In Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey, Chuck Palahniuk offers us yet another glimpse of our hopes and fears - an endeavor not all writers can attain with such creativity and assuredness. It only takes a few pages for the reader to realize that we are Rant, aka, Buster (Buddy) Casey. And if we’re not, then we wish we would be.
Rant is a study of the individual surviving in a modern world. The study focuses on people confronted with everything from the history and epidemiology of diseases, to modern-day highway traffic trends, sex, drugs and rock and roll. The book includes enough time travel theory to make us believe society has ways of ensuring that a new generation will emerge to simultaneously usurp the power held by the elders and maintain the status quo. Palahniuk doesn’t simply hint at this phenomenon metaphorically. In Rant, there is a literal changing-of-the-guard as people return to the past and replace themselves in the world. As Rant is remembered saying on more than one occasion: “The future you have tomorrow won’t be the same future you had yesterday” (p. 18).
As a result of this shift in consciousness, the time-honored and society-entrenched traditions of Easter, Christmas Halloween and the Tooth Fairy become fair game as Rant attempts to awaken his world to the complacency and hypocrisy that is perpetuated from birth to death and is shown to exist throughout every household in the country.
Palahniuk is masterful in his writing as he shares his observations on the human condition. With prose like: “You get everybody telling the same lie and it ain’t a lie, not no more.”(p.51); “…Rant Casey just wanted one thing to be real. Even if that real thing was stinking blood and guts.” (p. 62); “Things in life is either flesh or money, like it can’t be both at the same time.” (p.60) and: "Some people are just born human. The rest of us, we take a lifetime to get there." (p. 18) It is with sentences like these that Palahniuk holds a mirror to our souls as his characters describe the apparent chaos that is Rant Casey's life.
With the creation of Rant Casey, Chuck Palahniuk gives us the twenty-first century’s Holden Caulfield, a truly authentic individual who makes a conscious choice to live life to its fullest – even (maybe especially) if that means being stung by the occasional Black Widow spider and experiencing a pleasant priapism due to the toxic venom. Palahniuk shows us that we must overcome second-hand experiences such as the influence of television, and or movies, in order to experience life, even if that means encountering the possibility of death
He once again extols the nihilism that defines his novels when he demonstrates that sometimes you are truly alive only when you face your own mortality.
Readers yearn for a different, if not entirely new, take on the cycle of life and death and will want to read this fictional biography of a real individual living in a real world. On the other hand, if the idea, or the metaphysics, of time travel makes you nauseated, then you might want to limit your exposure to the first half of this novel.
MICHAEL THERRIEN enjoys writing short/slam fiction, short stories, poetry and
novels. He lives with his wife, his absentee-student son, and the memory of Shadow, their black lab.