to the days when Victor was a child.[1] He had grown up moving from one foster home to another, as his mother was found to be unfit to raise him. Several times throughout his childhood, his mother would kidnap him from his various foster parents, though every time they would eventually be caught, and he would again be remanded over to the governmental child welfare agency.

In the present day setting of the book, Victor is now a man in his mid-twenties who left medical school in order to find work to support his feeble mother who is now in a nursing home. He cannot afford the care that his mother is receiving so he resorts to being a con man. He consistently goes to various restaurants and purposely causes himself to choke midway through his meal, luring a "good Samaritan" into saving his life. He keeps a detailed list of everyone who saves him and sends them frequent letters about fictional bills he is unable to pay. The people feel so sorry for him that they send him cards and letters asking him about how he's doing and even continue to send him money to help him with the bills. He works at a re-enactment museum set in colonial times, where most of the employees are drug-addicts or, in his friend Denny's case, a fellow recovering sex addict. Victor spends most of his time on the job guarding his friend Denny (who is constantly being caught with "contraband", items that don't correspond with the time period of the museum) in the stocks. Victor first met Denny at a sexual addiction support group (he was there as a chronic masturbator), and they later applied together to the same job. Denny is later fired from the museum, and begins collecting stones from around the city to build his "dream home;" Palahniuk based this portion of the novel on the true story of Ferdinand Cheval.

While growing up, Victor's mother taught him numerous conspiracy theories and obscure medical facts which both confused and frightened him. This and his constant moves from one home to another have left Victor unable to form lasting and stable relationships with women. Victor, as a result, finds himself getting sexual gratification from women on a solely superficial level (using sex anonymous meetings to find many of his sexual partners). Later on, he starts talking to his mother again for the first time in years.[2]

The narrative is episodic, and is presented out of chronological order, a style common to the author's books.

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation directed by Clark Gregg, starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston, was released commercially on September 26, 2008. Palahniuk makes a cameo appearance in the film.



  • Much of Palahniuk’s research on Choke was conducted with total strangers at the gym and sexual addiction groups.[3]
  • A song by Scottish band Biffy Clyro is titled Joy.Discovery.Invention. after a line in the novel.
  • Palahniuk stated in the documentary, "Postcards from the Future" that the character he has the most compassion for in any of his books is Denny, one of the main characters in "Choke". He mentioned how he usually doesn't even like the characters he creates, because they have ideals and beliefs that he actually disagrees with. However, Denny was a character created by him whom he actually liked.


  1. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck (June 11, 2002). Choke. Anchor. ISBN 0-385-72092-0. 
  2. ^ "Choke (review)". Retrieved 2011-10-10. 
  3. ^ "The Unexpected Romantic: An Interview with Chuck Palahniuk". Tamara Straus's interview with Chuck Palahniuk. June 19, 2001.