Pygmy

( 165 )

Overview

The Manchurian Candidate meets South Park—Chuck Palahniuk’s finest novel since the generation-defining Fight Club.

“Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival Midwestern American airport greater _____ area. Flight _____. Date _____. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name: Operation Havoc.”

Thus speaks Pygmy, one of a handful of young adults from a totalitarian state ...

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Pygmy

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Overview

The Manchurian Candidate meets South Park—Chuck Palahniuk’s finest novel since the generation-defining Fight Club.

“Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival Midwestern American airport greater _____ area. Flight _____. Date _____. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name: Operation Havoc.”

Thus speaks Pygmy, one of a handful of young adults from a totalitarian state sent to the United States, disguised as exchange students, to live with typical American families and blend in, all the while planning an unspecified act of massive terrorism. Palahniuk depicts Midwestern life through the eyes of this thoroughly indoctrinated little killer, who hates us with a passion, in this cunning double-edged satire of an American xenophobia that might, in fact, be completely justified. For Pygmy and his fellow operatives are cooking up something big, something truly awful, that will bring this big dumb country and its fat dumb inhabitants to their knees.

It’s a comedy. And a romance.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
If your favorite author is Jane Austen, perhaps you shouldn't cross paths quite yet with Chuck Palahniuk. The author of Snuff, Choke, and Rant might be an acquired taste, but many readers have taken the leap and come back, begging for more. Pygmy might be a good place for newcomers to start: It stars a 13-year-old foreign exchange student terrorist who functions, if not always adequately, as part of a cadre sent to the U.S. to unleash havoc on a quiet midwestern city. In Palahniuk's hands, this bizarre mission turns into an apt excuse for exposing both the plotters and their generally unwitting hosts.
Publishers Weekly

Palahniuk's 10th novel (after Snuff) is a potent if cartoonish cultural satire that succeeds despite its stridently confounding prose. A gang of adolescent terrorists trained by an unspecified totalitarian state (the boys and girls are guided by quotations attributed to Marx, Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Idi Amin, etc.) infiltrate America as foreign exchange students. Their mission: to bring the nation to its knees through Operation Havoc, an act of mass destruction disguised as a science project. Narrated by skinny 13-year-old Pgymy, the propulsive plot deconstructs American fixtures, among them church ("religion propaganda distribution outlet"), spelling bees ("forced battle to list English alphabet letters") and TV news reporters ("Horde scavenger feast at overflowing anus of world history"), before moving on to a Columbine-like shooting spree by a closeted kid who has fallen in love with the teenage terrorist who raped him in a shopping mall bathroom. Decoding Palahniuk's characteristically scathing observations is a challenge, as Pygmy's narrative voice is unbound by rules of grammar or structure (a typical sentence: "Host father mount altar so stance beside bin empty of water"), but perseverance is its own perverse reward in this singular, comic accomplishment. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A series of dispatches written in fractured and occasionally hilarious English suck readers into the mind of exchange student and would-be terrorist Pygmy. In this wildly experimental text, Palahniuk (Snuff, 2008, etc.) creates such a compelling character in Pygmy that we accept the boy's biases and epithets as completely appropriate. He arrives in the United States with a strong accent and a strong distaste for everything American, including his host family: "vast cow father, pig dog brother, chicken mother, and cat sister." While planning his rather murky act of terrorism ("Code Name: Operation Havoc"), Pygmy begins to accommodate himself to American life, especially high school. Along with other "social losers," he represents the United States in a model UN conference, unaccountably wins a spelling bee and takes part in a science fair during which the plants in a competing hydroponics garden are exposed as marijuana. ("Sabotage successful," he writes.) Trying, like many of us, to make sense of contemporary American life, Pygmy fails because so much of popular culture is short on logic and meaning. His take on what the customs agent assures him is "the greatest country on earth"? "Snake nest. American den of evil. Hive of corruption." His perception of the educational system? "Primary function introduce partners for reproduction." His take on a girl at a school dance? "Specimen female, permit perform mating dance prior generate human embryo?" Pygmy loves to quote leaders he admires, such as Adolf Hitler: "It is not truth that matters, but victory." And while his machinations eventually destroy his American family, not even the disclosure that Pygmy is a terrorist can get much of a riseout of his host sister, who has the typical adolescent reaction: "Whatever."Stylistically exhilarating but not for every taste.
From the Publisher
"In a time of justifiable concern about terrorism, Palahniuk has written a hilarious novel about an unlikely terrorist cell: foreign-exchange students who arrive at a midwestern city, bent on unleashing 'Operation Havoc.'The story unfolds in a series of dispatches from an unnamed 13-year-old agent, dubbed 'Pygmy' by the locals. (That his reports are in broken English makes no sense, but the prose provides terrific opportunities for humor even if, at book length, it requires some effort.) Despite Pygmy’s command of the deadly arts, he is still a 13-year-old, prone to unwanted erections, and he is not the coolest kid in the cadre, either. The frisson around his internal, target-acquiring narrative, the locals’ unwitting perception of him, and his outsider’s view of the routine humiliations inflicted upon high-school youth is so spot-on it produces a sense of déjà vu: surely someone would have thought of this before. ('Dispatch Sixth,' treating Junior Swing Choir, is laugh-out-loud funny.) This isn’t for everyone: as ever, Palahniuk is interested in pushing the limits of what readers will tolerate in terms of clinically described sex and gore. However, in contrasting the mindless sloganeering of totalitarianism with the anything-goes nature of Americanism, his own message is anything but subversive. By now, the author’s fans know who they are. Those left cold by last year’s Snuff (2008) will welcome his return to the fine form of Fight Club (1996). Palahniuk leaps over the line of good taste—and lands squarely on his feet."
Keir Graff, Booklist (starred review)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307389817
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/20/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 252,626
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

