J. K. Rowling does it this way. Maya Angelou did it this way. John Steinbeck did it this way.
I attended Chuck Palahniuk’s event at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City last weekend. Palahniuk is touring in support of his short story collection Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread from Doubleday and his graphic novel Fight Club 2 from Dark Horse Comics I had heard of Palahniuk’s shenanigans, but this was my first time witnessing them.
The night began with Chuck, dressed in pajamas and a silk robe, telling us to blow up the clear latex beach balls in our admission packages. Then, we stuffed glow sticks down inside them and wrote our names on the surfaces with a black Sharpie. Occasionally, throughout the night, Palahniuk would stop the event, have the lights turned off, have the music turned on, and have the balls punched in to the air.
One or two balls would be plucked by Palahniuk’s publicist for a special price. Leather-bound, gilded, signed first editions of Fight Club and Beautiful You.
Other times, Chuck would hurl bags of Hershey’s Kisses in to the audience with surprising force.
Questions were answered, mostly about Palahniuk’s writing or his suggestions for new writers. He was fairly inspirational and encouraging, saying that writers needed to state the truth in the way that only they can. It was fairly basic encouragement, which is great. But if you really want a heavy dose of Palahniuk’s writing philosophies, you should check out the 39 essays at LitReactor. They provide insight in to his process and in to writing mechanics that can’t be touched in a question and answer format.
Stories were read. I enjoyed his new stories, “Zombies” and “The Facts of Life.” Palahniuk also read “Guts,” which is extremely graphic, and caused two people in the audience to faint. The show continued on, with the red and blue ambulance lights reflecting in the hallway. If you aren’t familiar with “Guts,” you can read it here, but I’ll warn you that it’s not for the squeamish.
The great people at Rainy Day Books were brought on stage. They do a lot of great programming. If you are in the Kansas City area, be sure to check them out. To end the night, rubber hands were thrown in to the crowd.
It was a weird, wonderful night. It fit Palahniuk’s writing style perfectly, and it set a bar for author events. Afterall, Joyce Carol Oates does it this way. At least that is what Palahniuk told us.
Ironically, I had my own signing the next day. It seemed strangely pedestrian after glowing beach balls and the flinging of rubber prostheses. I asked the book manager at my signing about the possibility of throwing plastic body parts at his customers. His response, “Please don’t get me fired,” wasn’t exactly a no per se.
I wonder how many books I have to sell before fans will thank me for beaning them with bags of candy.