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A Generation's Cry For HELP!
Written: Oct 6, 2001 (Updated Oct 6, 2001)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Well-written exposé on social themes; a candid "thought" on sexually-oriented tendencies
Cons:In guise of "artfulness", author provides some enlightening views, at potential expense of our teens
The Bottom Line: Choke gives us a view on sexual addiction that will quickly make one question the "myths" of yore. You'll find yourself saying, "Hmmm", and stifle an involuntary gasp for breath.
QUESTION: How--where--did we fail them? You ask, "who"? Those young adults who ask, "What's wrong with making a violent sport out of trying to off oneself? Especially when all we're attempting to do is justify why our existence is important... to ourselves and to each other?" They feel there just has to be more to life than working day, after day, in the same old humdrum office scene. Right, Chuck Palahniuk's premise and plot for his novel Fight Club. Well, what that novel was to a man's life in the scheme of this generation's perception of the working class, Choke, Palahniuk's latest released in 2001, is about to make just as big a splash with its statement on addictions in the life of the average, everyday schmoe.
So, How did we come to this?
Glad you asked that question. Used to be that an addiction was identified as a substance upon which a person depended and could not (psychologically, then after routine use/dependency, physically) adequately function and/or live without. Originally, that was thought to be either pharmaceutical drugs (whether legally or illegally obtained, it doesn't matter... not if you've formed a dependency; not if you've become addicted to them), or alcohol.
Later, it became almost anything one could, might, perhaps would become addicted to or dependent upon: i.e. Another person to "complete" themselves (co-dependent upon a boy/girlfriend, spouse, parent, lover); An inanimate object to identify their own worth; An image of themselves, created to make them feel good about themselves. These were all deemed worthy of a classification under the heading of Addiction, sanctioned, validated, coded and included in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, meaning then it would be treatable, so therefore, there must be a treatment and thus billable to the sufferer's medical insurance.
Through his main character, Victor Mancini, Palahniuk gives us our introduction to sexual addiction, and, yes you've got it right; no, it doesn't take much imagination to guess where we're going with this. Husbands who messed off on their wives for eons out of mind, would have loved this guy! Sex criminals, perverts, molesters, abusers, prostitutes, pimps and johns would have all called this man, "savior"! But, wait, not only do we find our leading guy has a sexual addiction, he also has the need to "help other people feel good about themselves". He does this in a most unorthodox manner. The con man/woman, thief, scammer couldn't have thought of a more effective ploy if they'd tried. Our guy, Victor, helps his victims to help him save his life, thereby, making them appear heroic to themselves, thus, saving their own lives. Don't you just love it?
Remember how difficult it was for our generation to admit that we'd sometimes been ill-treated by someone in our immediate families? We could never let anyone know-- not even think-- that our own father, uncle, cousin, brother, grandfather had sexually abused us... and, at the tender age of eight, seven, six, or FOUR? Never!!
What about those wives who were being regularly beaten by the same man who'd promised to love, honor, and care for her in sickness and in health? The same man who'd, after the ceremony, put such bruises on her face, her arms that she was ashamed to go out of the honeymoon suite without glasses and long-sleeved blouses! The same man who at the birth of their first child, emotionally and spiritually abused her by not showing up at the hospital to help her through the labor, then, not coming by later to even see their firstborn till late the next morning. See, it was his duty to stay on at work to finish out the day. Then, as he was leaving, the guys from the office gave him a little celebratory bash. He was so gonked out, that he'd had to stay where he'd ended up, at a girlfriend's of the girlfriend of his co-worker, Bob. He smelled like her perfume because she gave him the bed and she slept on the sofa. The wife, now new mother, got her next beating right after coming home from the hospital, because she'd had the nerve to look at him funny as he'd explained his very late arrival for their first child's arrival.
No matter how badly our "other half" treated us, we only grinned and bore it. We never thought to leave him. Goodness no. No matter what, it was always "better than being alone". That was, until finally someone put a name to the feelings of pain. Then, it was on the books, and it could be recognized. Then, we had a real reason to seek professional help/treatment. To attend meetings of support groups and work it out. However, those who did not. Those who continued to deny it, suppressed it, invariably suffered silently, until they became parents or "significant others" themselves. In cases such as these, they either consciously or subconsciously passed the results of their mistreatment on to/off on their offspring or their spouse/lover.
...And, your point is?
