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It’s all doom and gloss in the afterlife
‘Fight Club’ writer’s latest book gives us a darker twist on the resurrection story
Chuck Palahniuk is modern literature’s version of Caravaggio’s Narcissus speckled liberally with the content of a particularly unpleasant nasal cavity. Whether writing about battling existential ennui by ramming fists into random people, Fight Club, or documenting the trials and tribulations of ageing porn stars and their progeny as they try to set a world record, Snuff, Palahniuk’s power has always been the ability to give the grotesque a glint of beauty. With Doomed he manages to work his latest instalment, a story in which a pudgy 13-year-old girl must grapple with the machinations of Satan, into a glossy vulgarity.
Its 2011 prequel, Damned, began the story of Madison Desert Flower Rosa Parks Coyote Trickster Spencer, the newly pubescent daughter of former hippies who have gone on to become world-famous, fabulously wealthy and adoption addicted. After an attempt to lose her virginity by way of an ill-advised sex game with her adopted brother ends in her death, Spencer is sent to Hell to ostensibly spend eternity as a telemarketer and navigating “dandruff desert” and “the ocean of wasted sperm”. During her time there the Judy Blume-esque Spencer finds her backbone, battles the likes of Hitler and Catherine de Medici and encourages the people she cold calls from Hell’s telemarketing cubicles to commit the myriad small crimes that can land one in Hell. One of these phone calls is central to the plot in Doomed.
After it is revealed that Spencer is only in Hell as a result of a clerical error, she returns to Earth as a ghost and finds it in the frenzied grip of a new religion, Boorism. On her advice her parents use their considerable influence to draw the global population into this new form of vulgarity-laced spirituality believing it will lead them to the pearly gates of Heaven rather than the faeces-encrusted door of Beelzebub’s lair...