Book Review: Chuck Palahniuk's Rant
By Kim Hollis
April 27, 2007
As is the case with most Chuck Palahniuk books, I simply don't know what to say about Rant. It's one of those books that leaves you breathless and energized, and because of its structure, it is both difficult to put down and easy to keep reading. It is relentlessly creative and twists and turns in surprising directions that leave you repeatedly rethinking Palahniuk's themes and ideas.
Rant tells the story of a bizarre character named Rant Casey (aka Buster Casey, aka Buddy Casey). His tale is revealed in oral biography form, which means that it appears as a series of comments from people interviewed about Rant's life and times. For comparison purposes, it reads a lot like the Legs McNeil books Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk and The Other Hollywood (which is similarly an oral history of the porn industry). Each chapter has a theme, and various characters from different portions of Rant's life give their opinions and thoughts as they relate to the main character.
From the book's outset, everything about Rant appears to be unique. Born and raised in a small, rural town known as Middleton, Rant is a boy who embraces very different activities than typical kids his age. Where other boys are playing baseball and other normal sorts of things, Rant likes to achieve natural highs by sticking his arm in holes where he knows animals live. His goal? To be bitten. Ultimately, this habit leads to Rant having rabies, which becomes significant as he grows older and moves on to bigger and better things.
Weird things continue to happen around Rant. During his boyhood, his grandmother and great-grandmother both die in extremely strange ways. Girls from his school, who are inexplicably attracted to his strange ways, find themselves infected with rabies. And when he finally moves on to the big city, the world even begins to gradually change. Rant joins a group of people known as Party Crashers, whose main purpose is to participate in a game in which they drive around the city in ridiculously decorated cars as they attempt to ram and crash into each other.
As the different characters relate their experiences with Rant, it becomes apparent that many people believe he should be considered a serial killer. His rabies has had a profound effect on the population, as he seems to have intentionally infected people in some cases. At the very least, he is Patient Zero in a pandemic that has caused the nation to rethink laws and regulations.
Ultimately, even though it seems clear what the story is really about, it constantly evolves into something else. It may seem as though I have given away an awful lot of information in my brief synopsis above, but in fact I haven't even come close to scratching the surface. Rant's place in society is indeed crucial, but it happens in ways that are much more subtle and sublime.
Fans of Palahniuk should definitely be pleased with Rant. It is simultaneously funny, stomach turning, trippy and overwhelming. It seems quite simple on the surface, but as the pages unfold, more and more layers and complications are added that make the story a truly complex undertaking. Rant starts out feeling like a straightforward gothic novel, but ultimately veers into science fiction and horror (of a sort). It creates a culture that rivals Fight Club in its inventiveness, and has enough surprises to make Tyler Durden blush. Rant is a novel that people will be talking about for some time to come.
Chuck Palahniuk's Official Web site
Rant Official Web site
Order Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey
Visit aNobii for information on all sorts of books