Chuck Palahniuk

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Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk at BookCon in June 2018
Palahniuk at BookCon in June 2018
BornCharles Michael Palahniuk
(1962-02-21) February 21, 1962 (age 61)
Pasco, Washington, U.S.
  • Novelist
  • essayist
Alma materUniversity of Oregon
Literary movementMinimalism Postmodernism
Notable works

Charles Michael "Chuck" Palahniuk (/ˈpɔːlənɪk/;[1][2] born February 21, 1962) is an American novelist who describes his work as transgressional fiction. He has published 19 novels, three nonfiction books, two graphic novels, and two adult coloring books, as well as several short stories. His first published novel was Fight Club, which was adapted into a film of the same title.

Early life[edit]

Palahniuk was born in Pasco, Washington, the son of Carol Adele (née Tallent) and Fred Palahniuk.[3][4] He has French and Ukrainian ancestry.[5] His paternal grandfather migrated from Ukraine to Canada and then to New York in 1907.[6]

Palahniuk grew up living in a mobile home in Burbank, Washington. His parents separated when he was 14 years old, and they subsequently divorced, often leaving him and his three siblings to live with their maternal grandparents at their cattle ranch in eastern Washington.[7] Palahniuk acknowledged in a 2007 interview that he is a distant nephew of actor Jack Palance, and that his family had talked of distant relations with Palance.[8]

Palahniuk attended the University of Oregon in his 20s, graduating in journalism in 1986. He interned at the local public radio station, KLCC, as part of his coursework.[9]


Early career[edit]

He wrote for the local newspaper for a short while but then began working for Freightliner Trucks as a diesel mechanic, continuing until his writing career took off. During that time, he wrote manuals on fixing trucks and had a stint as a journalist, a job to which he did not return until after he became a successful novelist. After casually attending a seminar by Landmark Education, Palahniuk quit his job as a journalist in 1988.[10] He performed volunteer work for a homeless shelter and volunteered at a hospice as an escort, providing transportation for terminally ill people, taking them to support group meetings. He ceased volunteering upon the death of a patient to whom he had grown attached.[11]

Palahniuk began writing fiction in his early 30s. By his account, he started writing while attending workshops for writers that were hosted by Tom Spanbauer, which he attended to meet new friends. Spanbauer largely inspired Palahniuk's minimalistic writing style.[12]

Fight Club[edit]

After his first novel, Invisible Monsters, was rejected by all publishers he submitted it to, he began work on his first published novel, Fight Club.[13] Palahniuk wrote this story in his spare time while working for Freightliner. After initially publishing it as a short story (which became chapter 6 of the novel) in the 1995 compilation Pursuit of Happiness, Palahniuk expanded it into a full novel, which, contrary to his expectations, a publisher accepted.[14] While the original hardcover edition of the book received positive reviews and some awards, it had a short shelf life.[citation needed]

Initially, Palahniuk struggled to find a literary agent and went without one until after the publication of Fight Club.[15] After he began receiving attention from 20th Century Fox, Palahniuk was signed by actor and literary agent, Edward Hibbert.[15][16][17] Hibbert eventually guided and brokered the deal that took Fight Club to the big screen.[15] In 1999, the film adaptation by director David Fincher was released.[18] The film was a box office disappointment (although it was No. 1 at the U.S. box office in its first weekend) and critical reaction was mixed, but a cult following soon emerged as the DVD of the film became popular upon release.[citation needed] Three editions of the novel have been published in paperback, in 1999, in 2004 (with a new introduction by the author about the success of the film adaptation), and in 2005 (with an afterword by Palahniuk).[citation needed]

Invisible Monsters, Survivor, and Choke[edit]

A revised version of Invisible Monsters, as well as his fourth novel, Survivor, were published in 1999. A few years later Palahniuk managed to complete his first New York Times bestseller, the novel Choke, which later was made into a movie.


