In a world where sex addiction is an acknowledged disease and Fifty Shades of Grey is the best-selling book of the century by far, the outrageous premise of Beautiful You doesn't seem all that outrageous anymore.
I was fourteen years old back when Fight Club showed up on screen and no one ever talked about anything else. I think it was only a couple of years later I started picking up Palahniuk novels, of course because "Oh, that's the guy who wrote the thing that became the thing". I'm sure there are many like me. Palahniuk's books definitely scrathed an itch. It's tempting to label it "angry young person"-syndrome, but I'm trying not to.
(There's nothing wrong with being an angry young person, of course. It just looks so exhausting when you're a crusty old person.)
This is relevant because it means this is written from the view point of that crusty old person who used to have other feelings than current ones about the work of a specific author. You see? I can't talk about this without also talking to my teen self. Actually, okay, let's turnt his review into a letter to my eighteen year old self.
Hello, me. I assume you are currently reading either Dostoevsky or Nine Inch Nails lyrics. Or you're being all flush-facedly whisky drunk. Or maybe this is when you were reading Diary, or Lullaby. You liked those a lot. I remember you copying whole paragraphs and styling the stuff you wrote in your personal diary to mimic this guy. Palahniuk. Yeah. Hey, speaking of.
He's got a new book out this month, which is, well, a little over ten years into your future. Let me congratulate you on having become someone who occasionally gets to read a book before its set publishing date. Yes, you're ecstatic about it. I could tell you about a thing called a "Kindle" that would make you froth at the mouth, but it might actually be fatal to your health, so, moving along...
This novel is called "Beautiful you". The tagline goes "A billion husbands are about to be replaced." It's got sex toys and character-less characters and a lot of graphic descriptions you might have liked, past self, because to you it was sufficient for a thing to be sneered at by others, or considered somehow "vile", for it to be interesting. And you would not read this book with an uncomfortable question-worm in the back of your head, asking... well, asking a whole lot of things. Let's sum it up in three: "Wait, what?", "Is it okay to be a little uncomfortable with this?", and "Am I just awfully humorless and stupid and missing the point and I'm supposed to be reacting in certain ways and everything is really just fine?" Oh, okay, and a fourth: "Is the story even any good underneath the layers of bodily fluids?" ....Okay, a fifth: "Eh, a suggestion that this is the same as Fight Club? What? What does it even matter?" ...
Right, right. You don't get it. And you're going to dismiss it if I tell you about your own internalized misogyny and all that stuff. I actually think even you would be a bit bored by this book, because there isn't really any bite. There are none of those steely insights I remember you finding in the other books. I don't think you would be satisfied with "Oh, I see, what if females found sexual euphoria more easily, and they turned out to be even less disciplined about it than men, oh haha, and blah blah consumerism consumerism".
I read the book in pretty much a single sitting, though, because it is quick, and Palahniuk's style of writing always did, at least, hold your attention. That hasn't changed, and it keeps me somewhat hopeful about things he might write in the future. But it's hard for me to say "This novel was less good than a previous novel", because I honestly have no idea if it is, or if it's just not the same reader anymore.
Am I going to tell other people they should read Beautiful You?
No, probably not. I mean, if they want to read a humor novel, I think there are better ones. Maybe if they specify "I want to read a thing where a Prada-wearing woman leaves New York and goes to live in a remote cave in the Himalayas and this is no trouble to her at all. I want to just read a thing that looks real-world but then it's actually real-world with cheat codes." I've played games with cheat codes; while it's fun to go through walls and be immortal and stuff, it also tends to ensure my complete apathy about avoiding a fall/hit/punch/death. Or achieving the shiniest of epics. You know.
PS, younger self. You don't want to post this stupid "review", because you're still scared of being the one who just doesn't "get it". But you know what? The one lesson we're going to take away from all those hungover mornings with The Golden Girls on the TV? It's totally okay to not get it.