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Invisible Monsters

Invisible Monsters

4.4 412
by Chuck Palahniuk

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Love, betrayal, petty larceny, and high fashion fuel this deliciously comic novel from the author of Fight Club.

She's a fashion model who has everything: a boyfriend, a career, a loyal best friend. But when a sudden freeway "accident" leaves her disfigured and incapable of speech, she goes from being the beautiful center of attention to being an


Love, betrayal, petty larceny, and high fashion fuel this deliciously comic novel from the author of Fight Club.

She's a fashion model who has everything: a boyfriend, a career, a loyal best friend. But when a sudden freeway "accident" leaves her disfigured and incapable of speech, she goes from being the beautiful center of attention to being an invisible monster, so hideous that no one will acknowledge that she exists. Enter Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, one operation away from becoming a real woman, who will teach her that reinventing yourself means erasing your past and making up something better. And that salvation hides in the last places you'll ever want to look.

Editorial Reviews

Palahniuk's writing is percussive. It's the relentless tattoo of terraced, one-sentence paragraphs cascading in a stacatto down the page: Like a flashing strobe. Remaking you into a glossy eight by ten. Anno Domini. The reinvention of the self. Palahniuk writes the way you'd look on an overdose of Valium, but how you feel on PCP—calm on the surface and roiling below. Then—Pow! Bam! Kablooey!—seuzures in the pelagic deep blue send tiny shockwaves into the shallows. Wearing away the sand. Wearing away the shore. Changing the shape of the continental shelf. Repeat.

Time Out New York

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Palahniuk's grotesque romp aims to skewer the ruthless superficiality of the fashion world and winds up with a tale as savagely glib as what it derides. Narrator Shannon McFarland, once a gorgeous fashion model, has been hideously disfigured in a mysterious drive-by shooting. Her jaw has been shot off, leaving her not only bereft of a career and boyfriend, but suddenly invisible to the world. Along comes no-nonsense, pill-popping diva Brandy Alexander, a resplendent, sassy, transgendered chick, who has modeled her body rearrangement--the breast implants, the hair, the figure--on what Shannon used to look like. Brandy suggests veils, high camp and no self-pity. Shannon wants revenge: first on her supposedly best friend Evie, who has been squeezing her size nine body into Shannon's size six wardrobe, then on her fianc , Manus Kelly, who has been running around with Evie. Since Shannon now believes that Manus and Evie orchestrated her "accident," Shannon rustles up a few arson/kidnapping "accidents" of her own. Then she learns that Brandy is actually her long-lost brother, Shane, who supposedly died of AIDS after his parents kicked him out of their home. (Since then, the McFarlands have become militant gay rights activists, trading on their "grief.") Amid the family drama, Shannon manages to exact her revenge on Manus by surreptitiously slipping him estrogen and enjoying his dismay at sprouting unwanted breasts. Adding to the plot's contrivances are the relentless flashbacks, heralded at the beginning of almost every paragraph with "Jump back to..." and the author's pretentious device of using a fashion photographer's commands ("Flash. Give me adoration. Flash. Give me a break") to signpost the narrator's epiphanies. Palahniuk writes like he's overdosed on Details magazine. Though the absurd surprise ending may incite groans of disbelief, this book does have fun moments when campy banter tops the heroine's flat, whiny bathos. (Sept.) FYI: The film of Palahniuk's novel Fight Club will star Brad Pitt. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly

