Tonight's reading by Chuck Palahniuk was, quite literally, the single best literary event I have ever attended. The evening began with everyone being handed a signed copy of his latest book, Doomed, an inflatable beach ball, a Sharpie, and some glow sticks. As the crowd filed into the auditorium, everyone blew up their beach balls and pushed glow sticks into the balls' "butts," so that the auditorium was soon full of white balls glowing with different colours. Then, everyone wrote questions or drew pictures on the balls.
After some anxious anticipation, Chuck came onto the stage, barefoot, wearing a red satin robe over a pair of pyjamas, a large pendant completing the outfit. The first thing he did was walk the aisles to make sure that all the balls were blown up and lit. That was my chance to hand Chuck my letter. "I hope it's not anthrax!" he said to me. (I reassured him that it was not.) Then, Chuck began to throw candy to the audience—bags and bags of candy.
When the auditorium had calmed down, Chuck read "something old"—"Guts," his masterpiece from Haunted—which is as brilliant as it was well-performed. After that, Chuck asked for the lights to be turned off and the music to be turned on. We threw around the five hundred glowing balls he had brought for us—all around the auditorium. Once the questions were all mixed up, he chose two and answered them, holding us all in thrall as he talked about his sources and process. At one point, never failing to surprise, Chuck asked us: "What is one thing Margaret Atwood would never ask you?" His answer: "Who wants some pussy?!" Then, his "little helpers" threw hundreds of stuffed pussycats into the auditorium.
There was lots more candy and then Chuck read "something new"—"Zombies"—an incredible story set to be published in Playboy next month. It was an amazing piece of satire, heart-rending drama, and theatrical performance that left us all hanging onto the edges of our seats. Here truly was a master storyteller. When Chuck was done, we mixed up the ball-questions a few more times and he told two more thoughtful and hilarious anecdotes. Finally, after a standing ovation, the show was over. I simply cannot believe I paid a mere forty dollars for this privilege. I hope Chuck will write back.