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Damned - Book Review

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by Chrystal Byrne (subscribe)
Freelance writer living on Brisbane's north side. Studied creative industries - currently studying library and information services.
Published August 10th 2013
Life is short; death is forever
Madison Desert Flower Rosa Parks Coyote Trickster Spencer; otherwise known as 'Maddy'; is the chubby, thirteen-year-old (or eight-year-old, if you believe her mother) biological daughter of a Xanax-popping, narcissistic, materialistic, hypocritical, filthy rich and famous Hollywood power couple. On Madison's first birthday she featured on the cover of People magazine. Her parents own property all over the world, maintained by their numerous Somali maids. Maddy acquires a new orphaned brother or sister, adopted from some war-stricken, impoverished, totalitarian, barbaric, remote third-world country, at least once a year. She usually meets them at Christmas-time, before she's shipped off again to her Swiss private girls' boarding school. Although Maddy's smart, sharp-tongued and serious, she's under strict instructions to 'never grow up'.

Well, that's not going to be much of a problem now that she's dead.

Damned Chuck Palahniuk
Damned (2011) by Chuck Palahniuk.

Madison Spencer wakes in her cell – her grimy, ooze-caked, dirty cell – just one amongst hundreds of millions of others in Hell. Maddy doesn't know how she died; how she wound up in the Devil's playground; but her adaptable nature goes so far as to see her quickly forming relationships with the 'inmates' around her. Maddy and her new-found friends very much resemble the clichι stock-stereotypes seen in films such as The Breakfast Club (1985); the punk rocker, nerd, beauty and jock who band together with her – the odd one – to form their own little 'brat pack'.

The brat pack venture through the landscapes of Hell; the Great Plains of Broken Glass, the Sea of Insects, Dandruff Desert, the Steaming Dog Pile Mountains, the Swamp of Partial-birth Abortions, the Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm; dodging and darting past the dethroned, discarded but not defeated ex-Gods, deities and demons of all 'false' religions. Everywhere she turns Maddy recognises someone else: Charles Darwin, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Kurt Cobain. The brat pack buy their way into the citadels of Hell, using stashes of candy as currency, in order to discover the truth about Maddy.

What are the circumstances surrounding Maddy's death?
Does Maddy really belong in Hell?

As time passes Maddy, through her position as a telemarketer, starts recruiting the still-living over to the depths of Hell – gradually amassing a loyal and devoted army of-sorts. In her efforts to 'find herself' and let go of the Maddy-that-was, Maddy picks off the likes of Adolf Hitler and other such infamous names from history in an attempt to prove that she 'belongs'. But then the results of her polygraph test – the results that determine whether Maddy was damned to Hell as a mistake – are handed to her in a sealed envelope and the Devil surfaces, telling Maddy that she's just a character in his latest script.

What's the truth, and where does Maddy really belong?

Damned Chuck Palahniuk
My personal copy of Damned (2011) by Chuck Palahniuk.

Damned, by transgressional fiction writer Chuck Palahniuk, was published in 2011 by Jonathan Cape (UK), Doubleday (US) and Vintage (AUS). Damned joins the ranks of Palahniuk's other unconventional and subversive works, such as: Fight Club (1996), Choke (2001), Lullaby (2002) and Snuff (2008) – just to name a few. Damned is a sort-of attempt at a dark-styled Bildungsroman; with Madison Spencer, the main character; pursuing, developing, and 'growing into' her true potential amongst the confines of Hell – not without the help of her fellow condemned; the brat pack.

Chuck Palahniuk, American novelist and freelance journalist, has had two of his renowned novels adapted into films: Fight Club (1999) starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter, and Choke (2008) starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. Fight Club, directed by David Fincher, was one of the most controversial and talked-about films of the 1990s – earning a number of different film nominations and awards.

Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck Palahniuk - compliments of Wikipedia.

"Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison," declares the sharp-tongued thirteen-year-old narrator at the beginning of each and every chapter. Madison is both so attention and affection-starved that she craves it, even from the Devil himself. I really liked this novel, and found Palahniuk's venture into the mind of an awkward yet intelligent adolescent girl quite interesting. I think he pulled it off. Madison Spencer is an appealing character and I was quite satisfied following her on her (mis)adventures.

If you're a Palahniuk fan than you won't be as shocked with the style or content of his writing, and if you're not – well, I think the paragraphs above should prepare you at least. Damned is much like Palahniuk's other works in that the novel focuses on a central character who finds themselves in an out-of-the-ordinary circumstance that they must – in some way or another – conquer to move forwards. Damned paints a picture of an afterlife like no other, and so it is with great anticipation that I await the sequel, Doomed, due for release in October, 2013.

Put Damned high up on your 'to-read' list. Come on, give in to the intrigue.

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Your Comment
Sounds like a right chuckle! When is the movie coming out?!
by fluffynut (score: 2|859) 418 days ago
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