Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun book ... if you can call a book about a serial killer making a suit out of women "fun." I read this book as a reference for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. Shawn breaks down The Silence of the Lambs to illustrate how he (as an editor) edits book. So, for me, this book was doing double-duty. Not only was it informative from an educational standpoint, but it was entertaining as well. Of course, it must be, it's one of the best book-to-movie translations I've seen in a long time. Having seen the movie, I was prepared for everything in the book, but I still wanted to read more to discover what would happen next ... and how.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: Fight Club

Fight Club Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It should come as no surprise this was a great book. I've read other Palahniuk books and rated them here. I specifically chose to read Fight Club because I'm reading through Chuck's 36 Essays on Craft over at and he references Fight Club several times as examples illustrating the points he is trying to make. Having seen the movie first ... perhaps twenty years before reading the book ... I have to say I like some of the nuances in the movie better, but that shouldn't color the books impact.

Let's get on with the book's review: First, in standard Palahniuk style, we are dropped into a pool of humanity far reaching from anything we've likely experienced in our daily lives. We're talking the fringe people out on the edges doing whatever they can to survive, the only way they know how (reminds me of The Dukes of Hazzard theme song). Anyway, I'm not going to go into a lot of the plot. This book (and the movie) have been around so long, everyone likely knows each step in detail.

What I would like to discuss is Chuck's style of prose and his characterization. I absolutely love the dysfunctional nature of his characters. The reason his characters are so memorable is because he takes their dysfunction and runs with it 100%. He doesn't shy away from anything with an ... "well, maybe this might offend someone." He just goes for it. So the narrator and Marla attend group help for various diseases as a means of relaxing and unwinding--even though they don't have the diseases themselves. He offers no judgment, and doesn't ask for the reader to judge, any of the characters. They simply are who they are and you (the reader) are meant to join them in a ride through this story. It's great. Unapologetic.

As for this style of prose: I don't know many authors who can match it. It's tight without losing detail. You really get a sense of the world the characters live in, without being inundated with minutiae. Palanhiuk sketches broad strokes and allows the reader's imagination -- from the reader's own experiences -- to fill in the blanks. The narrator's boss, for example ... I think the only description we really get of his relates to his Tuesday tie. It's something concrete and specific, but the rest is left up to us to fill in. I can think of one of my own bosses who fits the bill well.

All in all, a good read and one I would recommend.

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