Pygmyby Chuck Palahniuk
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:/b>/i>/i>/i>
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.
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.
— Keir Graff, Booklist (starred review)
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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."
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.
Meet the Author
CHUCK PALAHNIUK'S nine novels are the bestselling Snuff, Rant, Haunted, Lullaby, Fight Club, Diary, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, and Choke. He is also the author of the nonfiction collection Stranger than Fiction. He lives in the Pacific northwest.
Paul Michael Garcia, an AudioFile Earphones Award-winner, received his classical training in theater from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, where he worked as an actor, director, and designer. He has gone on to perform at the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
- Portland, Oregon
- Date of Birth:
- February 21, 1962
- Place of Birth:
- Pasco, Washington
- B.A. in journalism, University of Oregon, 1986
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recommend this read. It is written in broken english however you can catch on very quickly. Once you do, this satire is hilarious and easy to understand. I burst out laughing multiple times and actually HAD to highlight some quotes to read to my boyfriend. The things said in this book are just brilliant. However it does have a certain kind of humor. I don't recommend it if you are not an easily amused person. Enjoy!
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...
this was an ok read. it falls way short in comparison to Survivor or Fight Club.
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.