• 02Mar
    Categories: Book Review Comments: 0


    choke2I recently finished the book Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. It is about Victor Mancini, a man trying to understand his world, the world, through the clouds of sex addiction and his mother’s slow decline. But Victor’s not the only one. His best friend, Denny, is also working his way through his addictions, and Dr. Paige Marshall, an acquaintance at his mother’s nursing home, is trying to understand through genetics.

    Victor and Denny work in a Colonial village, doing ‘tricks’ for tourists, under a strict “Lord High Governor” who will put a worker in the stocks for wearing cologne, reading a newspaper, having a goatee…anything that’s not authentic in 1730s America. But Victor needs to make extra money to keep his mother in St. Anthony’s. To do that, he has developed an elaborate scheme going to restaurants and pretending to choke. Victor chooses the restaurants very carefully, making sure to have dinner where there will be people with money. These people have their own versions of empty lives and saving Victor from choking turns them around. Suddenly, each has new-found confidence, they feel capable, fulfilled, rejuvenated. They are heroes. And they keep that feeling alive every time they send Victor a check. For his birthday, whichever day it is that he’s told that particular savior, and the various troubles Victor concocts in the letters and thank you notes he sends his heroes.

    As it turns out, money is not the only thing Victor gets out of being revived from choking. He is the recipient not only of his heroes’ money, but of their attention, affection, even their love. Immediately after receiving the Heimlich, he lay in their arms sobbing, hearing “you’re ok” whispered into his ear. These might be the most important moments in Victor’s daily life as someone tells him he’s ok, just as he is. He’s able to cry openly under the guise of almost dying and be comforted, even if it’s by a stranger.

    Victor’s off-beat mother did her best to teach him to create his own world, from the time he was a child. She encouraged him to draw a map of what he saw the world to be. She spray painted on a mountain, using Victor’s body as a stencil, leaving his silhouette. Even when he was gone, he would still be there.

    The unreal is more powerful than the real.
    Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it.
    Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die.
    But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.

    If you can change the way people think, she said. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. If you do that, you can change the way people live their lives. And that’s the only lasting thing you can create.

    After wrestling with where he fits into the world as everyone else sees it, he finally chooses, with confidence, to create a world as he wants it to be. And to his surprise, his seemingly unperceptive friend Denny contributes to Victor seeing the path to take.

    An odd little book, Choke seems at first glance to be about sex, drugs, and a young man supporting his mother, while keeping emotional distance. In reality, it’s about the struggle to find a place in the world, a struggle that we all deal with. I was left at ease at the end of this book, feeling as if I can create my world just the way I want it to be.

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