Welcome to the world of perverse self-mutilation, insane coincidences and extreme makeovers speckled with violent acts and prescription drugs. After surviving a gunshot wound that destroyed half her face, Shannon meets the vivacious Brandy Alexander, whose glamorous nature seduces her into traveling cross-country in a delightful and ironic crime spree. In typical Palahniuk fashion, the story leaps about in an erratic and initially bewildering manner, but ultimately makes sense. Anna Fields executes a brilliant performance through Shannon's first-person narrative. Her smooth and stable tone leads listeners through this deliciously chaotic tale. When Shannon speaks, Fields proves both amusing and impressive. Her magnificent performance only adds to Palahniuk's story. Norton paperback(Reviews, July 5, 1999). (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A macabre fantasy, in which a deformed model is guided by a drag queen down the yellow brick road of her past to the Emerald City of her future—all dreamed up by cult novelist Palahniuk (Survivor, 1998) in one of his more baroque moods. There is a certain point in all bedroom farces and comedies of errors when you give up trying to figure out who's who and just go along for the ride. That might be the wisest strategy here. Our narrator is one Shannon McFarland (although she doesn't actually introduce herself until the very end), and she's a real mess, quite literally: she was injured in a mysterious shooting and has lost her entire jaw and most of her face. Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly?), Shannon's brother Shane was also disfigured in a suspicious accident when he dumped a load of trash into the fire and a can of hair spray exploded in his face. Shane eventually turned gay and was thrown out of the house by his parents, who later learned that he had died of AIDS. Shannon grew up, became a supermodel, and got herself engaged to Manus, a vice-squad detective who ditches Shannon after her accident and takes up with Evie Cotrell, a rich Texas bimbo who used to be Shannon's roommate and may have been a man early in her career. But never mind Evie; the one to watch is drag diva Brandy Alexander, who meets Shannon in the hospital and soon becomes her only friend. Brandy takes Shannon on the road, and—along with Brandy's boyfriend Alfa Romeo, who in reality may be Manus—the two steal drugs from expensive homes by calling realtors and posing as potential buyers. Eventually, Shannon discovers that Brandy is not who she appears to be, but by then we're ready for anything.Too clever by half: a Chinese box of a novel fascinating in its intricacies but pretty hard to get a grip on whole.

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Where you're supposed to be is some big West Hills wedding reception in a big manor house with flower arrangements and stuffed mushrooms all over the house. This is called scene setting: where everybody is, who's alive, who's dead. This is Evie Cottrell's big wedding reception moment. Evie is standing halfway down the big staircase in the manor house foyer, naked inside what's left of her wedding dress, still holding her rifle.

    Me, I'm standing at the bottom of the stairs but only in a physical way. My mind is, I don't know where.

    Nobody's all-the-way dead yet, but let's just say the clock is ticking.

    Not that anybody in this big drama is a real alive person, either. You can trace everything about Evie Cottrell's look back to some television commercial for an organic shampoo, except right now Evie's wedding dress is burned down to just the hoopskirt wires orbiting her hips and just the little wire skeletons of all the silk flowers that were in her hair. And Evie's blonde hair, her big, teased-up, back-combed rainbow in every shade of blonde blown up with hairspray, well, Evie's hair is burned off, too.

    The only other character here is Brandy Alexander, who's laid out, shotgunned, at the bottom of the staircase, bleeding to death.

    What I tell myself is the gush of red pumping out of Brandy's bullet hole is less like blood than it's some sociopolitical tool. The thing about being cloned from all those shampoo commercials, well, that goes for me and Brandy Alexander, too. Shotgunning anybody in this room wouldbe the moral equivalent of killing a car, a vacuum cleaner, a Barbie doll. Erasing a computer disk. Burning a book. Probably that goes for killing anybody in the world. We're all such products.

    Brandy Alexander, the long-stemmed latte queen supreme of the top-drawer party girls, Brandy is gushing her insides out through a bullet hole in her amazing suit jacket. The suit, it's this white Bob Mackie knock-off Brandy bought in Seattle with a tight hobble skirt that squeezes her ass into the perfect big heart shape. You would not believe how much this suit cost. The mark-up is about a zillion percent. The suit jacket has a little peplum skirt and wide lapels and shoulders. The single-breasted cut is symmetrical except for the hole pumping out blood.

    Then Evie starts to sob, standing there halfway up the staircase. Evie, that deadly virus of the moment. This is our cue to all look at poor Evie, poor, sad Evie, hairless and wearing nothing but ashes and circled by the wire cage of her burned-up hoop skirt. Then Evie drops the rifle. With her dirty face in her dirty hands, Evie sits down and starts to boo-hoo, as if crying will solve anything. The rifle, this is a loaded thirty-aught rifle, it clatters down the stairs and skids out into the middle of the foyer floor, spinning on its side, pointing at me, pointing at Brandy, pointing at Evie, crying.

