Call him what you want, but author Chuck Palahniuk has always been a provocateur.
Anyone familiar with his work (Fight Club, Snuff, Choke) knows to expect boundary pushing, often confronting material. Whether you admire his satire or find his work gleefully juvenile will likely determine how you feel about his latest novel, Not Forever, But For Now.
Told in cyclical fashion, often relying on repeated phrases and scenarios, Not Forever, But For Now tells the story of Otto and Cecil. They’re queer brothers who have been raised in a family of assassins (the book’s alternative history amusingly suggests that the family is responsible for the deaths of Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, and Marilyn Monroe, among others).
Cecil is the narrator and quote/unquote “good” brother. Otto is the deviant: he corrupts the male staff through sex and manipulation, kills on a whim, and generally causes mayhem. Their mother is an alcoholic who may or may not have killed their philandering father in the woods behind the decaying mansion they live in, to say nothing of Otto’s tendency to drive expensive cars filled with sex dolls into a nearby lake.
All this to say, the townspeople are gossiping heavily about all of the family’s shenanigans…
While there’s a good deal of amusement to be found in the book’s ridiculous antics, readers will undoubtedly find themselves tested by Palahniuk’s reliance on grotesque shock tactics.
Be warned: there’s a lot of casual gay rape and pedophilia, and Palahniuk isn’t afraid to drive a phrase or plot mechanism (the cashew in the ear, the “pre-males”, the Richard Attenborough Australian outback nature documentary, etc) into the ground.
Don’t get me wrong: Not Forever, But For Now does contain some amusing developments and intriguing comedic beats. Take, for instance, the boys’ repeated failure to assassinate celebrity animals, the sex toy monster, and – most significantly – the corrupted tutor’s spiral into madness, which is bizarre, in poor taste, and highly memorable.
Overall, however, the book feels maddeningly self-indulgent: its “satirical” take on contemporary masculinity relies too heavily on shock simply for shock’s sake. And the plot is slight, which means if readers aren’t gelling with the language and the narrative that doubles back on itself repeatedly, there’s not a lot here.
I’ll be honest: it was the mind-numbingly endless repetition that finally did me in. By the book’s conclusion you’ll never want to read the words “have a go” again; I could be convinced that phrase alone comprises 50% of the book and I’m only half joking. 2/5
Not Forever, But For Now is now available from Simon & Schuster