Monday, August 26, 2019
Book reviews: ADJUSTMENT DAY by Chuck Palahniuk
ADJUSTMENT DAY (2018) by Chuck Palahniuk.
Rodney King famously asked: "Can't we all just get along?" In this satirical novel, an American underground insurrection answers the question with a loud "NO." (However, the insurrection does not get the last word....)
I don't want to spoil too much of the plot, so let me focus more on the style, structure and message of Palahniuk's irreverent novel...
1) The narrative is non-linear, i.e. we jump back and forth in time. It can get very confusing. I don't think this stylistic device always works out - especially the ending.
I actually double-checked the final blank "leftover" pages to see whether I had missed something, because the story seems to fall apart in the last 12 pages.
2) The book contains several "meta" jokes that made me laugh. For example, characters in ADJUSTMENT DAY talk derisively about Chuck Palahniuk and his other novels.
There's also a hilarious joke about Stephen King's frequent use of the "Magical Negro" stereotype.
3) The narrative jumps between many different characters. I think several of them were underdeveloped, especially Shasta. Even in a broad satire like this, characters need to be a bit more than just plot devices.
4) ADJUSTMENT DAY features many quotes from a book-within-the-book, a kind of "insurrection bible" that is part of the story. Perhaps these quotes will cause more misunderstandings than any other part of the novel.
The thing is, that "bible" is a mess of self-contradictory, frequently racist bullshit. It is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, but some readers might do so anyway. This "Missing the Point" fallacy is the bane of satire.
Despite the above criticisms, there are parts of ADJUSTMENT DAY that work really well. It successfully pokes fun at the idea that Americans should segregate along lines of race/culture and only live with "their own kind" to be their "authentic selves" (guess how that works out).
ADJUSTMENT DAY is uneven, sometimes confusing, sometimes very funny - and it touches a raw nerve in American culture.
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