    It's not that I'm some detached lab animal just conditioned to ignore violence, but my first instinct is maybe it's not too late to dab club soda on the bloodstain.

    Most of my adult life so far has been me standing on seamless paper for a raft of bucks per hour, wearing clothes and shoes, my hair done and some famous fashion photographer telling me how to feel.

    Him yelling, Give me lust, baby.


    Give me malice.


    Give me detached existentialist ennui.


    Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.


    Probably it's the shock of seeing my one worst enemy shoot my other worst enemy is what it is. Boom, and it's a win-win situation. This and being around Brandy, I've developed a pretty big jones for drama.

    It only looks like I'm crying when I put a handkerchief up under my veil to breathe through. To filter the air since you can about not breathe for all the smoke since Evie's big manor house is burning down around us.

    Me, kneeling down beside Brandy, I could put my hands anywhere in my gown and find Darvons and Demerols and Darvocet 100s. This is everybody's cue to look at me. My gown is a knock-off print of the Shroud of Turin, most of it brown and white, draped and cut so the shiny red buttons will button through the stigmata. Then I'm wearing yards and yards of black organza veil wrapped around my face and studded with little hand-cut Austrian crystal stars. You can't tell how I look, face-wise, but that's the whole idea. The look is elegant and sacrilegious and makes me feel sacred and immoral.

    Haute couture and getting hauter.

    Fire inches down the foyer wallpaper. Me, for added set dressing I started the fire. Special effects can go a long way to heighten a mood, and it's not as if this is a real house. What's burning down is a re-creation of a period revival house patterned after a copy of a copy of a copy of a mock-Tudor big manor house. It's a hundred generations removed from anything original, but the truth is aren't we all?

    Just before Evie comes screaming down the stairs and shoots Brandy Alexander, what I did was pour out about a gallon of Chanel Number Five and put a burning wedding invitation to it, and boom, I'm recycling.

    It's funny, but when you think about even the biggest tragic fire it's just a sustained chemical reaction. The oxidation of Joan of Arc.

    Still spinning on the floor, the rifle points at me, points at Brandy.

    Another thing is no matter how much you think you love somebody, you'll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close.

    Except for all this high drama, it's a really nice day. This is a warm, sunny day and the front door is open to the porch and the lawn outside. The fire upstairs draws the warm smell of the fresh-cut lawn into the foyer, and you can hear all the wedding guests outside. All the guests, they took the gifts they wanted, the crystal and silver and went out to wait on the lawn for the firemen and paramedics to make their entrance.

    Brandy, she opens one of her huge, ring-beaded hands and she touches the hole pouring her blood all over the marble floor.

    Brandy, she says, "Shit. There's no way the Bon Marché will take this suit back."

    Evie lifts her face, her face a finger-painting mess of soot and snot and tears from her hands and screams, "I hate my life being so boring!"

    Evie screams down at Brandy Alexander, "Save me a window table in hell!"

    Tears rinse clean lines down Evie's cheeks, and she screams, "Girlfriend! You need to be yelling some back at me!"

    As if this isn't already drama, drama, drama, Brandy looks up at me kneeling beside her. Brandy's aubergine eyes dilated out to full flower, she says, "Brandy Alexander is going to die now?"

    Erie, Brandy and me, all this is just a power struggle for the spotlight. Just each of us being me, me, me first. The murderer, the victim, the witness, each of us thinks our role is the lead.

    Probably that goes for anybody in the world.

    It's all mirror, mirror on the wall because beauty is power the same way money is power the same way a gun is power.

    Anymore, when I see the picture of a twenty-something in the newspaper who was abducted and sodomized and robbed and then killed and here's a front-page picture of her young and smiling, instead of me dwelling on this being a big, sad crime, my gut reaction is, wow, she'd be really hot if she didn't have such a big honker of a nose. My second reaction is I'd better have some good head and shoulders shots handy in case I get, you know, abducted and sodomized to death. My third reaction is, well, at least that cuts down on the competition.

