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 www.jimruland.net.
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.
That voice, live: Every time author and humorist David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim) makes an appearance on This American Life or his byline shows up in The New Yorker, the LOLs inevitably follow. ArtPower! will bring the funnyman back to Downtowns Balboa Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13. $35-$50. artpwr.com
On coming home: The literary and performing-arts nonprofit So Say We All has successfully tapped into the famously hard-to-find-and-engage veterans community, offering vets of all ages free creative-writing workshops where they learn to tell their tales in more compelling ways. Hear their stories when SSWAs Veteran Writers Masterclass Series launches with a homecoming-themed performance by Gill Sotu at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village. sosayweallonline.com
Literary localism: Local author and musician Ben Johnson (A Shadow Cast in Dust) will host the first-ever San Diego Writers Mini Book Fair at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24. Scribes include Ted Washington, Justin Pearson, Sunny Rey, Alfred Howard and Vera Sanchez. Meanwhile, this years biggest annual book fair, City College International Book Fair, will happen on the campus from Monday, Oct. 13, through Friday, Oct. 17. Local writer Tamara Johnson will be reading from her recently published book Not Far from Normal.
Lyrical ponderings: Local poet Malachi Blacks debut, full-length poetry book, Storm Toward Morning, tackles death, isolation, serenity, the existence of God and other soul-feeding topics. The assistant professor of English and creative writing at UCSD will read from his book at D.G. Wills Books at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. dgwillsbooks.com
Creeps: Write Out Louds professional actors will bring to life the creepy-crawly works of grisly greats like Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft in Danse Macabre at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at the Old Town Theatre. writeoutloudsd.com