Book review and summary: “Consider This,” by Chuck Palahniuk
If Kurt Cobain created the soundtrack for Generation X, Chuck Palahniuk wrote its handbook. The novel “Fight Club” — and it’s Brad Pitt/Edward Norton onscreen incarnation—captured the cynicism, disillusionment, and disdain felt by millions in a generation destined to be ignored in America’s Boomer-to-Millennial transition.
Palahniuk is a captivating and raw storyteller, unafraid to jolt and shock us into emotional responses. So why would a guide he wrote to fiction writing be any different?
Spoiler alert: it isn’t. Palahniuk’s guide is as entertaining as it is useful, and there’s plenty of both.
We should be skeptical when the great ones try to explain how they do it. The effort often fails. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time, but he’s a lousy basketball owner. He can’t download his drive and athleticism to other athletes. His greatness was in and of him. It was him. There’s no way to teach it.
But Palahniuk gives us plenty of help, both strategic and tactical, for writing better fiction—even for communicating better in any form. He helps us establish authority, build tension, and build reader rapport using concrete and replicable examples.
“Consider This” is also, stealthily, an autobiography.
Palahniuk’s “Postcards from the Tour” serve as entertaining interludes between the instructional courses, quick shots of his life on the road that sometimes weave into recollections from his childhood. Weaved into sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying tales from book tours, Palahniuk drops insight into the margins about what shaped him as a writer.
Some of his “Postcards” are too strange for fiction. You can make that determination for yourself—and you definitely should. “Consider This” is a wild and useful ride.
Consider This: A quick diagnostic guide for fiction writing
Near the book’s end, Palahniuk provides a checklist in a “problem / consider” format to troubleshoot fiction that’s falling flat. You can read a summary of the Consider This diagnostic guide here.