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Choke [Paperback]

Chuck Palahniuk
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 11 2002
Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be “saved” by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, go on to send checks to support him. When he’s not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.

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Choke + Invisible Monsters + Fight Club
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From Amazon

We can more or less deduce the following of the main protagonist in Choke; Victor Mancini is a ruthless con artist. Victor Mancini is a medical school dropout who's taken a job playing an Irish indentured servant in a colonial-era theme park in order to help care for his Alzehimer's-afflicted mother. Victor Mancini is a sex addict. Victor Mancini is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ. Welcome, once again, to the world of Chuck Palahniuk.

"Art never comes from happiness" says Mancini's mother only a few pages into the novel. Given her own dicey and melodramatic style of parenting, you would think that her son's life would be chock full of nothing but art. Alas, that's not the case--in the fine tradition of Oedipus, Stephen Dedalus and Anthony Soprano, Victor hasn't quite reconciled his issues with his mother. Instead, he's trawling sexual-addiction recovery meetings for dates and purposely choking in restaurants for a few moments of attention. Longing for a hug, in other words, he's settling for the Heimlich.

Thematically, this is pretty familiar Palanhiuk territory. It would be a pity to disclose the surprises of the plot but suffice to say that what we have here is a little bit of Tom Robbins's Another Roadside Attraction, a little bit of Don DeLillo's The Day Room and, well, a little bit of Fight Club. Just as with that book and the other two novels under Palahniuk's belt, we get a smattering of gloriously unflinching sound bites, such as this sceptical slight on prayer chains: "A spiritual pyramid scheme. As if you can gang up on God. Bully him around."