CHUCK PALAHNIUK’s nine previous novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher; Survivor; Invisible Monsters; Choke, which was made into a film by director Clark Gregg; Lullaby; Diary; Haunted; Rant; and Snuff. He is also the author of Fugitives and Refugees, a nonfiction profile of Portland, Oregon, published as part of the Crown Journeys series, and the nonfiction collection Stranger Than Fiction. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Biography

Readers of Chuck Palahniuk's novels must gird themselves for the bizarre, the violent, the macabre, and the just plain disturbing. Having done that, they can then just enjoy the ride.

The story goes that Palahniuk wrote Fight Club out of frustration. Believing that his first submission to publishers (an early version of Invisible Monsters) was being rejected as too risky, he decided to take the gloves off, so to speak, and wrote something he never expected to see the light of day. Ironically, Fight Club was accepted for publication, and its subsequent filming by directory David Fincher earned the author an obsessive cult following.

The apocalyptic, blackly humorous story of a loner's entanglement with a charismatic but dangerous underground leader, Fight Club was the first in a series of controversial fiction that would keep Palahniuk in the spotlight. Since then, he has crafted strange, disturbing tales around unlikely subjects: a disfigured model bent on revenge (the revised Invisible Monsters) ... the last surviving member of a death cult (Survivor) ... a sex addict who resorts to a bizarre restaurant scam to pay the bills (Choke) ... a lethal African nursery rhyme (Lullaby) ... and so the list continues.

Although Palahniuk makes occasional forays into nonfiction, (e.g., Fugitives and Refugees and Stranger than Fiction), it is his novels that generate the most buzz. His outré plots and jump-cut storytelling are definitely not for everyone—some have likened them to the horrible accident you can't tear your eyes away from—but even critics can't help but be impressed by his flair for language, his talent for satire, and his sheer originality. Newsday wrote, "Palahniuk is one of the freshest, most intriguing voices to appear in a long time. He rearranges Vonnegut's sly humor, DeLillo's mordant social analysis, and Pynchon's antic surrealism (or is it R. Crumb's?) into a gleaming puzzle palace all his own."

Palahniuk has said that he has heard a lot from readers who were never readers before they saw his books, from boys in schools where his books are banned. This might be the best evidence that Palahniuk is a writer for a new age, introducing a (mostly male) audience to worlds on the page that usually only exist in technicolor nightmares.

Good To Know

Palahniuk (pronounced paul-a-nik) worked as a diesel mechanic for a trucking company before he became an author, jotting story notes for The Fight Club under trucks he was supposed to be working on.

Palahniuk's family has had a sad history of violence: His grandfather killed his grandmother and then committed suicide; later in life, his divorced father was murdered in 1999 by a girlfriend's ex-husband. The killer was convicted and sentenced to death in October, 2001. Palahniuk's book, Choke, was driven by an attempt to look at how sexual compulsion can destroy (see essay below for more).

When not working on his novels, Palahniuk has written features for Gear magazine, through which he befriended shock rocker Marilyn Manson; and is reportedly working on a script of the Katie Arnoldi novel Chemical Pink for Fight Club director David Fincher.

While writing, Palahniuk has said he listens to Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Radiohead.