Palahniuk at the Miami Book Fair International 2011

The year 1999 brought a series of great personal tragedies to Palahniuk's life. At that time, his father, Fred Palahniuk, had started dating a woman named Donna Fontaine, whom he had met through a personal ad under the title "Kismet".[19] Her former boyfriend, Dale Shackelford, had previously been imprisoned for sexual abuse and had vowed to kill Fontaine as soon as he was released from prison. Palahniuk believes that, using a personal ad, Fontaine was looking for "the biggest man she could find" to protect her from Shackelford, and Palahniuk's father qualified.[20] After his release, Shackelford followed Fontaine and the senior Palahniuk to Fontaine's home in Kendrick, Idaho, after they had gone out for a date. Shackelford then shot them both and dragged their bodies into Fontaine's cabin home, which he then set alight. In the spring of 2001, Shackelford was found guilty for two counts of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. In the wake of these events, Palahniuk began working on the novel Lullaby. He has stated that he wrote the novel to help him cope with having participated in the decision to have Shackelford receive the death sentence.[21]

"Guts" and Haunted[edit]

While on his 2003 tour to promote his novel, Diary, Palahniuk read to his audiences a short story entitled "Guts", a sensational tale of accidents involving masturbation, which appears in his book, Haunted. The story begins with the author telling his listeners to inhale deeply and that "this story should last about as long as you can hold your breath." It was reported that 40 people had fainted listening to the readings while holding their breath.[22] Playboy magazine later published the story in their March 2004 issue and Palahniuk offered to let them publish another story along with it, but the publishers found the second work too disturbing to publish. On his tour to promote Stranger than Fiction: True Stories during the summer of 2004, he read "Guts" to audiences again, bringing the total number of fainters up to 53 (and later up to 60 while on tour to promote the softcover edition of Diary). In the fall of that year, he began promoting Haunted, and continued to read "Guts". In June 2005, Palahniuk noted that his number of fainters was up to 67.[23] The last fainting occurred on May 28, 2007, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where five people fainted, one of whom fell and hit his head on the door while trying to leave the auditorium. Since then audio recordings of his readings of the story have been circulated on the Internet. In the afterword of the latest edition of Haunted, Palahniuk reported that Guts had been responsible for 73 fainting events.

At a 2005 appearance in Miami, Florida, during the Haunted tour, Palahniuk commented that Haunted represented the last of a "horror trilogy" (including Lullaby and Diary). He also indicated that his then-forthcoming novel, Rant, would be the first of a "science fiction trilogy".

In 2008, Palahniuk spent a week at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, instructing eighteen students about his writing methods and theory of fiction.[24]


In addition to the film, Fight Club was adapted into a fighting video game loosely based on the film, which was released in October 2004, receiving poor reviews universally.[25] Palahniuk has mentioned at book readings that he is working on a musical based on Fight Club with David Fincher and Trent Reznor.[26] Edward Norton has said that he thinks it is unlikely that he and Brad Pitt, who "can't sing," would reprise their film roles in a musical.[27]

Graphic novel adaptations of Invisible Monsters and Lullaby, drawn by comic artist, Kissgz, a.k.a. Gabor, are available online.[28]

Following the success of the movie of Fight Club, interest began to build about adapting Survivor to film. The film rights to Survivor were sold in early 2001, but no movie studio had committed to filming the novel. After the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, movie studios apparently deemed the novel too controversial to film because it includes the hijacking and crashing of a civilian airplane.[29] In mid-2004, however, 20th Century Fox committed to adapting Palahniuk's novel. Palahniuk has said that the same people who made the film Constantine will be working on this film.[30]

Following that, the film rights to Invisible Monsters and Diary also were sold. While little is known about some of these projects, it is known that Jessica Biel was signed on to play the roles of both Shannon and Brandy in Invisible Monsters, which was supposed to begin filming in 2004, but as of 2010 was still in development.[31]

Palahniuk helped write some of the video game Manhunt 2 in his freelance writing in 2007.

On January 14, 2008, the film version of Choke premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, starring Sam Rockwell, Kelly Macdonald and Anjelica Huston with Clark Gregg directing.[32] David Fincher expressed interest in filming Diary as an HBO miniseries.[33][34]

On September 11, 2014, the film version of Rant was announced, starring James Franco, with Pamela Romanowsky writing and directing.[35]

Writing style and themes[edit]