    If that's not enough, my moisturizer I use is a suspension of inert fetal solids in hydrogenated mineral oil. My point is that, if I'm honest, my life is all about me.

    My point is, unless the meter is running and some photographer is yelling: Give me empathy.

    Then the flash of the strobe.

    Give me sympathy.


    Give me brutal honesty.


    "Don't let me die here on this floor," Brandy says, and her big hands clutch at me. "My hair," she says, "My hair will be flat in the back."

    My point is I know Brandy is maybe probably going to die, but I just can't get into it.

    Evie sobs even louder. On top of this, the fire sirens from way outside are crowning me queen of Migraine Town.

    The rifle is still spinning on the floor, but slower and slower.

    Brandy says, "This is not how Brandy Alexander wanted her life to go. She's supposed to be famous, first. You know, she's supposed to be on television during Super Bowl halftime, drinking a diet cola naked in slow motion before she died."

    The rifle stops spinning and points at nobody.

    At Evie sobbing, Brandy screams, "Shut up!"

    "You shut up," Evie screams back. Behind her, the fire is eating its way down the stairway carpet.

    The sirens, you can hear them wandering and screaming all over the West Hills. People will just knock each other down to dial 9-1-1 and be the big hero. Nobody looks ready for the big television crew that's due to arrive any minute.

    "This is your last chance, honey," Brandy says, and her blood is getting all over the place. She says, "Do you love me?"

    It's when folks ask questions like this that you lose the spotlight.

    This is how folks trap you into a best-supporting role.

    Even bigger than the house being on fire is this huge expectation that I have to say the three most worn-out words you'll find in any script. Just the words make me feel I'm severely fingering myself. They're just words is all. Powerless. Vocabulary. Dialogue.

    "Tell me," Brandy says. "Do you? Do you really love me?"

    This is the big hammy way Brandy has played her whole life. The Brandy Alexander nonstop continuous live action theater, but less and less live by the moment.

    Just for a little stage business, I take Brandy's hand in mine. This is a nice gesture, but then I'm freaked by the whole threat of blood-borne pathogens, and then, boom, the ceiling in the dining room crashes down and sparks and embers rush out at us from the dining room doorway.

    "Even if you can't love me, then tell me my life," Brandy says. "A girl can't die without her life flashing before her eyes."

    Pretty much nobody is getting their emotional needs met.

    It's then the fire eats down the stairway carpet to Evie's bare ass, and Evie screams to her feet and pounds down the stairs in her burned-up white high heels. Naked and hairless, wearing wire and ashes, Evie Cottrell runs out the front door to a larger audience, her wedding guests, the silver and crystal and the arriving fire trucks. This is the world we live in. Conditions change and we mutate.

    So of course this'll be all about Brandy, hosted by me, with guest appearances by Evelyn Cottrell and the deadly AIDS virus. Brandy, Brandy, Brandy. Poor sad Brandy on her back, Brandy touches the hole pouring her life out onto the marble floor and says, "Please. Tell me my life. Tell me how we got here."

    So me, I'm here eating smoke just to document this Brandy Alexander moment.

    Give me attention.


    Give me adoration.


    Give me a break.


Meet the Author

Chuck Palahniuk is the author of the best-selling novels Fight Club, Survivor, Lullaby, Diary, Rant, Damned, and many other works of fiction. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Brief Biography

Portland, Oregon
Date of Birth:
February 21, 1962
Place of Birth:
Pasco, Washington
B.A. in journalism, University of Oregon, 1986