To a reader who asked in a Barnes & Noble.com chat why the novel Invisible Monsters was not released in hardcover, Palahniuk responded: "My original request was not to have any of my books released as hardcovers b/c I felt guilty asking for over $20 for anything I had done. With Invisible Monsters I finally got my way."

Invisible Monsters was inspired by fashion magazines Palahniuk was reading at his laundromat, according to an interview with The Village Voice. "I love the language of fashion magazines. Eighteen adjectives and you find the word sweater at the end. 'Ethereal. Sacred.' I thought, Wouldn't it be fun to write a novel in this fashion magazine language, so packed with hyperbole?"

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    1. Also Known As:
      Charles M. Palahniuk
    2. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 21, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pasco, Washington
    1. Education:
      B.A. in journalism, University of Oregon, 1986
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Dispatch

First

Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67, on arrival Midwestern American airport greater  ?? area. Flight  ??. Date  ??. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name: Operation Havoc.

Fellow operatives already pass immigrant control, exit through secure doors and to embrace own other host family people. Operative Tibor, agent 23; operative Magda, agent 36; operative Ling, agent 19. All violate United States secure port of entry having success. Each now embedded among middle-income corrupt American family, all other homes, other schools and neighbors of same city. By not after next today, strategy web of operatives to be established.

Passport man, officer nothing behind bullet glass, open and reading passport book of operative me, matching to paper facts of visa, man down look upon this agent, say, "You're a long ways from home, son." Man, ancient penned animal dying of too tall, pooled heavy blood hanging in leg veins. Trapped all day, then could be next walk to toilet, pow-pow, clot knock out brain.

Passport man say, "So, you're an exchange student?" Man say, "How old are you, my boy?"

On fingers of operative me, am to count one, two until thirteen.

"So you're thirteen?" say passport man. Behind glass, say, "Awful small for your age, aren't you?"

Operative me say, One-three. Hold fingers straight and say repeat, Thirteen.

Iron fist of operative me, could be, flash fire explode, pow-bang. Burst bullet glass. Striking Cobra Quick Kill maneuver so collapse passport man windpipe. Render instant quick dead.

Tongue of operative me lick, licking, touching back tooth on bottom, molar where planted inside forms cyanide hollow, touching not biting. Not yet. Tooth wet smooth against lick of tongue. Swallow spit, say counting one, two, counting on fingers of hand until six. Tell passport man, to be exchange student with host family six month.

Passport man strike paper of book with ink, marked good to enter nation. Slide passport book returned to this agent. Man say, "Welcome to the greatest country on earth." Press button and doors allow way inside United States, accessing target family to harvest.

Only one step with foot, operative me to defile security of degenerate American snake nest. Den of evil. Hive of corruption. Host family of operative me waiting, host arms elbow bent to flutter host fingers in attention of this agent. Host family shouting, arms above with wiggling finger.

For official record, host father present as vast breathing cow, blowing out putrid stink diet heavy with dead slaughterhouse flesh, bellowing stench of Viagra breath during cow father reach to clasp hand of operative me. From tissue compress rate of father fist, bone-to-cow ratio, host father contain 31.2 percent body fat. Wearing is anchored spring apparatus gripping chest blouse pocket of father, one laminated name badge swinging there, giving name "Donald Cedar," from orange dot code, security level nine. Swipe magnetic strip. American industry typical biological exposure indicate strip, as stripe gray along bottom edge of badge, strip showing no recent exposure.

Operative me, am agitating vast fist of cow father, while free hand of this agent reach to acquire security badge.

Next now, host cow father say, "Whoa, there, little fella." Say, "No touchy," and father touching badge, tapping laminate card flat against own cow-stinking chest, say, "Top secret." In talk breath of Viagra, reek of Propecia and mint chew gum.

Operative me ready. Could be simple two pointed elbows to father's chest, one-two, kam-pow, Flying Eagle maneuver, and three days, by after next today, will father be vomiting both lungs, turned inside out with massive blood, dead. Fast as easy, young child able do.

Host mother dig pointed elbow into rib cage of host father, say, "Listen to you, Mister Big Shot."

Host mother present as blinking chicken, chin of face bony sharp as beak, chin tucking and swivel to turn, never still, chicken mother say, "Look at you!" Face exploded in silent screaming of wide-open lips and teeth, pointy tongue, eyebrows jumped into chicken forehead. Bony claws of chicken mother, gripping each this agent hands, mother lifts to spread arms too high on top this agent head. Spreading operative me so open, exposed, host mother say, "Look how skinny!"