Palahniuk says that his writing style has been influenced by authors such as the minimalist Tom Spanbauer (whose weekly workshop Palahniuk attended in Portland from 1991 to 1996),[36] Amy Hempel, Mark Richard, Denis Johnson, Thom Jones, Bret Easton Ellis and philosophers Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus.[37][38] In what the author refers to as a minimalistic approach, his writings include a limited vocabulary and short sentences to mimic the way that an average person telling a story would speak. In an interview, he said that he "prefers to write in verbs instead of adjectives." Repetitions of certain lines or phrases in the story narrative (what Palahniuk refers to as "choruses") are one of the most common characteristics of his writing style, being dispersed within most chapters of his novels.[39] Palahniuk has said that there also are some choruses between novels, noting that the color cornflower blue and the city of Missoula, Montana appear in many of his novels. The characters in Palahniuk's stories often break into philosophical asides (either by the narrator to the reader, or spoken to the narrator through dialogue), offering numerous odd theories and opinions, often misanthropic or darkly absurdist in nature, on complex issues such as death, morality, childhood, parenthood, sexuality, and a deity. Other concepts borrowed from Spanbauer include the avoidance of "received text" (clichéd phrases or wording) and use of "burnt tongue" (intentionally odd wording).[39]

Palahniuk does intensive rewrites of his drafts. In an interview with Jason Tanamor, he said, "It’s pathetic how much I rewrite. I’ll rework every scene a hundred times before my agent sees it. Then rework it a dozen times before my editor sees it. Then rework it all - almost beyond recognition - before it goes to the copy editor. My first draft is almost a bare-bones outline, fleshed out with every subsequent pass through. I’ll “test” the scenes in workshop and with friends, then revise them based on audience reaction and feedback. The only time a book is “done” is when the type is set. By then I'm in love with a new idea, so the old one is officially finished."[40]


Palahniuk's writing often contains anti-consumerist themes. Writing about Fight Club, Paul Kennett argues that because the Narrator's fights with Tyler Durden are fights with himself, and because he fights himself in front of his boss at the hotel, the Narrator is using the fights as a way of asserting himself as his own boss. These fights are a representation of the struggle of the proletarian at the hands of a higher capitalist power; by asserting himself as capable of having the same power he thus becomes his own master. Later when fight club is formed, the participants are all dressed and groomed similarly, allowing them to symbolically fight themselves at the club and gain the same power.[41] In an interview with HuffPost, Palahniuk says that "the central message of Fight Club was always about the empowerment of the individual through small, escalating challenges."[42]

Reception and criticism[edit]

The content of Palahniuk's works has been described as nihilistic.[43][44] Palahniuk has rejected this label, stating that he is a romantic, and that his works are mistakenly seen as nihilistic because they express ideas that others do not believe in.[45][46]

Personal life[edit]

As an adult, Palahniuk became a member of the rebellious Cacophony Society. He is a regular participant in their events, including the annual Santa Rampage (a public Christmas party involving pranks and drunkenness) in Portland, Oregon. His participation in the Society inspired some of the events in his writings, both fictional and non-fictional.[47]

In 2004, Palahniuk came out as gay after an interview with Karen Valby, a reporter for Entertainment Weekly. Believing that he would be "outed" by Valby after confidentially referring to his male partner, he openly declared his homosexuality on his website.[48] According to an interview with The Advocate in May 2008, he and his unnamed male partner live in a former church compound outside Vancouver, Washington.[49][50] He and his partner have been together since the 1990s, having met while Palahniuk was working at Freightliner. He told one interviewer, "We both had these very blue-collar lives, and now our lives are completely different."[51][52]


Palahniuk has won the following awards:

He was nominated for the 1999 Oregon Book Award for Best Novel for Survivor and for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel for Lullaby in 2002 and for Haunted in 2005.



Short fiction[edit]

  • "Negative Reinforcement" in Modern Short Stories (1990)
  • "The Love Theme of Sybil and William" in Modern Short Stories (1990)[63]
  • "Insiders" in Best Life (2007)
  • "Mister Elegant" in VICE (2007)[64]
  • "Fetch" in Dark Delicacies III (2009)
  • "Loser" in Stories (2010)
  • "Knock, Knock" in Playboy (2010)
  • "Romance" in Playboy (2011)
  • "Phoenix" (2013)[65]
  • "Cannibal" in Playboy (2013)
  • "Zombie" in Playboy (2013)
  • "Let's See What Happens" in Nightmare Magazine, Issue 37 (2015)
  • "One Day You'll Thank Me" in Fangoria, Volume 2, Issue 1 (2018)
  • "Unlawful Entry" in Playboy (2018)
  • "Repercussions" in Playboy (2019)



  • Fight Club (1999) (feature based on the novel)
  • Choke (2008) (feature based on the novel)
  • Romance (2012) (short based on the short story)
  • Lullaby (TBD) (feature based on the novel)
  • Rant (TBD) (feature based on the novel)


