Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chuck Palahniuk - Damned

“I wanted to write a religious Left Behind series, but for secular liberals.”
- Chuck Palahniuk

During our previous conversation with Chuck Palahniuk, which occurred shortly before the publication of his Sunset Boulevard-inspired book, Tell All, he spoke about how the ultimate name to drop was God’s. For this interview, we reconvene to discuss the domain of the G-man’s nemesis –– Hell –– which serves as the setting for Palahniuk’s wickedly inspired new novel, Damned.

According to Damned’s canon, evolution is hokum and Charles Darwin is resigned to hellfire and damnation alongside Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, and the entire Kennedy clan. Turns out you can end up there by committing all manner of trivial shit, such as dropping the f-bomb or honking your horn one too many times. Worshipping the wrong god will also land you in the hot spot, as will suffering the inconvenience of being a deposed one (thus the likes of Thor can also be found hanging out downstairs).

The topography of Palahniuk’s netherworld features a greasy Dandruff Desert, Great Plains of Discarded Razor Blades, a Swamp of Partial-birth Abortions, a Lake of Tepid Bile, and the Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm (where in Hell, “porn is creating an effect equivalent to that of global warming on earth”). Those that find themselves there have two main career options: pornography or telemarketing.

The narrative of Damned follows Madison Spencer, the somewhat chubby, eternally optimistic13-year old progeny of a self-obsessed Hollywood star and a billionaire businessman. As a reflection of her mother’s glamour, Madison is an abject failure, however, the upside of her troubled childhood is that after a lifetime (albeit a short one) of electrolysis and herbal high colonics, Hell holds little terror for her.

Having been resigned to Hell after inhaling marijuana, and eschewing an eternity being "ogled by millions of men with serious intimacy problems," Madison finds gainful employment in telemarketing, an occupation that she finds unexpectedly fulfilling. Ensconced in one of Hell’s endless call centers, which has banks of phones that are programmed to auto-dial the earthbound specifically at dinnertime, Madison finds redemption. The question is, ultimately, will she want it?

Being in the business of asking people questions for a living, I felt a certain affinity with Madison. For the start of my conversation with Palahniuk, it therefore seemed only appropriate to borrow a little something from her telemarketing script…

Read my exclusive interview with Chuck Palahniuk on

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