It appears, from all indications, Victor's mother the Mommy (don't ask), might well have been a victim. She definitely seems to be responsible for Victor's view of himself, the world, and most significantly, his place in that world. Now, as she lies wasting away, getting thinner and thinner, virtually dying (she won't eat, anymore; she's starving herself to death) in St. Anthony's Care Center, in a three-thousand-dollar-a-month room, Victor finds himself paying her bill. And, him with not much better than a minimum wage job. That con job where others who've saved his life throughout the years and, thus, feel responsible for that life (you get the idea), come in just too handy.
Victor's best friend, Denny, is a "jerk-off", an under-achieving, fellow "recoving" sexually addictive and compulsive "sexaholic", who Victor had met at a program they called "the twelve-step world of sexual addiction". Even in all that, he (Denny) gives him some of the most profound one liners in the story. With Victor's low regard of his friend, it's hard to believe that such "pearls of wisdom" as, "Dude, you can't fool people into loving you" (which, by the way, is a pretty apt statement of characterization on our hero) come from his mouth. Unless you periodically silence the voice of insanity for a "listen". The girls/women with whom Victor commits his compulsively sexual acts (far too many to name here) were/are mostly in treatment, participants of the same church-sponsored program. They are each supposed to be understanding and recovering from their sexual addictions, but, like with most all addictions, as you know, the 12-steps are continuous; they never end, are never meant to end because they're your constant support group. 'Nuff said.
Who is Victor Mancini? This twenty-five-year-old museum role playing ("I just happen to be the backbone of early colonial America") son, who through his ingenuity (less any inhibitions or shame at using other people to his own means) pays the monthly bills to keep his mother. Who is this mother, who seems to be responsible for the current psychologically disheveled existence of our hero? What makes him do the things he does? Why does he not pursue the dream he had as a small, ofttimes displaced and orphaned boy? What makes his addictions so very attractive to him, even as they seem to reward him with less of what he'd thought he'd wanted (and, would get) and more of what he rationalizes is meant to be, while at the same time knowing it not to be the truth. And, what does this novel's title signify, anyway? What is the meaning of all this? What is the matter with these people?
"Sick" isn't the right word, but it's the best one to come to my mind.
Written in the voice of Victor Mancini, you (the reader) might sometimes wonder if you, too are going 'round the bend. Such revelations, such little slips into his psyche with his thoughts, make you wonder if he actually cannot "hear" himself "say" these things, admit to his shortcomings, vilenesses, evil thoughts and deeds. Then, after scant moments pass by, with his next points of focus, you realize no, you're not insane; but, no, Victor's not listening... not even to himself. Then, you really do feel sad. You feel sad for everyone involved.
Choke, with its quirks of irresponsible behavior, excuses and excesses, is not a book for those of impressionable natures. Teens under fourteen (at the youngest) should probably not be allowed to read this one. Those fourteen and up (fifteen and over is probably best), should read with caution, careful not to project/telegraph themselves into any of these people's (remember, think fictional characters) places.
Nor is Choke a book for those of us who would prefer not to know the "ugly" stories. For those of us who cannot bear to consider the not so pretty side to humanity, avoid this one like the plague. It will give you much more than "food for thought"; Choke will give you a feast you might very well choke [excuse the pun; don't know what came over me] on. So, be sure you can stomach [oops, I did it again] the slice of life as presented by Mr. Palahniuk's latest Generation X-er, explicit tale. I wonder, could these novels of his possibly be a personal statement?
But, bottom line, do I recommend Choke? You bet I do! For the cost of a psychoanalyst, alone, it's worth its weight in dinero. However, this guy, Palahniuk, is getting rich enough off the royalties of books and movies made from them. I suggest, parents of Gen Xers (unless you feel you might have need of it for future reference), beat him at his own game. Check you a copy out from your local public library. At just under 293 pages, I think it will be a very quick read. What's more, you'll better understand the cons our teens are falling for, and horror of horrors, turning back upon us all. Just one more tool to be read in good health... of yours and your teens' relationship, that is.
WRITER'S NOTE: Choke is the third and most recent novel by Chuck Palahniuk. His first three novels: Fight Club, Survivor, and Invisible Monsters were all bestsellers. I daresay, Choke is more than likely destined to join their ranks, as well. Possibly even join Fight Club as a movie, to boot.
As always, thanks to all for reading.
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