  • Francisco Collado-Rodriguez, editor, (2013) Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Choke. London, UK: Bloomsbury.
  • Douglas Keesey (2016) Understanding Chuck Palahniuk. Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina Press.
  • Cynthia Kuhn and Lance Rubin, editors, (2009) Reading Chuck Palahniuk: American Monsters and Literary Mayhem. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • David McCracken (2016) Chuck Palahniuk, Parodist: Postmodern Irony in Six Transgressive Novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.
  • Jeffrey A. Sartain, editor, (2009) Sacred and Immoral: On the Writings of Chuck Palahniuk. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Read Mercer Schuchardt, editor (2008) You Do Not Talk About Fight Club: I Am Jack's Completely Unauthorized Essay Collection. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books.
  • Massimo Bracci, La Filosofia del fight club, Odoya, Bologna (IT), 2023

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions About Chuck Palahniuk". The Cult. Archived from the original on October 29, 2015. Retrieved June 1, 2006.
  2. ^ "Chuck Palahniuk Book Signing & Interview | "Fight Club 3"". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  3. ^ "Chuck Palahniuk". YouthQuake Magazine. May 27, 2004. Archived from the original on December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  4. ^ "In Memory of Carol Adele Meader". Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  5. ^ Akbar, Arifa (June 16, 2012). "Chuck Palahniuk: 'I shy away from non-consensual violence' – Features – Books". The Independent. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  6. ^ Kochetkova, Natalia (April 29, 2005). "Я действительно ходил в группы поддержки для неизлечимо больных" [I really went to support groups for terminally ill patients]. Izvestia (in Russian). Archived from the original (Interview) on May 5, 2009.
  7. ^ Jenkins, Emily (October 19, 1999). "Extreme Sport". The Village Voice.
  8. ^ "Chuck Palahniuk Answers Your Questions". The A.V. Club. June 12, 2007. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  9. ^ Rishel, Jay. "Chuck Palahniuk (1962-)". Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved August 18, 2022.
  10. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (May 7, 2005). "Fright club". The Observer. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  11. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck (2004). Stranger than Fiction: True Stories. Garden City: Doubleday. pp. 195–199. ISBN 0-385-50448-9.
  12. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck (2004). Stranger than Fiction: True Stories Fact and Fiction: an Introduction. Garden City: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50448-9.
  13. ^ Dennis (June 22, 2012). "The 'Invisible Monsters Remix' Is Now Out! | The Cult". Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  14. ^ Tomlinson, Sarah. "Is it fistfighting, or just multi-tasking?". Salon. October 13, 1999.
  15. ^ a b c "Author FAQ". Archived from the original on October 29, 2015. How did he land an agent? Believe it or not, Chuck had to go through hell and back to land an agent...
  16. ^ "Author FAQ". Archived from the original on October 29, 2015. Who is his agent? Edward Hibbert of Donadio & Olson, Inc. is Chuck's book agent. Check out Edward's double life as an actor...
  17. ^ Glitz, Michael (December 25, 2001). "Hibbert on: out actor Edward Hibbert talks about the Noises Off revival, his side career as an agent, and the best antidote to anthrax". The Advocate. Archived from the original on November 1, 2007. Retrieved May 23, 2008.
  18. ^ "'Bullet Train': Two decades after 'Fight Club', is Brad Pitt approaching the twilight of his career? | MEAWW". Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  19. ^ McDonough, Ted (June 15, 2001). "Latah murder inspires novel; 'Choke' a dark story of sexual addiction". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  20. ^ "Palahniuk, Slapstick, Skyspace". Studio 360, NPR. February 12, 2006.
  21. ^ Morton, K. Willis (February 2003). "Lullaby at the Fight Club: The Chuck Palahniuk Gob Q & A". Gobshite Quarterly. No. 1. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  22. ^ "I dare you". The Guardian. March 13, 2004.
  23. ^ "67 people fainted as I read my horror story". The Daily Telegraph. June 7, 2005. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  24. ^ "Clarion West Turns 25". Locus Magazine: 5. September 2008.
  25. ^ "Fight Club". November 16, 2004. Archived from the original on January 1, 2006. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  26. ^ Chang, Jade (July 2, 2004). "Tinseltown: Fight Club and Fahrenheit". Archived from the original on June 10, 2015.
  27. ^ "The Scoop: Elisabeth Hasselbeck invited to Palin rallies/Plus: Ed Norton disses Brad Pitt's singing; Katie Holmes no ratings winner". October 23, 2008. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