Whether this is the novel that will break Palanhiuk into the mainstream is hard to say. For a fourth book, in fact, the ratio of iffy, "dude"-intensive dialogue to interesting and insightful passages is a little higher than we might wish. In the end though, the author's nerve and daring pull the whole thing off--just. And what's next for Victor Mancini's creator? Leave the last word to him, declaring as he does on the final pages: "Maybe it's our job to invent something better ... What it's going to be, I don't know." --Bob Michaels, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Palahniuk (Fight Club; Invisible Monsters) once again demonstrates his faith in the credo that before things get better, they must get much, much worse. Like previous Palahniuk protagonists, Victor Mancini is young and prematurely cynical, a med school dropout whose eerily detached narration of the banal horrors of everyday existence gives way to a numbed account of nihilistic carnage. Cruising sex-addict meetings for action, Victor enjoys bathroom trysts with nymphomaniacs on short prison furloughs, focused on maximizing his sexual highs. During the working day, he is trapped in a 1734 colonial theme park, where the entire self-medicated staff blearily endures abusive school tours while hiding out from the world. Victor supports his mother, who is in the hospital, stricken with Alzheimer's; she is wasting away, and despite the misery she put him through in childhood (revealed in an increasingly horrific series of flashbacks), he wants to be a good boy and take care of her. This becomes challenging when Victor is seduced by a strange hospital worker calling herself Dr. Marshall, who shows him his mother's diary; it describes her self-impregnation by a holy relic she believes to be the foreskin of Jesus. This has a profound effect on Victor, who is stunned by the possibility that there may be some good in him after all. Victor is even more pathetic than Palahniuk's previous antiheroes, in that the world he creates for himself (a carnivalesque m‚lange of theme park, geriatric ward and asylum) is actually more horrific than the one he seeks to escape. Still, the novel showcases the author's powers of description, character development and attention-getting dialogue handily enough to give this dark meditation on addiction a distinctive and humorous twist. Author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gagging with laughter and sadness March 19 2006
"Choke," by Chuck Palahniuk is one of the most unique novels I have ever read. From the first page which implores the reader not to read the book (who does that?) to the surprise ending, the novel was a great read from start to finish.
The main character, Victor Mancini, is many things, a con artist preying on other's sympathy, a med-school dropout, an "actor" in a colonial-era theme park, a sex addict, a loving and caring son trying to take care of his mother suffering from Alzheimer's disease, as well as a descendant of Jesus Christ, or perhaps Jesus Christ himself. The other characters in the book are just as demented.
The writing style is clear and even the flashbacks to Victor's childhood are not intrusive to the story, but rather enlightening to where Victor is in his life at that moment.
Also recommended: DIARY by Chuck P. and KATZENJAMMER by McCrae.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of Palahniuk's finest July 2 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great novel, this is my favorite Chuck Palahniuk yet (I've read Haunted and Survivor)! I have found myself laughing out loud quite a few times and read it in a few days (normally, I'm not such an avid reader). Highly recommend this, it's a great read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still The Cutting Edge! - Don't Miss it! May 25 2005
In literature today, Chuck Palahniuk is the man of the moment. No other new author in recent memory has made such an immediate and important impact. With the controversial "Fight Club" Palahniuk muscled his way into the spotlight and gave his readers an uncompromising look at the flaws in our sometimes over-glorified culture. With the no less controversial "Choke" Palahniuk continues to deliver. (I haven't gotten to "Haunted" yet; I'm a little behind.)
"Choke" is an exploration of sexual deviancy, but the main theme of the novel, like "Fight Club," is the modern-day angst caused from the apparent purposelessness of our watered-down, machine assisted lifestyle. There is a certain desperation that can be felt behind the novel's sometimes witty, sometimes grotesque, always compelling escapades. More so than in any of his other novels, you can hear Palahniuk's own uncertainty behind the false bravado of his unfortunate characters.
Essentially, "Choke" is a discussion on what is most important in life and a plea for some guidance as to how to achieve it. But by presenting this argument through a series of ill-conceived misadventures, the discussion is rendered light and compelling.
Palahniuk writes with a short, terse style that is always compared to Vonnegut but which also reminds me of Hemingway. He tries to write as people speak, and the often grammatically garbled, yet perfectly understandable sentences that result are given a very spontaneous feel as a consequence. The novel is obviously well conceived and well polished, but it is not tediously overworked, as most novels that try to sound literary tend to be. Although I would hesitate to call Palahniuk's style new, he does add a dimension to this sort of "free" writing that I haven't seen before and which is very refreshing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Few can survive on premise alone July 18 2004
Few books can survive on a clever idea alone. Palahniuk is probably the only author I know who can pull this off. This is not to say that the rest of "Choke" is not clever--it is--but the premise alone is good enough. Victor Mancini is a con artists of mega proportions. By day he works in a colonial theme park and when he's not doing that, he goes to restaurants and diners and fakes "choking." This, in order to get cash to help his mother who is a nursing home.
I thought the writing in this novel was simply brilliant and can't wait to tackle all of Palahnuik's works. Bravo
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5.0 out of 5 stars My first Palahniuk book. Aug. 6 2001
I actually picked this book up in the "How To" section of my local bookstore. No lie. I could spend hours trying to decipher the accidental or intended implications of such a placement, which stinks of either conspiracy or revolution, I can't tell which.
Anyway, seeing as Fight Club is my all time favorite movie, it only seems logical that I'd gravitate towards ol' Chucks work. Why it took me so long I can't say. Having read none of his other books, I can't really compare them. I can say that I will be purchasing them shortly. Choke is brilliant and extremely funny. It's not often that a novel can make me laugh hysterically in public, but this one did.
The premise of the book and one of it's strengths is the theory that if you make someone else into a hero, they'll love you forever. The protagonist repeatedly fakes choking to death in restaurants to pay his dying mothers hospital bills, but at the same time, he demonstrates that even the most ordinary people have the capacity for the extraordinary. It's sick and beautiful at the same time. Peppered with addiction, sex, insanity, medical references, urban legends, and a ton of Oedipus issues; Choke is about confronting your past, or being consumed by it. Like Fight Club (the movie that is. I know, I blaspheme.) it's about tearing down who you think you are to find out who you really are. It's about rebirth and redemption, perception and illusion.
It's about all that stuff and more, but bottom line, it's just a blast to read. If you like Vonnegut, Irving Welsh or David Foster Wallace, chances are this book is for you. It will probably make you laugh, it might even make you think, but it will definitely entertain you.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars My mistake
I accidentally bought this book in French. I don't read French so I have just re-purchased and will submit a review once I read the English version. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2010 by Nicole K. Archer
5.0 out of 5 stars very good book
Every thing is ok, excellent book, low price and fast shipping, for the story it's a palahnuik tour de force like always...
Published on April 16 2010 by Alexandre Richer
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh, Chuck...
I really enjoyed both Fight Club and Survivor, so I thought I'd give this novel a shot. I find Chuck Palahniuk to be disturbing in a very interesting kind of way, so I jumped into... Read more
Published on Sept. 21 2008 by Jack Blatant
1.0 out of 5 stars Crap
Terrible novel. Repetitive, boring, stupid. Palahniuk writes like someone more interested in crafting a quotable-quote than an actual story. Read more
Published on Dec 13 2007 by Benjamin Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost did, laughing
"Choke" is tied with "Survivor" (another Palahniuk novel)as being my favorite book, and the novel "Katzenjammer" by Jackson McCrae. Read more
Published on March 8 2006 by Dennis M.
1.0 out of 5 stars wow
I'd give this book 0 stars, but the option is unavailable.
By that, you can be led to assume that the book is terrible. Oh, and it is; I can't see how this is a bestseller. Read more
Published on July 14 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars Still The Cutting Edge! - Don't Miss it!
In literature today, Chuck Palahniuk is the man of the moment. No other new author in recent memory has made such an immediate and important impact. Read more
Published on July 6 2005 by Charlie Lamothe
5.0 out of 5 stars Still The Cutting Edge! - Don't Miss it!
In literature today, Chuck Palahniuk is the man of the moment. No other new author in recent memory has made such an immediate and important impact. Read more
Published on June 11 2005 by Charlie Lamothe
5.0 out of 5 stars Water, please.
Palahniuk outdoes himself with this fourth installment of his usual style in CHOKE.I wish I could write this well. I read Choke in one night and was blown away. Read more
Published on June 3 2005 by Paul Piorick
5.0 out of 5 stars All choked up and no place to go
I found "Choke" to be a really entertaining and thought-provoking novel. Palahniuk has a way of words, and knows how to create a very dark world that none of us have ever seen. Read more
Published on July 26 2004
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