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Survivor: a novel

by Chuck Palahniuk

 

            There’s always the chance you could die right in the middle of your life story. -285

 

            To stand here and try to fix her life is just a big waste of time.  People don’t want their lives fixed.  Nobody wants their problems solved.  Their dramas.  Their distractions.  Their stories resolved.  Their messed cleaned up.  Because what would they have left?  Just the big scary unknown.  -282

 

            We’re all miserable together.

            It’s the opposite of a victimless crime.  -278

 

Adam Branson on the outside world:

People were visited in their houses by spirits they called television.

Spirits spoke to people through what they called the radio.

People used what they called a telephone because they hated being close together and they were too scared of being alone.

People in the outside world said something stupid with their every breath, and when they didn’t talk their radios filled the gap with the copied voices of people singing the same songs over and over.

            In the outside world, Adam said it was a bargain with the devil that powered automobiles and carried airplanes across the sky.  Evil flowed through electric wires to make people lazy.  People put their dishes back in the cupboard dirty, and the cupboard washed them.  Water in pipes carried away their garbage and shit so that it was someone else’s problem.

            Right in front of him on the bus, he said, people had mirrors and everyone was busy seeing how they looked.   It was shameful.

            A hotel was a big house where a lot of people lived and ate and slept, but no one knew each other.  He said that described most families in the outside world.

            Churches in the outside world were just the local stores that sold people lies made up in the distant factories of giant religions.

            Pages 276 à 272

 

            Whether you clean a stain, a fish, a house, you want to think you’re making the world a better place, but really you’re just letting things get worse.  You think maybe if you just work harder and faster, you can hold off the chaos, but then one day you’re changing a patio light bulb with a five-year life span and you realize how you’ll only be changing this light maybe ten more times before you’ll be dead.

            Time is running out.  There isn’t the kind of energy you used to have.  You start to give in.

-263

 

            Not that I’m crazy or anything, I just want some proof that death isn’t the end.  Even is crazed zombies grabbed me in some dark hall one night, even if they tore me apart, at least that wouldn’t be the absolute end.  There would be some comfort in that.

-255

 

…The lowest grade of fresh flowers is what florists call “Funeral Grade”.

            The problem with Funeral Grade flowers is they only look good for one day.  A day later, they start to rot.  Then with flowers hanging from the bronze vase attached to each crypt, hanging there dark and withered, dripping their stink water on the marble floor and furry with mold, it’s too easy to imagine what’s happening to the beloved sealed inside.

-254

 

You could call me a gentleman’s gentleman but you’d be wrong on both counts.

-245

 

            God forbid I should try and look good for Fertility.  The worst strategy I could pursue is self-improvement.  It would be a big mistake to dress up, make my best effort, comb my hair, maybe even borrow some swell clothes from the man I work for, something all-cotton and pastel shirtwise, brush my teeth, put on what they call deodorant and walk into the Columbia Memorial for my big second date and still looking ugly, but showing signs I really tried to look good.

-220

 

Honest is how I want to look.  The truth doesn’t glitter and shine.

-219

 

Sex / Shoplifting:

You find what you want.  You stalk it.  You grab it and make it your own.  After you’ve had it, you throw it away.

-211

 

This is to real shoplifting what masturbation is to sex.

-210

 

            The caseworker found out everything about me except for the truth.

            I just didn’t want to be fixed.

            Whatever my real problems might be, I didn’t want them cured.  None of the little secrets inside me wanted to be found and explained away.  By myths.  By my childhood. By chemistry.  My fear was, what would be left?  So none of my real grudges and dreads ever came out into the light of day.  I didn’t want to resolve any angst.  I’d never talk about my dead family.  Express my grief, she called it.  Resolve it.  Leave it behind.

-207

 

Right now, getting killed would be redundant.

-201

 

            We thought all this teaching was to make us smart.

            What it did was make us stupid.

            With all the little facts we learned, we never had the time to think.  None of us ever considered what life would be like cleaning up after a strange every day.  Washing dishes all day.  Feeding a stranger’s children.  Mowing a lawn.  All day.  Painting houses.  Year after year.  Ironing bedsheets.

            Forever and ever.

            Work without end.

            We were all of us so excited about passing tests, we never looked beyond the night of the baptism.

            We were alls so worried about our worst fears, squeezing frogs, eating worms, poisons, asbestos, we never considered how boring life would be even if we succeeded and got a good job.

-193

 

I Thessalonians, Chapter Five, Verse Twenty:

“Despise not prophesyings.”

-180

 

            The girl last night, the only other remaining survivor of the Creedish church district, she ate dirt.  There’s even a name for it.  They call it geophagy.  This was popular among the Africans brought to America as slaves.  Popular probably isn’t the right word.  –172

 

            After the caseworker told me about everybody in the Creedish district colony being dead and all, the first thing I did was start smoking.  The smartest thing I’ve ever done is start smoking.  When the caseworker dropped by to say rise and shine, and the only other surviving Creedish went south last night, then I sat myself in the kitchen and upped my suicide process with a good stiff drink.