  28. ^ "The Cult". Archived from the original on October 15, 2013.
  29. ^ Postcards from the Future: The Chuck Palahniuk Documentary. Kinky Mule Films. DVD Video. 2003.
  30. ^ Epstein, Daniel Robert. "Chuck Palahniuk: Author of Haunted". Retrieved May 12, 2006.
  31. ^ "Invisible Monsters". Archived from the original on September 30, 2010.
  32. ^ Widmyer, Dennis. April 30, 2007. Archived October 12, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Sciretta, Peter. The Chuck Palahniuk Update. June 17, 2005. Archived September 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Retrieved October 12, 2006.
  35. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: James Franco Options Chuck Palahniuk's 'Rant' UPDATED".
  36. ^ CultAdmin (April 18, 2011). "Tom Spanbauer – The Man Who Taught Chuck". Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  37. ^ The Unexpected Romantic: An Interview with Chuck Palahniuk, AlterNet.
  38. ^ "What Authors Influenced You?", Retrieved July 10, 2007.
  39. ^ a b Chuck Palahniuk (September 18, 2002). She Breaks Your Heart. Retrieved November 21, 2019).
  40. ^ "Chuck Palahniuk is 'pathetic' when he rewrites.", Retrieved October 10, 2008.
  41. ^ Kennett, pp. 53–54.
  42. ^ Crum, Maddie (December 6, 2016). "'Fight Club' Author Reflects On Violence And Masculinity, 20 Years Later". HuffPost. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  43. ^ Robinson, Tasha. "Chuck Palahniuk". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  44. ^ Curtis, Bryan (June 22, 2005). "Chuck Palahniuk". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  45. ^ Cumming, Ed (November 1, 2014). "Chuck Palahniuk: 'I'm fascinated by low fiction that disgusts the reader or makes them sexually aroused'". The Guardian. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  46. ^ Williams, Laura J. "Knock Out Archived 16 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine". Ann Arbor Paper. Retrieved June 20, 2005.
  47. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck. Stranger than Fiction: True Stories. Garden City: Doubleday, 2004. p. 56. ISBN 0-385-50448-9
  48. ^ Chalmers, Robert (August 1, 2004). "Chuck Palahniuk: Stranger than fiction". The Independent.
  49. ^ Bunn, Alstin (May 21, 2008). "Open Book: Chuck Palahniuk writes stories that fearlessly expose the darkest parts of the human experience. So why is it that when it comes to his sexuality there are still some things he likes to keep hidden?". The Advocate. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  50. ^ "Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk is talking dirty". The Times. London. July 25, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  51. ^ Perry, Kevin (May 4, 2014). "All Of Creation Just Winks Out: Chuck Palahniuk Interviewed". The Quietus.
  52. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck. "Chuck Palahniuk F.A.Q." Archived from the original on October 4, 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  53. ^ a b "Chuck Palahniuk " Power of the Word". Archived from the original on March 11, 2018. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  54. ^ Oregon Book Awards. Literary Arts, Inc. Retrieved June 20, 2005.
  55. ^ "First Details For Chuck Palahniuk's 2010 Novel, "Tell-All"". March 7, 2009. Archived from the original on May 10, 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2009.
  56. ^ "Chuck's Next Novel Is "Damned"". May 2, 2010. Archived from the original on May 2, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  57. ^ Yandoli, Krystie (June 14, 2016). "Here's The First Look at Chuck Palahniuk's Coloring Book For Adults". Buzzfeed.
  58. ^ Schaub, Michael. "Chuck Palahniuk wrote 'Fight Club.' His next work of fiction will be a coloring book". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  59. ^ "Chuck Returns to WW Norton for New Novel, "Adjustment Day"". October 5, 2017. Archived from the original on July 13, 2019. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  60. ^ McMillan, Graeme (January 29, 2019). "'Fight Club 3' Team on Bringing Tyler Durden to Comics". The Hollywood Reporter.
  61. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck (January 7, 2020). The Invention of Sound. Grand Central. ISBN 9781538718001. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  62. ^ Palahniuk, Chuck (September 5, 2023). Not Forever, But For Now. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781668021415.
  63. ^ "The Love Theme of Sybil and William | The Cult". Archived from the original on February 9, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  64. ^ ""Mister Elegant" by Chuck Palahniuk". 2007. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  65. ^ "Byliner Publishes PHOENIX – Byliner". February 15, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.

External links[edit]