Hey, baby. We need to talk. I just finished your new book, Snuff, and there’s some things I need to say to you. It’s not going to be easy, so, just… *sniff*… just listen, okay?
I’m sorry, Chuck. You know I’ve loved you for a long time – hell, I feel like I’ve been with you forever – but I think, honestly, maybe we’ve grown apart. I’ve suspected it for a while now, but after this last book… I’m sorry. I just can’t do this anymore.
The thing is, I wouldn’t have read this book at all if I hadn’t already been in love with you. Remember the first time? Fight Club? God, that was amazing. Back then, that whole repetitive, minimalist thing you do seemed so bold, so dangerous. So hot. And I seriously, no kidding, learned so much about men from that book.
And then Survivor – whoa. Maybe even better. I loved everything you had to say about the commodification of religion. And Fertility is a great heroine. The way Tender kept listing all those horrific cleaning tips didn’t feel like a gimmick; it actually made sense for a character who’d been raised to be a wage-slave for his religious cult, cut off from any sense of his own humanity. Being raised a Jehovah’s Witness, myself, I totally related.
Invisible Monsters was pretty good. I didn’t full-on LOVE it like I did the first two, but it was still pretty amazing, and so different. A supermodel with half her face shotgunned off, on the lam with her tranny brother and her ex-cop maybe-gay ex-boyfriend… I do remember thinking it was a weird book for a straight man to write. Ha.
Then came (no pun intended) Choke, about a sex addict who fakes choking in restaurants just to get rescued over and over – not bad. This is why “dude, for serious” became a permanent part of my vocabulary – I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but obviously a lasting impression was made. Okay, the doppelgänger motif was maybe starting to get out of hand, but it was interesting, and made sense in the context of your continuing overall theme of the exploration of identity, and the need to destroy oneself in order to be reborn. I liked the religious stuff, too, the little hint of something maybe-supernatural. You kept it at just the right level, too, so it didn’t overwhelm the story.
Lullaby was probably my first hint that we were headed for trouble. I knew you’d always listed Stephen King as a favorite author of yours, but it hadn’t occurred to me before that you might try to emulate him. It almost worked – the idea of a poem that could kill anyone who heard it was kind of a cool premise, anyway.
Diary. That… ah, Chuck. That was a rough patch. I couldn’t even buy the premise: a quaint resort community that relied on supernatural means to keep itself from getting too touristy and overdeveloped – wait, isn’t that The Wicker Man? Much less could I care about any of the characters. But I still clung to you. I still believed that ol’ genius Chuck, the man I loved, was in there somewhere. I thought we could make it work – maybe you just needed time, and to get some of those urges out of your system, but you’d still come back.
But then Haunted came out, and for the first time, I just knew we needed a break, we had to take some time apart. All the hype over how many people passed out at your readings on that book tour… it was ugly, Chuck. What was the point? Where’s the literary merit in disgusting your audience to the point of unconsciousness? I had no desire to read it. Even the cover was ugly, although I know that’s not your fault. I felt betrayed. Still, though, I held out a little bit of hope… I’d heard rumors that this was a “horror” novel you’d been contracted to write for Random House, so I thought maybe once that little dalliance was over you’d be back to your old self.
Well. Then Rant happened. I’ll say this: I liked that you tried to do an “oral history” approach. I liked that you tried to write in different voices. The Party Crashers – the people who decorated their cars according to a secret theme and then crashed into each other on purpose – that was cool, kinda Project Mayhem-ish. And the rabies thing was funny. The cover is excellent. But DAMN, that was one lousy resolution. It made NO SENSE AT ALL. Seriously? That’s why they were crashing? I’m supposed to buy that stuff about his father AND grandfather? EW.
So, my expectations weren’t high for Snuff, but it is a testament to how much I loved you once, how very much those early books meant to me, that I still gave it a try. I mean, it’s about the making of a gang-bang porn film, which may or may not turn into a snuff film. Does that sound like my taste? No. I would never have picked that up if it didn’t have your name on it.
And, okay, it was better than Rant. But it left me empty, and feeling about as gross as the men’s bathroom floor that YOU JUST COULD NOT STOP DESCRIBING. Really, I think it’s official: you’ve changed, you have different priorities now, and they just aren’t the same as mine. Even with another attempt at multi-POV narration, I still felt like your main objective was to shock me, rather than to explore the characters. The relentless-machine-gun-rattling-off-of-trivia is played, already; and it’s just not enough for me anymore. It’s no substitute for narrative flow. It all has to lead somewhere, it has to mean something. And all I felt after reading this was… relieved. It’s over, Chuck. I’m finally free.
I thank you for the good years. We had some great times. I learned a lot from you. I’m not worried about hurting you here, because you still have a huge following. There’s plenty of others out there who can love you for who you are now. Be happy, Chuck. Follow your muse down whatever wack-ass path it leads you next. Really, it’s not you, it’s me.