            It’s church doctrine that says I have to kill myself.  They don’t say it has to be a hurry-hurry instant quick death.  –171

 

What do you call a caseworker who hates her job and loses every client?

Dead.

What do you call the police worker zipping her into a big rubber bag?

Dead.

What do you call the television anchor on camera in the front yard?

Dead

It does not matter.  The joke is we all have the same punch line.  –162

 

            Here in the bathroom with me are razor blades.  Here is iodine to drink.  Here are sleeping pills to swallow.  You have a choice.  Live or die.

            Every breath is a choice.

            Every minute is a choice.

            To be or not to be.

            Every time you don’t throw yourself down the stairs, that’s a choice.  Every time you don’t crash your car, you reenlist.  –161

 

            If your body is a temple, you can pile up too much deferred maintenance.  If your body is a temple, mine was a real fixer-upper.  –153

 

            After knowing Fertility, I wonder if I’m the last person in the world show ever gets caught by surprise.  Fertility with her dreams of disaster and this guy with his clean shave and closed loop of history, they’re two peas trapped in the same boring pond. –142

 

            Reality means you live until you die.  The real truth is nobody wants reality. –142

 

            As if any one of those people isn’t already looking around for a new guru to make sense out of their risk-free boredom of a lifestyle while they watch the news on television and pass judgment on me.  People area all looking for that, a hand to hold.  Reassurance.  The promise that everything will be all right.  That’s all they wanted from me. –138

 

            Everybody thinks their whole life should be at least as much fun as masturbation. –138

 

Being in the spotlight is:

            This is dying without the control issues.

            This is having a family without being familiar.  Having relations without being related.

            This is being loved without the risk of loving anyone in return.

            I remember this was the perfect moment to die.

            It wasn’t Heaven, but it was as close as I was ever going to get.  –129

 

            If you watch close, history does nothing but repeat itself.

            What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized.  What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher.  What we can’t understand we call nonsense.  What we can’t read we call gibberish.

            There is no free will.

            There are no variables.

            There is only the inevitable.  There’s only one future.  You don’t have a choice.

            The bad news is we don’t have any control.

            The good news is you can’t make any mistakes.  –118

 

            “We all watch the same television programs,” the mouth [Fertility] says.  “We all hear the same things on the radio, we all repeat the same talk to each other.  There are no surprises left.  There’s just more of the same.  Reruns.”

            Inside the hole, the red lips say, “We all grew up with the same television shows.  It’s like we all have the same artificial memory implants.  We remember almost none of our real childhoods, but we remember everything that happened to sitcom families.  We have the same basic goals.  We all have the same fears.”

            The lips say, “The future is not bright.”

            “Pretty soon, we’ll all have the same thoughts at the same time.  We’ll be in perfect unison.  Synchronized.  United.  Equal.  Exact.  The way ants are.  Insectile.  Sheep.”

            Everything is so derivative.

            A reference to a reference to a reference.

            “The big question people ask isn’t ‘What is the nature of existence?’” the mouth says.  “The big question people ask is ‘What’s that from’” –111

 

            People can’t conceive of a virtue in someone else that they can’t conceive in themselves.  Instead of believing you’re stronger, it’s so much easier to imagine you’re weaker.  You’re addicted to self-abuse.  You’re a liar.  People are always ready to believe the opposite of what you tell them.  –94

 

            Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?  -92

 

            The truth is I wasn’t a rocket scientist to begin with, and every day I’m losing ground.  I’m not stupid, but I’m getting there.  –90

 

            It’s weird how the name outlives the person, the signifier outlasts the signified, the symbol the symbolized.  The same as the name carved into stone on each crypt at the Columbia Memorial Mausoleum, on the caseworker’s name is left.

            We feel so superior to the dead.

            For example, if Michelangelo was so damn smart, why’d he die.

            How I fell reading the DSM is, I may be a fat stupid dummy, but I’m still alive.  –88

 

            Here I sit all downhearted, tried to shit and only farted. –83

 

            If you worry about disaster all the time, that’s what you’re going to get. –49

 

            Even the garden of Eden was just a big fancy cage. –40

 

            If you never have sex, you never gain a sense of power.  You never gain a voice or an identity of your own.  Sex is the act that separates us from our parents.  Children from adults.  It’s by having sex that adolescents first rebel.

            And if you never have sex, you never grow beyond everything else your parents taught you.  If you never break the rule against sex, you won’t break any other rule.

            The Vietnam War didn’t cause the mess of the 1960s.  Drugs didn’t cause it.  Well, only one drug did.  It was the birth control pill.  For the first time in history, everybody could have all the sex they wanted. Everybody could have that kind of power.

            Throughout history the most powerful rulers have been sex maniacs.  Does their sex appetite come from having power, or does their will for power com from their sex appetite?

            And if you don’t crave sex, will you crave power.

            No –37 (combined)

 

            Here are condoms lined with a topical anesthetic for prolonged action.  What a paradox.  You don’t feel a thing, but you can fuck for hours.

            This seems to really miss the point.

            I want my whole life lined with topical anesthetic.  –26

 

The only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage. –I don’t know where