Looped around one bony chicken claw, keys of automobile rattle and swinging. American-type model require 17.1 minute merely so feed gasoline tank full. Keys of host family residence structure. Other automobile keys, crushed between bony chicken claw and hand of operative me. Fingers of this agent close around keys, attempt slip steal begin off from claw.

Next now, host mother say, "We need to put some meat on those bones." Host mother claws keys shut inside mother talon. Sweat sweating from pores of mother, a cooking stew smell heavy mixed with cafe iced mocha vanilla combined Zoloft mixed Xanax. Stenched with supplement estrogen. Reek of lanolin out face wrinkle with folic acid pills too many.

From tissue flex index of hand, tendon resistance and dermal friction, guessing chicken mother to be 6.3 percent body fat. Blood pressure 182/120. Resting pulse rate 93. Age 42.3 years. Inside six year, easy subject brain stroke dead.

Mother and father, host family name "Cedar." Around operative me, make arms. Grope hug.

Next then, introduced two host sibling.

Host sister push bundle of paper so collide with abdomen of operative me, paper red and constricted with false gold color of synthetic binding tied so make elaborate flowering knot on top. Printed on paper, in English gold letters say, "Happy Birthday."

"It's a T-shirt," say host brother, say, "Show some manners." Host brother only pig dog, cradled on both hands, apparatus of black plastic with pig dog dancing thumbs making buttons beep. Black plastic issue noise many tiny explosion. Machine gun report. Host pig dog brother say, "You're not sharing my room, you little turd."

On pig dog breath, the stink of Ritalin. The pollution stench of model airplane adhesive and frequent masturbations. Underneath . . . reek of secret blood, latex rubber, and fear sweat. Pig dog face not look up, but blotted one cheek with vast purple bruised. Estimate old 14.5 years.

Twitching chicken mother, wagging one finger made straight, host mother say, "Now, don't let's be racist_._._."

Easy fast could be, feet of operative me hitting pig dog, pow-

pow, Flying Giant Stork Death Kick, collapse inside of pig dog zygomatic arch, driving bone back direct to spear brain, jab-boom, dead before make next stink breath.

For host mother, soon plan dim mak, fatal touch to acupuncture meridian, leave painless instant now dead as mook Joong dummy.

For official record, only host sister look rewarding opponent. Host sister, stealth cat. Cat of night, silent but eyeing all happen. Cat sister press red paper bundle on fingers of operative me, host sister say, "I hope it fits."

Fingers of operative me cradle package, slick feel of red paper. Pull at fake gold of flowering knot, careful no to tear paper, no to break binding. This agent deconstruct package careful as were delay-ignite Turkish T-155 Panter howitzer shell bomb. Inside, folded black fabric printed white with in letters English writing. Unfold fabric so reveal tunic, wrote across front with "Property of Jesus" on top above shape like fish, like primitive outline caveman fish.

Pig dog eyes looking down at apparatus, twitching thumbs pushing beeps, busy and fast, host brother say, "It's a T-shirt, 'tard." Say, "Put it on."

Fellow mission operatives, neighboring amid arrival for collect luggage, target host families throw arms around, say, "Group hug." Agent Sasha. Agent Vigor. Accept to grip thread of silver floating bladder, English worded "Welcome to Jesus." Other floating bladder worded "Smile!" Other package covered of paper. Other agents buried in heavy layer American arms. Every American try secret to be sniffing operatives, scrub with small snake eyes for soil or foreign disease germ. Host families with fellow operatives trailing more distant, strolling more distant until disappear out airport doors to where already automobile wait. Horn honking at edge of outside street. All automobile the big of house.

Begins here phase one: Operation Havoc.

Arms of operative me wrestle black fabric over head, pull fabric down over shoulders, over waist until black hang to knees, past knees. Edge of little sleeve hang to elbow. Word of "Jesus" flap over crotch. Collar big around to circle neck and one shoulder of this agent.

Breathing cow father say, "You'll grow into it." Say, stinking fluoride breath, "Here," and hand over fabric rag glued to hang off end of wood stick. American flag little as napkin. White, red, and blue.

Fingers of operative me pinch wood stick like stem of stinking weed. Wave stripe flag to fan away reek of host family air. Butter fat stench. Chemical hair soap stink. Such filthy reek American cash money.

Hand of vast cow father, hand rise, all finger made straight as for pledge. Lips host father say, "We're not just a family." Say shout, "We're a team!"

Same now, host mother flex both leg limbs so able leap, smite own palm against open hand of father, making loud sound of slap hands. Say shout host chicken mother, "Team Cedar!"