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Invisible Monsters: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 412 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Chuck Palahniuk is the hugely popular author of modern, edgy books like Fight Club (also a movie with Brad Pitt--go ahead, act surprised) and Choke. For this reason I did not expect to like Invisible Monsters, originally published in 1999. The story is told by a nameless narrator: a young woman who used to be beautiful. After a series of bizarre, haunting events involving a freeway, birds and a few other things those days are gone forever. Her face disfigured, her voice gone, the narrator is invisible. And a monster in the eyes of most. Desperate for someone to save her, the narrator meets Brandy Alexander at just the right time. Brandy embodies the life that the narrator used to have--except for an important operation that Brandy still needs to have. Riding off with Brandy, the narrator starts fresh. Life is a story. If you don't like the story you have, make up a new one. As the lives Brandy offers up as truth continue to change and the lies threaten to fall apart, it becomes clear that no matter where you run eventually you have to face the facts and really decide what story you want to tell. That's the story. But it's really not even half the story. Stylistically, this novel has a lot going on. It's written in the first person, present tense setting up a tone that is both conspiratorial and conversational. Despite that, the narrator remains aloof, unreliable. Talking to the reader like an old friend, the narrator reveals the smallest details of her past while leaving key plot points to herself until the right moment. There are few male novelists who can write as convincingly in the voice of a woman as Palahniuk. The narration is amazingly authentic even when the story becomes more and more over-the-top. Palahniuk also brings a high level of complexity to the narrative, writing the story in a non-linear format. The novel opens with the final scene as the narrator tries to explain how she got to that point. Along the way flashbacks are interwoven with "the present" and other points in the time line of character's lives. This is the kind of book that requires a lot of attention. Like the modeling world that the narrator comes from, nothing in this novel is exactly what it seems. Characters lie, information given as fact turns out to be false. Palahniuk manages all of these elements impressively well, making it all work despite the bizarreness and absurdity inherent to certain parts of the plot. More than anything, though, this book is really a character study. Palahniuk creates a lot of unique characters whose lives intertwine unexpectedly. As might be expected from the plot description given above, many ofthe relationships between characters in Invisible Monsters are dysfunctional. But it is the dysfunction that allows Palahniuk to look at how people interact and what it really means to love someone. So, while it is utterly strange, this novel definitely puts the "fun" in dysfunctional.
eeh More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite novel written by one of the most extreme and talented contemporary writers I have encountered thus far. There are so many twists in the story, yet they are so tightly woven that the absurdity flows so smoothly, and ends with a satisfying conclusion. Psychologically trippy, and full of complex characters, I definitely recommend this novel to anyone with an open mind looking for a fun and thought provoking read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am writing a college essay about this book, for sure. There are very few other books I would even consider doing that for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The most insane yet beautiful book ive ever read. In other words...IT WAS FRICKIN AWESOME.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is deceivingly disturbing, (at times) mildly disgusting, and ultimately BRUTAL. But is also surprisingly touching, empathetic, and breathtaking. The first quarter/half of the book may be a challenge for some, but I highly encourage readers to push through. The novel's non linear structure is at first confusing but eventually becomes the story's greatest component. Once you read the book in its entirety you will be completely blown away. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down! Every page was a surprise and i was never bored.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AWESOME!!!! This is a fast pace & mind blowing book - written so well you can visualize everything - lots of twists & turns & then blam it goes to another other level. This is the first Chuck Palahniuk book I have read & will shortly be reading ALL his others!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im making my way through all C.P's books. Not once have I been disappointed. This one however was better than others. Drama, murder, drugs and drag (well, sorta). Jaw dropping and hilarious!
Fiona_Cathleen More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a ride! My first Palahnuik novel. Won't be my last.
a.del More than 1 year ago
This is by far my favorite from Palahniuk!!! The characters are both raw and comical. I have lost count on how many times I've reread this one.
words-like-knives More than 1 year ago
Read it!!!
smonk_you More than 1 year ago
THis book rocks because every 15 pages CP pulls that fight club deal where you have to rethink everything you just read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perfectly written, I loved everything about this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had no idea it's a completely different face when you turn it upside down. Am I the only one who didn't know this?
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I couldn't put this book down. I wanted to know what happened next and the great thing is that it wasn't predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hilarious, with some surprising yet poignant moments thrown in. Palahniuk has a way with words.
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Just as all of his books are: Amazing
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