Sept. 23 2014 05:45 PM

Lionized author comes to San Diego for a pajama party and a raucous reading of his new novel

Beautiful You and Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck Palahniuk
Photo by Allan Amato

It's been 18 years since Chuck Palahniuk published Fight Club and 15 years since David Fincher's film adaptation, establishing Palahniuk as that rarest of writers: a best-selling author with a cult following.

Although Palahniuk is writing a sequel to Fight Club that will be published by Dark Horse Comics as a 10-issue comic book, he continues to write novels.

Now, as everyone knows, the first rule of Fight Club is do not talk about Fight Club. Nevertheless, Palahniuk spoke with CityBeat about his explosive new book, Beautiful You, which he refers to as "a female Fight Club." 

"Beautiful You is my attempt to synthesize my father's kind of pornography and my mother's kind of pornography," he said. 

The result is a work of erotica that appropriates the style of romance novels. Of course, it being a Chuck Palahniuk story, there's also "this big, out-of-control conspiracy building in the background that eventually the protagonist has to come to terms with," he said.

That would be Penny Harrigan, a New York lawyer who discovers that she's been duped into serving as a test subject for a line of sex toys being marketed in a nationwide chain of boutiques called Beautiful You. These aren't your ordinary dildos.

"It's a line of overwhelmingly fantastic sex toys that drive all of their purchasers into isolation and destroy all of their intimate relationships."

That's where the conspiracy comes in. Beautiful You, which sounds like a feminine hygiene product, has a cult-like power over its customers.

"I wanted [the name of the company to be] something euphemistic but also... flattering and attractive. And, also, I wanted two words—two words that would be enticing but wouldn't make any sense in and of themselves."

Sex for sale is nothing new, but leave it to Palahniuk to turn it into a story of corporate conspiracy.

"The whole book is about commodified experiences," he explained. "So many of our peak experiences are things that we buy as a commodity, whether it's a movie or a vacation or a book."

To celebrate the book's release, Palahniuk will throw a party at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at UCSD's Mandeville Auditorium. The event is co-sponsored by Warwick's bookstore and the UCSD Bookstore. He always puts on a show. While some authors bring cookies to readings, Palahniuk has been known to make people lose theirs. So, what can we expect from a book full of sex toys?

"There are going to be a lot of prizes, a lot of contests and a lot of throwing things," he said.

And in keeping with Chuck Palahniuk's trademark shock and awe, "there's going to be a reading that will offend."

Tickets are $30 and include a signed copy of Beautiful You. And it might be a good idea to bring your own lube.

Jim Ruland is the author of Forest of Fortune. He blogs at

Correction: The original version of this story said that the Oct. 22 event would be a "pajama party." We assume it's still OK to wear PJs, but you might get lots of funny looks.

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