Beautiful You: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

I like most things by Chuck Palahniuk, mostly because he always pushes the envelope, even when or perhaps especially when it leaves people outside their comfort zone. This particular book explores sexuality and women in a way that’s distressing to an extent. I couldn’t really decide if he was drawing women as superficial pleasure seekers who would give up anything for the perfect orgasm, or making wry comment on the human condition. I suppose there’s no reason it couldn’t be both.

Penny and Linus are the main protagonists. Penny is a young intern who hasn’t quite managed to pass the bar, and Linus is a famous billionaire/inventor/scientist that the entire world watches. He invents a series of sex toys for women that overcome the world, in that every woman ends up abandoning her usual life for the pleasure of these toys, these little inventions that know everything a woman’s body could possibly want when it comes to pleasure. Penny discovers that they hide an evil little secret, however, and therein lies the crux of the plot.

I’ve seen better fleshed-out characterization from Chuck Palahniuk, so the fact that the characters were somewhat flat was a disappointment, but the story itself kept my attention. I wanted to know what was going to happen and so I kept reading, and yes, despite my quibbles over depth of characterization and such, I enjoyed it. I was horrified and shocked and interested and the questions raised in this world the author created made me think.

Thinking is good. Pushing the envelope of what you’re comfortable with is good. This book isn’t for everyone, but it’s good.

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    • Al Singh on January 16, 2015 at 6:51 am
    • Reply

    Perhaps I’m an old-fashioned prude who doesn’t really know anything about women, but it seems obvious to me that men are overwhelmingly the physical pleasure-seekers, and if Palahniuk is portraying women this way and letting men off the hook, he really has a lot of gall. What does the typical woman look for in a relationship, and what does the typical man look for? Which one is more superficial in most cases? I’ve heard good things about Palahniuk, but the premise of this novel seems short-sighted rather than visionary. I’ll pass this one up.

    1. What seems obvious may not be very much on target. And asking about a typical woman or typical man (if indeed there is such a thing in either case) is not a way to get a very interesting novel.

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