Why do human beings seem to see things more clearly, sense things more keenly, and generally just feel more alive after a shocking event like a fight or a car accident? Essentially a follow-up on some of the themes examined in Fight Club, Palahniuk continues his exploration of why events like these effect people the way they do in his novel Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey.
In Fight Club Palahniuk showed us a generation of men untested. They fight to gain a sense of their own value. When they fight they feel charged and invigorated. This gives them a different sense of being during their daily lives, a new personal strength.
What if the human response to the traumatic isn’t just a psychological or physiological reaction, not simply a cocktail of adrenalin and endorphins with no easy, glandularly secreted explanation? Maybe it’s more than just therapy to intentionally start a fight with someone, or crash your car up on purpose. Maybe there is something else there to reach for. Mic Master P asks us to consider that there is actually an almost supernatural explanation. Maybe we don’t simply “feel” more alive, maybe we are more alive. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Palahniuk takes Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous words and runs with them in Rant. He runs with them down the street naked and screaming.
In a way, Rant is basically “Crash Club” You can see Palahniuk’s fascination with gruesome car accidents in Fight Club through the Narrator who is an accident investigator, as are the parents of a character in Rant. Both novels deal with a generation that feels dehumanized by society. In fact, the two novels have so much in common that there are moments in Fight Club where Rant is foreshadowed. When “Tyler” holds a gun to the store clerk’s head and then lets him go, he explains that the next day will be the most beautiful day of that man’s life. He isn’t just talking about the freedom that comes when people are forced out of their comfort zone anymore. He’s added the threat of death as an ingredient. And Later, after Tyler lets go of the wheel and allows the car they’re in to crash, he laughs and say’s “You just had a near-life experience!”, as if they had come close to achieving something unseen.
It can get a little confusing trying to keep track of the different ways you are supposed to be able to supercharge yourself in Rant, and at least one of them involves some sort of Oedipal ritual. At times the whole thing is reminiscent of the movie Primer with its bizarre time-travel overlapping. But there are always the exciting little possiblities that Chuckles offers to the reader that kind of feels like a stranger handing out candy to kids at the park.
And of course there’s the dildos. It wouldn’t be a Palahniuk book without incest and dildos.