Begins here delicious tang of host family, thin American blood already salt on hot tongue of operative me. Already is decadent host family flesh tear by operative teeth. Drool of operative me, flooding hunger within mouth making to swallow. Tongue to lick lips of operative me. Drown cyanide molar. Could be crunch of host bones sweet between teeth of this agent. Stomach to growl. Quick them to be screaming out blood, mouth trumpet yawning blood, quick dead. Ultimate vengeance.

Label tag inside collar of Jesus tunic, print "Made in China."

Label tag along weed stem of American flag, print "Made in China."

Operative me not say loud, only say inside this agent head, quote turncoat Hebrew, corrupt genius Robert Oppenheimer, atom bomb father, quote, "I am become as death, the destroyer of worlds." Next then, making agent eyes bright on host target family, mouth of operative design into smile, extra especial wide to show all of many sharp white teeth.

Quote, "All the better to eat you with, my dears."

Repeat inside head of operative me, quote, "I am become as death_._._."

Chicken mother say, "We'll make an American out of you_._._." Keys of automobile jangling, beak chin wagging no stop, host mother say, "Or, swear to our Lord almighty God, we are gonna die trying."

 

Dispatch

Second

Begins here second account of operative me, agent number 67, on arrival retail product distribution facility of city  ??. Outlet number  ??. Date  ??. For official record, during American winter youth attend compulsive levels of teaching; during summer, American youth must attend shopping mall.

Magic quiet door go sideways, disappear inside wall to open path from outside. Not total all glass, extruded aluminum metal frame silver edge, doors slide gone until reveal inside stand old woman, slave woman appareled with red tunic, spring apparatus gripping tunic front to hang swinging sign, printed, "Doris." Ancient sentinel rest gray cloud eye upon operative me, roll eye from hair and down this agent, say, voice like old parrot, say, "Welcome to Wal-Mart." Say, "May I help you find something?"

Mouths of this agent make smile, face design into pleasing eye contact. This agent say, "Much venerate ancient mother... where sold here location China-make 81-S-type gas-operated, rotating-bolt, fire six hundred fifty rounds per minute machine gun?"

Face of ancient mummify bound in dying skin, clouded eye only look, no blink.

Smile of operative me say, "Revered soon dying mother, distribute you ammunitions correct for Croatia-made forty-five-caliber, long-piston-stroke APS assault rifle?"

Smile of operative me, breathing, await.

Sag windpipe of ancient parrot, sag skin jump with swallow. Edge smear of red wax slice open as mouth, wax smile melt flat, straight.

"Brazil-made FA 03 assault rifle?" say this agent, shout, maybe not could hear, shout, "Venerate ancestor, much respected dying soon rotting corpse," shout, "where sell here Slovak SA Vz.58 assault rifle?"

Parrot face of dying skin fill with blood glow, red wax of mouth bunch until volcano pucker, tight until skin of pucker mouth pinched white of no blood. Cloud eyes flash electric bolts. Volcano blow open, old parrot voice say, loud shout, saliva erupt to fly, "You'll find our sporting goods on aisle sixteen, young man."

Could be, zing-wring, hands of this operative pounce in rapid Bird Wing Gentle Embrace to twist parrot neck, backbone twist-snap, to bring mercy instant soft death.

Merely this agent say, "Thank you, much esteemed madam living skeleton." Wish safe quick soon mission into next eternity.

For official record, squirrel maze of retail distribution center puzzle of competition warring objects, all improved, all package within fire colors. Area divided into walls constructed from objects, all tinted color so grab eye. All object printed: Love me. Look me. Million speaking objects, begging. Crown American consumer with power of king, to rescue choose and give home or abandon here for expire. Word label blow sharp into ear, loud into eye. Pander hand to take. Dying objects. All here, useful life winding down in clock ticks. Dying objects. Dying buyer. Dying slave woman "Doris." Desperate how sad.

Feet of this operative walk bending around corners, through canyon shadowed of objects, all boast best cheap. All most good taste. All objects fight for adopt.

Bending around new corner, eyes of operative me witness operative Tibor, agent 23, shoving wheeled silver basket of host family. Around new corner, witness operative Magda, agent 36; host mother eyeing sideways as concealing bright box of object within tunic of that agent to theft. Eye of operative Magda meeting eye contact of this agent.

Recent to commence: Operation Havoc.

