Sunday, 12 June 2011

"Tell-All" by Chuck Palahniuk

Year of Publication: 2010
Number of Pages: 179 pages
Genre: Satire, Hollywood, comedy

Summary: The story is narrated by Hazie Coogan who has devoted her life to fulfilling the every whim of her employer, Hollywood star Katherine "Miss Kathie" Kenton who at the height of her glittering career was one of the biggest stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and has subsequently survived numerous failed marriages, countless cosmetic surgeries, career setbacks and comebacks, as well as alcohol and drug addiction, and now lives in the serene retirement of a movie legend.
Until Katherine falls for a young suitor named Webster Carlton Westward III. Hazie immediately pegs him as a would-be writer who wants a few lurid personal detials for a "tell-all" celebrity biography which is just lacking a final chapter before it is sent off to the publisher.
Until it turns out that Westward's book already has a final chapter written, describing the exact circumstances in which Katherine will meet her violent end.
As always it is up to Hazie to protect Katherine, and Katherine's reputation, for posterity.

Opinions: In the course of his ten previous novels and two non-fiction books, Chuck Palahniuk has taken numerous bitterly funny and savagely satirical swipes at the nightmarish world of modern life. In this one he turns his attention to the world of movies and in particular the Hollywood "Golden Age", the period of Hollywood movies which lasted from roughly the end of the Silent Film era at the end of the 1920s to the early 1960s.
As usual with Palahniuk, the book utilises a number of stylistic tricks, for example the novel is written in the style of a screen treatment (the chapter headings are all numbered with "Act" and "Scene" such as "Act One, Scene One" and so on), all names are written in bold type, the narrative flits frequently between past and present and there are numerous lurid fantasy sequences (including frequent extracts from a Lillian Hellman penned screenplay which depict Hellman (in reality a well-known playwright) as a kind of superheroine.
The book is not one of Palahniuk's best and lacks some of the wild inventiveness of his best works and reading it I got the feeling that Palahniuk's heart wasn't really in it. The book will feel like very familiar territory to Palahniuk's fans. However, despite that, it is an entertaining, funny and disturbing work, which reads like a mash-up of the movies All About Eve (1950) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Fans of old Hollywood movies will enjoy it, with it's repeated references to classic movie stars.

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