Choke (novel)

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First edition cover
AuthorChuck Palahniuk
Cover artistRodrigo Corral
Bob Larkin
CountryUnited States
GenreSatire, Black comedy
Publication date
May 22, 2001
Media typePrint (hardcover)
813/.54 21
LC ClassPS3566.A4554 C47 2001
Preceded byInvisible Monsters 
Followed byLullaby 

Choke is a 2001 novel by American author Chuck Palahniuk.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] The novel was later adapted for film by Clark Gregg.[4][5]

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.[6] 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 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 is doing, and 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 do not correspond with the time period of the museum) in the stocks. Victor first met Denny at a sexual addiction support group (Denny was there as a compulsive 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.

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.[4] Palahniuk makes a cameo appearance in the film.[7]



  • Much of Palahniuk’s research on Choke was conducted with total strangers at the gym and sexual addiction groups.[8]
  • A song by Scottish band Biffy Clyro is titled Joy.Discovery.Invention. after a line in the novel.


  1. ^ "Choke". The Cult. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  2. ^ "Fiction Book Review: CHOKE by Chuck Palahniuk". Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  3. ^ Adams, Tim (July 22, 2001). "Observer review: Choke by Chuck Palahniuk". the Guardian. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Choke (2008) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  5. ^ Child, Ben (August 15, 2008). "Check out the trailer for 'Fight Club sequel' Choke". the Guardian. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  6. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck (June 11, 2002). Choke. Anchor. ISBN 0-385-72092-0.
  7. ^ Horowitz, Josh (August 7, 2007). "On The 'Choke' Set With Chuck Palahniuk, Sam Rockwell — And Dave Matthews?!". MTV. Archived from the original on February 18, 2008. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  8. ^ "The Unexpected Romantic: An Interview with Chuck Palahniuk". Tamara Straus's interview with Chuck Palahniuk. June 19, 2001.