What’s it all about?:
Stories you’ll never forget—just try—from literature’s favorite transgressive author
Representing work that spans several years, Make Something Up is a compilation of 21 stories and one novella (some previously published, some not) that will disturb and delight. The absurdity of both life and death are on full display; in “Zombies,” the best and brightest of a high school prep school become tragically addicted to the latest drug craze: electric shocks from cardiac defibrillators. In “Knock, Knock,” a son hopes to tell one last off-color joke to a father in his final moments, while in “Tunnel of Love,” a massage therapist runs the curious practice of providing ‘relief’ to dying clients. And in “Expedition,” fans will be thrilled to find to see a side of Tyler Durden never seen before in a precursor story to Fight Club.
Funny, caustic, bizarre, poignant; these stories represent everything readers have come to love and expect from Chuck Palahniuk. They have all the impact of a sharp blow to the solar plexus, with considerable collateral damage to the funny bone.
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Welcome to the first banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:
FEBRUARY: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass– Philip Pullman
MARCH: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding– Sarah S. Brannen
APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier
MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley
JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles
JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak
AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher
SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain
NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee
DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie
But back to this month….
Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk
First published: 2015
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2016 (source)
Reasons: profanity, sexual explicitness and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”
Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: As this collection was first published only a few years ago now, my answers for the first two questions in this post are going to be similar as it’s a relatively recent release. I have to be honest and say I had a really hard time reading this book and am now having an even tougher time trying to answer these questions. If you follow our Banned Books series I think you’ll probably realise that I don’t think any book should be challenged or banned however if it were a situation within a school library, perhaps access should be monitored when we think about more controversial books. However, I haven’t read that many banned books in this series so far where I think access should be limited – perhaps apart from the graphic novel Saga in a primary school situation. This is one of those cases where I think (in my personal opinion) that Stories You Can’t Unread isn’t particularly suitable in an educational setting. That is not to say I agree with it being challenged or banned, I think I’ve already made my opinion clear on that but with this collection, I can unfortunately see why parents might have issues with it if their child brought it home from the library.
CHRISSI: In an educational setting, I can totally understand why it’s challenged/banned. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with teenagers reading this book. I, myself, felt very uncomfortable through several of the stories. I think the author has an incredibly aggressive writing style, that I couldn’t get on with. Would I want it to be banned in general? No. The author clearly has an audience and I imagine so many would enjoy his writing. Me, however? No. It’s certainly not for me. I could barely read some of them because they were incredibly twisted. I like twisted but there’s a line, for me personally, and I think this book crossed that line.
How about now?
BETH: Should Stories You Can’t Unread be challenged/banned? Well, no I believe people should be able to access all works of literature if they want and not be subject to rules or regulations that prevent them having that freedom of choice. Do I agree with the reasons that it was challenged? Well, not agree but it’s one of those rare times that I do understand the potential problems that this collection has raised. I don’t have a particular issue with profanity but I know a lot of people do and this collection doesn’t hold back on that count. The same is true for sexuality which can be incredibly graphic in some of the stories and not necessarily to everyone’s taste as some of the tales are quite twisted regarding sex. I’m not easily offended and the stories in this book didn’t shock me so as to speak but I did find myself reading some of them with a little bit of a grimace nevertheless. Especially the stallion story – say no more!
CHRISSI: Like Beth, I’m not easily offended. Yet, there’s something about this book that didn’t sit right for me. There’s too way much content that could offend others and the writing style just made me feel uneasy. I know the author makes you want to feel that way and he was highly successful with this book. I don’t think any book should be banned because I believe every person should be able to read what they want. However, challenged in education? Yes.
What did you think of this book?:
BETH: I think the thing is with Chuck Palahniuk is that he likes being shocking and deliberately controversial. You have to take the stories you read in here with a pinch of salt, open your mind as wide as it could possibly go and prepare to be a little bit grossed out by what you’re about to read. If that’s not your thing and you are sensitive or easily offended, this collection definitely isn’t for you. I like to think of myself as quite open-minded and I only had a very strong reaction to a couple of the stories in this book but my problem was that there only seemed to be a few pieces that I genuinely felt interested in. The rest of the stories just didn’t seem as well constructed and none of them (even the intriguing ones) ended satisfactorily which was just frustrating for me as a reader. I’ve still to read some of the author’s novels but as a short story writer, I just don’t think he’s for me.
CHRISSI: I didn’t like it at all. I don’t often come out and say that. I usually look for positives, however, for me, I felt too uncomfortable and I didn’t enjoy the author’s tone.
Would you recommend it?:
BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I couldn’t get into the author’s writing style and certainly won’t be reading more from him.
BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):
COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BANNED BOOKS: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.