Next then, feet of this operative bending around new corner, witness host brother, pig dog, resting on polish floor. Prone on floor, pig dog face cheek flat pressed on floor, whole body sprawl behind head and neck. Stand over, other new youth, American growing clear-yellow hair to hang hiding ears. Clear-yellow hair hang to hide neck, hang so curtain sides of face while youth rest shoe foot on upside of pig dog face. Clear-yellow youth balance all weight, stand only on face of host brother, clear-yellow youth say, "Hand over the cash, dick-wad_._._."

Face of pig dog, pinched under shoe, flat on top of floor, nose of host brother leak blood and liquid mucus in mix puddle around crack lips. Host brother eyes squeeze shut. Lips of pig dog sputter in puddle, blow blood and juice to say, "Okay . . . okay." Say, "Just let me up."

Clear-yellow bully reach hand to behind trouser pocket of pig dog. Slide fingers within and pull until denim fabric cry with threads breaking, until pocket flap hanging like fabric tail. Hands of clear-yellow bully, stomp shoe planted to hold pig dog face into floor, hands apprehend American paper dollars out of leather pocketbook of pig dog. Clear-yellow bully stuff paper in own trouser pocket, throw hollow pocketbook to wing, zing-pow, bounce against face, splashing blood puddle of host brother. Clear-bully look to witness this agent, eyes of bully electric-bolt blue, product fire color blue, to grab eyes of operative me. Bully appareled with black tunic lettered, "John 3:16." Blue denim trouser. Clear-yellow bully say, "What are you looking at, pygmy?" Say, "Beat it!"

Eyes of host brother open, look from floor, lips say, "I told you not to follow me_._._." Eyes zigzag cracked with blood tunnels inside white part.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 165 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(44)

4 Star

(41)

3 Star

(49)

2 Star

(18)

1 Star

(13)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 165 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Palahniuk's newest is nothing short of amazing...what else would one expect?

    I was pleasantly surprised with "Pygmy!" it is easily one of the funniest and most entertaining books i've ever read! The writing style is genius and fun, the satire is spot on, and the humor is hilarious!

    What this book does is it looks at just about every aspect of American culture and looks at it through a foreigner's eyes making everything look...well, stupid. Funny, funny, funny and pure fun! Palahniuk-you're a God!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2009

    Quickly becomes more of a chore than a gratifying read.

    This book is written in broken english, know this before buying it. The narrative, which reads like its been fed through an online translator several times, quickly becomes a chore. The writing has some humor in it but in the end is not gratifying. This seems like Chuck just sort of ailed it in and through in an ending with an attempt to retract some of his innumerable criticisms of society. Certainly not worth buying in hardcover.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A wellspring of bizarre quotes and ideas.

    This novel has many pitfalls, meaning many opportunities for disappointment by the reader. If those pitfalls are avoided, however, you can enjoy a very fresh kind of novel that's loaded with hilarious quotes and observations.

    With regard to the pitfalls, you have Pygmy's dialogue to contend with and the absurdity of the plot. Pygmy's English vocabulary is insanely high, but his grammar and syntax are totally alien. Once you get used to Pygmy's speech, you can begin to enjoy his distorted way of describing American life. As for the plot... you must understand you are reading a comedy and not a political thriller. If you can continue to raise your suspension of disbelief and go with the inherent absurdity, you'll love the flow of the book.

    The real joy of this novel comes from Pygmy's observations of America by way of his home country's bias. His indoctrinated hatred of capitalism and American consumerism lead to page after page of hilarious descriptions as Pygmy attempts to make sense of this foreign nation he's residing in. Those features that evoke envy in many are viewed with bitter disgust- and written in a way that makes you feel both emotions while laughing most of the way through it.

    With my caveat about the "pitfalls" of this book, I highly recommend it as something new and fascinating. I've read all of Palahniuk's fiction, but Pygmy has a special place of it's own for me. Though maybe not my all time favorite of Palahniuk's (Invisible Monsters), it's a unique kind of romantic comedy that gets you thinking about ideology without making any real political statements.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Begins Here Book Review From Moderately Entertained Reader

    I am a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk. I enjoyed the the hysterical satire of this book and I thought the fresh writing style was unique and fun (once I got used to it, which if you stick it out and read the first few chapters, you WILL get use to it - I promise) I especially enjoyed the flashbacks to the training that "Pygmy" underwent - brutal stuff. The reason I've only rated it 3 stars is because I did not feel it was his best writing or even close to his best writing. At times, the writing style gets a little mundane and I actually ended up putting this book down for 2 months! I just finished it the other day and I am very glad I did. Over all, I would rate it slightly above average. Still a good read if you love Chuck's writing. Don't expect it to be the same syle though. I would suggest reading a chapter or two at the bookstore to better decide if it is something you will be into.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

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    Do not even bother with this book!

