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  • Pygmy
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2.9 out of 5 stars
Pygmy
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A few years back I would have told you Palahniuk was one of my favorite authors. His work is cutting edge, unique, and always shocking. Each of his works is unique, from other authors and from his own works. Palahniuk has an incredibly imaginative and creative mind. The closest authors to him are: in Canada Douglas Coupland and in the UK Irvine Welsh. But the problem with always shocking and being so unique is each new work must outdo the previous. As such I think I have lost my taste for Palahniuk's writings.

The book is unique, different and well-written. It is the story of Pygmy, one of a group of youths from a totalitarian state that has been sent to the United States, to live with Christian families and experience a better life. At least that is what the Host Families and church believe. Yet in reality these youths have been raised from a young age as agents of the state, part of a planned terrorist attack on the States.

Palahniuk does a great job of dissecting Midwestern life through foreign eyes. It is a satire both of America's fears and of America itself. However the story is just too much - male rape, high school massacre, planned seductions, pregnancies and impregnations. And the whole book is written as a series of dispatches from Pygmy to his home government, written in a halting, misunderstood English. Palahniuk captures a feel about the language, yet still conveys his message.

Palahniuk's books are usually a pleasure to read and so addictive that I cannot put them down. Some I have read more than once, even back to back - finished it and started reading it again. That was not the case this time. Twice I put it down for a few days, and was uncertain I would pick it up again to finish it. This was the first Palahniuk book I have read that I easily predicted the ending; that, in and of itself, was a disappointment. As a book it is okay, but as a Palahniuk book it is disappointing on many levels. For the hardcore Palahniuk fans out there - they will love it. I think I have just lost my taste for his extremism.

(First Published in Imprint 2009-05-29.)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." -- Ephesians 2:19

Can you see yourself as others see you? Surely not. Chuck Palahniuk draws on that eternal truth to give Americans a picture of their culture from the point-of-view of totalitarian terrorists masquerading as exchange students. Not since Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" in which the satirist suggested that the starving Irish eat their children has a culture taken such a beating as Americans do in Pygmy.

To be fair, Mr. Palahniuk also takes many potshots at the unidentified foreign nation that so blatantly convinces its people that Americans are vermin. But those shots don't strike home with the same venom.

The book portrays Americans as sex- and materialism-obsessed people who are clueless about what's going on around them. Is that a new finding for you? I doubt it. That's one problem with the book.

Another problem is that the narrator's language is hard to follow. And when you do get it, it hardly seems worth the effort in most cases.

The third problem is that the "exchange students" are exaggerated in their superiority in ways that just seem silly. For instance, Pygmy can discern with perfect accuracy what chemicals are in or on a person's body by smelling them. This leads to a lot of stage setting for scenes based on odor. It was too much for me . . . more gross than funny. Similar sequences push the same gags until they are threadbare, such as the unending searches for new batteries.

I give this book a five for originality of concept and a one for execution.

Unless you have taken a pledge to read all books by Mr. Palahniuk, give this one a pass. The message and humor don't warrant plowing through the writing problems.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2010
I can understand how there seems to be a chasm in the reviews of Pygmy. Either people love it, or people hate it. It also seems that the people who disliked the book, disliked it for the way it was written... broken english... they say.

I beg to differ.

I could only assume that those that had a hard time reading it, also have a hard time clapping in time to music. They are the ones that always seem to be clapping like a pair of sneakers in the dryer, dancing like Elaine, or have to look at the steps as they climb.

Maybe it is that I am a drummer, and can pick up on the rhythmic bounce of Pygmy's style, or that I was never subjected to any severe head trauma as a developing child. I am not sure, but I do know that this was very easy to read and I flew through this book just as easily as Choke or Survivor. I loved it! It had a feel of beat poetry, fast and flighty like that of a martial arts expert. It so well conveyed his thinking and mind, and that is what good writing does.

Interestingly enough, my lead singer also loved the book. hmmm Possibly all the "haters" are just not coordinated enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
While the style of language takes a little bit to get used to, it works fantastically once you're comfortable with it. In classic Palahniuk style he uses a clever, unique, and imaginative story as a basis to skewer North American ultra-consumerism. It works on many levels, you can almost feel how the protagonist is disgusted by the culture around him. The dodgeball sequence was the first time I've actually laughed out loud while reading a book in sometime; it was great! Overall, a fun read, although it does serve to remind us of our lives of overindulgence, which is depressing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2009
The prose is difficult to read at first, but after the first few chapters it gets easier to digest, though its content may not be so easy to take. Palahniuk has a very disturbing and yet hilarious take on contemporary american culture, and it is even more twisted through the eyes of a young communist opperative. For this reason alone, it is a worthy read.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2009
Don't get me wrong, I usually love Chuck's work - even the stuff everyone else hates. So, it pains me to have to give this novel a single star, which apparently in Amazon-speak means "I hate it".
For one thing, the book is written in a broken English reminiscent of scenes from bad racist parodies of Asian cultures in sketch comedy TV shows. Conceptually, this works given the premise of the book; practically, it makes the book incredibly difficult to read for more than a chapter or two.
Even ignoring the difficult language the content of the story itself is boring - something I have never been able to say about one of Palahniuk's books. Even the few "shock value" moments failed to draw my attention more deeply into the story.
Simply put, there is really nothing about this book that would make me recommend it to anyone. If this was the first Chuck Palahniuk book I'd ever read it would be hard to convince me to ever attempt to read another.
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on November 4, 2013
Like all Palahniuk books, this one grabbed me after the first or second chapter.
I have to admit, the broken english language of which the boy speaks took a bit to get used to. But once i did, it was a fun read.
Read a second and enjoyed it even more.

Please give this one a few chapters. Read at a good pace and the gaps in the child's english will disappear and flow well!

Enjoy!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2011
This is the worst Chuck P. book I've ever read... I usually like his stuff. Haunted and Survivor are freaking amazing. Nothing awsome in PYGMY alas - just frustration. The main problem with this book is how it's written. It's written in broken english as it's from the point of view of a Chinese terrorist. Reading this broken english is a practice in frustration. It's not clever, it's not funny, and it's not ironic and it could have been any or all of these if the broken english was used in a differnt way. Instead we get to suffer through almost unreadable sentences. The plot moves way too fast to care about any of the characters. By chapter two our (anti)hero rapes a class bully in a Wallmart bathroom. The plot only gets more unbelievable from there. I'd suggest reading Fight Club, or Haunted or Survivor or anything else by Chuck Palphniuk.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2009
I was thoroughly disappointed in this book. The premise is a good one. A totalitarian state sends undercover operatives to infiltrate the US by looking like exchange students. While in the US they are to gather as much intelligence as possible and send it back home.

As much as I wanted to read this book though, I couldn't. The writing style was just awful. The broken English, representing the way the filed operative filed his report is written in halting English. Thus making it very difficult to read. So difficult in fact that I had to give up on reading the book about 60 pages in.

Simply put, avoid this book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2010
Not one of my favorite Palahniuk books, but he tried something fresh by using a wacky Soviet-inflected, kinda-English dialect with the main narrative. Initially, getting into the flow and rhythm of it took some investment but it worked itself out a few chapters in. I can actually see this being a better movie than book.
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