Since the release of Fight Club in 1996, Chuck Palahniuk has been one of America’s most celebrated (and subversive) authors. Now back with his first book in four years, last night, Palahniuk sat down with BlackBook Editor-in-Chief and One Grand Books founder, Aaron Hicklin, inside the BLACKBARN Restaurant in Chelsea Market, to read from and answer questions about his latest, Adjustment Day, as part of One Grand’s Summer Reading series in partnership with BLACKBARN.
For Palahniuk, Adjustment Day is the exaggerated outcome of our already extreme current political climate — nations based on identity politics, and fueled by fake news, conspiracy theories, and heightened emotion. In the book, he quotes John Adams: “Remember, Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself” — that seems to be the Adjustment Day anthem. Inspired by Ira Levin (the author behind Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, among others) Palahniuk wanted to illustrate our collective fears in the current environment. “Fascism, racism, separatism” — the author wanted to explore the violent conclusion of our social conscious. But he also sees the novel as just another “girl-meets-boy love story.”
Publishers didn’t agree. Palahniuk said he was almost ready to self-release the book after his longtime publisher said it was too dangerous to issue. That’s nothing new to the author who reminisced last night about the challenges of getting picked up at the beginning of his career. Then, he was shopping around an early draft of what would become his 1999 book, Invisible Monsters, and could not find a taker. Finally, he approached Jerry Howard, a publisher at W.W. Norton (the company that ended up releasing Adjustment Day), but only after Palahniuk forced a sit-down between the two by playing David Bowie’s “Young Americans” on heavy repeat on the jukebox, driving the others authors vying to speak with Howard out of the bar.
Palahniuk also read “The Facts of Life,” from his 2015 short story collection, Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread. Although it is basically a porno with a lot of dark comedy (that includes a mid-sex spontaneous combustion), the story showcases what the author does best in novels like Adjustment Day and Fight Club. Palahniuk has an uncanny ability to not just document, but exploit human anxiety in a way that’s both completely unnerving, but also cathartic. He tackles sex (definitely in the case of “The Facts of Life”), love, compulsion and politics, all in a way that doesn’t just satirize our humanity, but holds up a mirror to it. With Adjustment Day, he examines the nature of equally extreme and opposing ideologies, warning of a disastrous future if things continue the way they have been. But like he writes in the book’s millennial “Declaration of Interdependence,” “A smile is your best bulletproof vest. The joy of fiction is that it only needs to smell true.”
View photos from our sit-down with the author below, and buy Adjustment Day here.
Photos by Daniel Jonhson