    I'm a die hard Palahniuk fan, but this book is rubbish. It has his typical anti-consumerism flair, but the prose ruins the book. The broken English narritive makes immersing one's self in the story difficult, if not impossible. Other greats such as Hubert Selby Jr, Anthony Burgess, Irvine Welsh and Alan Warner can pull off a colloquial narritive in a manner that draws the reader in, inviting him or her to join in the character's adventures and plights. Sadly, this novel illustrates Chuck's inability to do such a thing and not alienate the reader.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Not his best, but certainly not as bad as Snuff!

    Certainly not Chuck's best book, but far better than Snuff. The English is "broken," yes, Pygmy's vocabulary is stellar... but haven't you ever noticed most non-native speakers have incredible vocabularies? Learning vocabulary is easy, syntax is not! Yes, the satire was a little heavy handed at times, but Chuck gives us so much to think about in this novel. The great thing about reading any of his books are the connections one makes in their head AFTER they have read the book and thinks about all the small connections and turns you didn't quite notice until you sit back and think it all over. Are some of the scenarios far fetched? Of course! It's Chuck. I don't think there aren't scenarios in ANY of his books that aren't far fetched, including Fight Club (sorry, it's true). Then, there is the "happy" ending, a twist all its own as Chuck rarely ends a book like that. However, as "happy" as it ends, I think most would agree it isn't the best outcome for Pygmy. The genius lies in how the ending is both "pro" and "anti" American all at once. As always, Chuck is not for everyone, but this novel is by far not nearly "Chuck's worst" in any shape or form, as some other reviewers claim. It does not beat the genius of Rant, Choke, or Survivor, but it is a must read for Chuck fans and anyone interested in him at all.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2009

    WORST PALAHNIUK BOOK . PERIOD. END OF STORY.

    For official record: I have been a HUGE Palahniuk fan for a long time and have read all of his books thus far.

    But I completely agree with the previous review of this book. Chuck has hit an all time low. I thought Snuff was bad, but this is just plain stupid and I know some people would agree. First to point to the obvious: the writing. The "broken english" is suppose to be indicative of Pygmy's typical foreigner's lack of grasp of the english language. Yet when you look at it, alot of complex and uncommon verbs, adjectives and nouns are used that aren't even used in everyday common langauge and words that certainly wouldn't be known to someone who dosn't know enlish and yet he can't even put together a single grammatical sentence. The writing is definitely something I can't suspend my belief in and just go along with it. It was just horrible and got worse as the book progressed. Also, the fact that the writing wasn't as clear at times meant that the 'satire' running in the book was more direct and heavy-handed. I know that is Palahniuk's style but it was just bad in this book.

    Moreover, the 'satire' of American culture and power that is viewed through the eyes of a foriegner is the most stereotypical and superficial and overused views of Americans: "we're imperialist, we use up the world's resources, we're passive consumerists, relegion is fake...blah, blah, blah" haven't we heard this all before Chuck? (And we're suppose to believe that someone would attack us because of Starbucks and Mcdonalds? C'mon, even Bin Laden would disagree)

    Palahniuk's recent books have just degenerated into pure shock value and don't offer anything tangible in the form of satire, good characters, or a good plot line to balance it out (even by his own standards). He just keeps piling on the extremes for its own sake and because we expect it from him.

    In two or three years time, i think i'd be too mature to even read palahniuk's books. He's just become a faux-literary nihilist spouting half-baked coffee-table philosophy.

    This is probably the last Palahniuk book i will rush to go out and get. It will take a really amazing turn around for me to get his next book.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Laugh out loud funny!

    I think that all of the "haters" of this one just found it too hard to read, but anything worthwhile is worth working for, to paraphrase...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2013

    pygmy

    this was an ok read. it falls way short in comparison to Survivor or Fight Club.

