Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

I have never been so happy to finish a book! I almost gave up and quit so many times, but I hate not finishing what I started, and even though I felt like I was moving at a snail's pace, the pages were slowly increasing until I finally got through it all today.

I don't think I really understand the appeal of Chuck Palahniuk, though my entire opinion of him is based on this one book. I like the Golden Age of Hollywood feel of Tell-All and it reminds me a lot of Sunset Boulevard, which is an awesome movie. Still, I have so many objections to all the things weighing the narrative down, such as how every celebrity name appears in bold type.

The book is written as though it were a movie, including film directions for flashbacks and jump cuts. The focus of the movie is Katherine Kenton, the aging film star and Norma Desmond of our story. She is a bag full of crazy fries with crazy sauce on the side, as most Hollywood starlets seem to be when they get up there in age. She has a collection of "was-bands" and dead dogs in her mausoleum, where she also keeps her diaphragm (Don't ask!).

Katherine Kenton is fully reliant upon Hazie Coogan, narrator of Katherine's story. Hazie serves as maid, nanny, etc, and claims to have made Katherine everything that she is. Hazie and Katherine have a ritual of scratching all her wrinkles and imperfections into a mirror right before Miss Kathie gets botox or surgery again.

Katherine eventually takes up with a new man, the young Webster Carlton Westward III. Web makes her want to be young again, dust off the old diaphragm, even go shopping for a baby to adopt. Hazie, on the other hand, sees everything she has worked for falling apart. A young man might cozy up to a once-famous woman and wait until she dies before ruining her legacy with some scandalous memoir.

Sure enough, Webster encourages Katherine to accept a role in a WWII musical in order to get her back in the spotlight. Katherine finds a manuscript for Love Slave: A Very Intimate Memoir of My Life with Kate Kenton in Webster's suitcase. They keep finding more manuscripts that change her means of death from electrocution in the bath to mauling by grizzlies, all with astoundingly bad language and sex scenes involving such words as "meaty shaft" and "love essence." Oh my dear sweet pancakes, those were horrifying.

Anyways, I think anything else would be giving it away. It's pretty much a story of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy kills girl, as it says in the foreword. It's also a story of celebrities, having fame, keeping fame. It's a story of living as a celebrity and dying as a celebrity. Fade to black. The End.

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