Written by Chuck Palahniuk
I’m not gonna lie. I first picked up this novel because the cover made me think of the old school Robin costume. I thought it might have something to do with that. (It’s not by the way, it’s a messed up heart.) Upon opening the book and reading a few words on the dust jacket, it presented itself as an oral biography of “the world’s most notorious (fictional) serial killer.” With a price tag of only 6 dollars (I heart you BMV in downtown Toronto) I was sold on that phrase alone. Couple that with the fact that it was written by the author of “Fight Club”, and I didn’t even give it a second thought (let a lone a first one really). Sure it might not have been about Robin (a boy can dream can’t he?) but a serial killer is almost as good. When I finally got home and read the entirety of the dust jacket, my heart sunk a little. This wasn’t a book about a “serial killer”, at least not in the definition that I have come to know for a serial killer. It was a book about a man who went around giving people rabies. At least, that’s what the dust jacket said. (But I thought I read that thing the first time, and I still got it wrong… and I’d be wrong again.) So with the money already spent I had nothing left to do but sit down and read the thing out. Oh. My. God.
This is without a doubt, the craziest book I have ever read. And I’ve read some crazy ones. The Oral Biography device is a very effective one. It kept me intrigued on each new page, even if I didn’t really like where the story was heading. I’ve never read a book written in such a fashion but it certainly allows for some very intriguing structural choices and interesting reveals. “Rant” starts off simply enough. A man named Buster Casey has just died, and through a series of interviews we learn that the man was somewhat of a martyr/celebrity. A man with a thousand different stories and somebody that everybody wants to claim they at some point met. He also had rabies. A shit load of rabies. And he liked to infect people. From this point on the novel progresses through stories about Rant’s childhood up until his “death.” I guarantee you that these stories make for some of the most twisted, deranged and insane things you have ever read. And then just when you think it can’t get any weirder, disturbing, or more disgusting, a twist in the final third of the novel pops up and almost (almost) elevates the entire thing to a case of high art.
Often times when reading “Rant” I found myself, disturbed, angry, and bored all at once. The beginning works for what it is, and as long as you can make some kind of connection with Rant, you’ll get through the entire thing okay. But the middle section of the book I found to be particularly hard to get through. And it retrospect it’s the most tame part of the book. Perhaps it’s because I became inoculated to the disgusting antics of Rants childhood that I found his forray into “Big City Life”, in particular a “Mad Max” like car game, to be extremely boring. But as I said, near the end of the novel, Palahniuk throws in a twist that not only redeems the middle section of the book, but paints it as absolutely necessary.
I can’t help but think Chuck Palahniuk sat through a marathon viewing of David Cronenberg’s “Crash”, “The Matrix”, “Huckleberry Finn”, “Mad Max”, and his own “Fight Club” and then thought to himself, “I can write a novel that includes aspects of all of these things!” And while he was writing it, he also happened to read “Slaughterhouse Five” and at that point all bets were off. “Rant” is a strange, beautiful, and awful novel. Often all at the same time. But in my opinion that only helps in making it a better piece of art.