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  • Posted October 25, 2011

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    My least favorite Palahniuk book

    I'm a huge Palahniuk fan - I own and have read all of his books. He's an incredible author, and is definitely my favorite modern day writer - but Pygmy is my least favorite out of all of his novels. It's not that the story is bad - the characters are interesting, and the concept is intriguing. It's just that the broken english is very hard to get used to. In books such as Welsh's Trainspotting, the strange language used can be a fun experience for the reader - but in Pygmy, it's a bit of work at the beginning. Normally, I'm a fast reader - but this book took me a few days to get through because of the broken english. Once you get used to it, though, a lot of it is very funny. For example, Pygmy refers to church as "religion propaganda distribution outlet." Also, when at a school dance, the way that Pygmy asks a girl to dance with him is: "Request demonstrate superior anatomy as condition to receive generous deposit of alive male seed." These, along with Pygmy's way of addressing the elderly and his frequent quoting of dictators, prove to be amusing elements. The book in itself is an amusing and thought-provoking read, and is worth checking out if you're a hardcore Palahniuk fan. However, if you're new to Palahniuk, I would suggest starting somewhere else [Choke, Survivor]. The book was good, but it is my least favorite of all of Palahniuk's works.

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  • Posted December 29, 2010

    as ever, Mr. P delivers

    if you're an avid Palahniuk fan, add this to your collection. great read, if you're used to his style of writing.

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  • Posted October 9, 2010

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    I love Chuck, But this one ?????

    To hard to read to get into the flow

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    Shoots for Edgy, Hits Insulting

    I picked this up, because I'd never read a Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club). Now I wish I hadn't.

    Pygmy is about a secret terrorist cell of diminutive people who disguise themselves as middle-school exchange students so they can infiltrate a Midwest American city. It's written in report form, narrated by one short terrorist is a pidgin English meant to mock Asians trying to grasp our language. I found this style hard to understand and often offensive instead of comic, which I can only assume Palahniuk was aiming for (though I'm not sure, since Pygmy is one of the most spectacular misses I've ever had the torture of reading.)

    Pygmy makes fun of Americans in the most cliché way. It has strip mall churches. It has junior high dances. It has television. It has slogan-riddled t-shirts and fashion clothes. I get it; we Americans are shallow, clueless, self-interested, and ignorant of other cultures. Golly, no one's ever said THAT about America before! That's ORIGINAL, Palahniuk!

    Chapter 2 has a bathroom rape that becomes central to the plot...

    Let me repeat that: there's a bathroom rape in Chapter 2. We're supposed to be horrified and humored by this...

    What's so deeply sad is that the author thinks reprehensible shock is synonymous with comedy and entertainment. In fact, the violent rape of a teenager in a Walmart restroom is only part of the problem. Later, there's something even crasser; at that point, I desperately wanted to throw the book. Preferably at the author's head.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Worth Reading

    Great story but reading the broken English made it a little tiring to read.

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  • Posted December 22, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Pygmy - decent but difficult

    Pygmy is a difficult book to read. The narrator, Pygmy, is a foreign-born thirteen year old terrorist. He does not have a complete command of the English language. The entire novel is written in his pseudo-English speech pattern. If you can overcome this experimental prose, then you will discover a decent story inside. There is a a superb description of high school dodge ball, but the rest of the school scenes are familiar and cliche. Pygmy's history, his descent from an individual to a member of his State, and learning to become an individual again are the truly interesting bits. If you've never read a novel by Chuck Palahnuik, don't start here. Go pick up Invisible Monsters, Lullaby, or Choke.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    another Palahniuk classic

    great book, very funny and gives good view of how somebody not from america might view us. Chuck Palahniuk proves once again he is one of best writters today.

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  • Posted November 23, 2009

    Its okay, but not great

    It is a bit hard to follow at times, but still has that dark outsider element Palahniuk is known for.
    This is written entirely from the view of the exchange student/terrorist an includes his difficulty with the english language which makes it harder to follow than any of his other works.
    If you are thinking this is another "Fight Club" it really is not.

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  • Posted November 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An unexpected treat

    This was my first book by Palahniuk, so I wan't sure what to expect. I was delighted. This book is satirical, witty and definitely not run-of-the-mill. The characters are outstanding, I loved them all. The plot isn't very complicated, but that is never a problem. The way it's worded (in the broken english of the main character) can be distracting. However, it is also hilarious at times. Mr. Palahniuk pokes a sharp stick into the side of the American lifestyle. I definitely will read more by this author.

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  • Posted September 11, 2009

    This book sucks.

    Definitely one of Chuck Palahniuk's worst books yet, even worse than his last.

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  • Posted August 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Terrific slice of Palahniuk's mind

    The most satisfying Palahniuk since Diary. Takes America and (ostensibly) China equally to task with a fast-paced, wry, satirical Lashing Lynx to the reader's gut and mind. The initial inscrutability of the language (you get accustomed to it, really, just as with Shakespeare, for example) and central character throw you off-balance, but leave you in the end enjoying them all the more as a result.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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