English Faculty Publications


Invisible Monsters and Palahniuk's Perverse Sublime

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Choke


Invisible Monsters is a novel about the search for identities — sexual, family, gender, social — that is never at ease with the search. The characters in the novel wish to put an end to the need to search for an identity and to draw to a close the need and urge to represent themselves to others. These are characters who wish to be what and who they are without apology or argument but are ill-equipped to do so. They cannot find the means by and through which to put the seeking to an end. It may be tempting to diagnose them as if they were people who could sit on the couch — if they wanted to — as living in fear and denial as addicts chasing a sense of belonging that addiction pretends to offer but fails to make good on. It might be tempting to figure out what is wrong with them as if therapy is what they need and what the novel intends. It might be tempting to do as Brandy Alexander pleads and to seek to live a life beyond labels and definition, beyond the claims of identity and family, of the law and the troubles of living a life of desire in a world that demands that we conform and renounce our most intimate desires.

These characters cannot, for whatever reasons, be as they are without anxiety.

Palahniuk's novel is no morality play in which the answers to human problems are presumed. Instead, the novel can show the drama and great effort involved in the struggle to accept the identities we forge for ourselves-identities that are distinct from those childhood influences that we idealize, idolize, abhor, or destroy with an energy and ambivalence that can be frightening to recall.

Inclusive pages





Copyright © 2013, Bloomsbury Publishing. From Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Choke, Francisco Collado-Rodríguez, Ed., 2013; pp. 81-96. Permission to archive the author's manuscript of Chapter 4 is pending from the publisher; to read the entire volume, search for it in a library or visit the publisher's catalogue.

Permission documentation is on file.


Bloomsbury Publishing

Place of Publication

New York, NY

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