Bookmarks Issue: 

An Oral History of Buster Casey

A-Rant, an Oral History..."Even as a little boy, Rant Casey just wanted one thing: to be real. Even if that real thing was stinking blood and guts." Teenaged Buster "Rant" Casey combats the boredom of small-town existence by shoving his hands and feet into animal burrows, where his bites produce near-religious and sexual epiphanies. When he contracts rabies, it proves to be a potent high—one that he enthusiastically shares with his classmates, unleashing an epidemic. Rant’s quest for authenticity ultimately leads him to the big city and the Party Crashers, nocturnal thrill seekers who play demolition derby on the city’s streets. Then, one fantastic car crash unearths the Casey family’s darkest secret.
Doubleday. 336 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0385517874

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 4 of 5 Stars
"Rant flirts with government-mandated genocide, Greek tragedy, aberrant sexuality, substance abuse and audacious fusions of religion and violence, stitching together disparate elements to craft a surreal, poignant and darkly humorous quilt of madness. Much of the book’s emotional potency stems from one of Palahniuk’s enduring thematic fascinations: the almost pathological need for his characters to feel something—anything—in their modern, anesthetized existences." Preston Jones

Hartford Courant 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Palahniuk gives his cosmic noodling considerable heft and throws in brain-tickling concepts that will have you scratching your cerebellum far into the night. When you’re not in danger of upchucking at his grossness yourself, you’ll be marveling at his brilliant and provocative take on where civilization just may be heading." Carole Goldberg

Philadelphia Inquirer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Gross, but fiercely smart, and in Palahniuk’s signature way of raging against the deadening sterility of modern life. … But what seems to be his foregone conclusion—that we all rubberneck, are all voyeurs of the twisted car wrecks on the highway of life—makes parts of the book a bit stomach-flipping to those of us who don’t take quite as much pleasure in that idea." Katie Haegele

Chicago Sun-Times 3 of 5 Stars
"To get where he wants to go, Palahniuk picks up the pace so fast that, by the end, the story feels rushed, inchoate and unconvincing. … The writing is vivid, raw and mordantly knowing." Joe Kolina

Los Angeles Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The guy clearly has the imagination and linguistic virtuosity required to transport us into his outlandish worlds; that alone marks him as a major talent. But Rant also isolates Palahniuk’s glaring novelistic flaw: his need to entertain at the expense of moral or emotional concerns." Steve Almond

Wall Street Journal 2 of 5 Stars
"The stuttering rhythm produced by the change in point of view every paragraph or two creates a surprisingly putdownable book. … The other problem is that Mr. Palahniuk’s imagination no longer appears as boundless as it once did." Kyle Smith

New York Times 1.5 of 5 Stars
"In this book and its unpalatable predecessor, Haunted, his outrages feel perfunctory, and his new tricks are old tricks, executed by a writer recycling his best gambits for less and less coherent reasons. … [The book’s structure as oral history] trades Mr. Palahniuk’s scorchingly distinctive voice for a collection of flat and phony ones." Janet Maslin

Critical Summary

Zombies, government conspiracies, religious epiphanies, time travel, a postmodern Typhoid Mary, and a woman who mixes thumbtacks into her cookie dough—all are fair game in Rant, Chuck Palahniuk’s eighth novel. Critics agreed that Rant is vintage Palahniuk, a grim thriller ride filled with his signature black humor, withering social commentary, and stomach-churning details. Some grumbled, however, that the ideas in Rant have been recycled from previous novels, particularly Fight Club. They were also disappointed with the novel’s lack of depth, distracting structure (a succession of hundreds of brief eyewitness testimonies), and underlying glorification of violence. The truth is that Palahniuk is an acquired taste. Readers either love him or leave him alone, and will judge Rant accordingly.

Cited by the Critics

Crash A Novel | J. G. Ballard (1973): This controversial novel explores the relationship between sex and violence (offering graphic descriptions of both) by following the unusual friendship of two car-crash fetishists.