Chuck Palahniuk was born on February 21, 1961, and grew up in Burbank, Washington. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon and briefly worked for the Oregonian, a Portland, Oregon newspaper. He then gave this up to try a career as a train mechanic.
According to Palahniuk, he had a life-changing experience one day when he moved to a small house on a hill in Portland where, to his horror, he found himself out of reach of local TV antennas. He feared he would go crazy without the noise of a television to distract him, and only saved himself by starting to read books. Soon he started trying to write books as well, but his first attempted novels were rejected. He finally sold his first story to a literary journal, “Modern Short Stories”, and in 1996 his first novel, “Fight Club”, was published.
Palahniuk has an unusual writing style. He molds his poor characters into sad caricatures of proper citizens, like the narrator of “Fight Club” who vainly tries to comfort himself with Ikea furniture and cancer support groups (even though he does not have cancer). He often talks directly to his readers, sometimes confronting them with mean-spirited, insulting jabs (he opens “Choke”, his fourth novel, by begging the reader to put down the book and run away to safety). He carries situations to disturbing extremes where love and fear co-mingle, such as in “Lullaby”, his fifth novel, wherein a sweet children’s song causes repeated cases of crib death.
Armed with an ironic smile, Chuck Palahniuk seems to never let his rising fame get in the way of his vision. He is sometimes compared to Kurt Vonnegut, another roller-coaster satirist who liked to interrupt his narratives to speak directly to his readers, but in actuality Palahniuk’s dark vision of humanity cannot be reconciled with Vonnegut’s hippie-era idealism, borrowing more from the stark, unrelenting minimalist bleakness of Denis Johnson or Bret Easton Ellis.
Palahniuk, whose last name is of Ukranian lineage, would probably be even more famous today if people knew how to either spell or pronounce this name. Interestingly, this does not seem to bother him very much.