Book vs. Book: Invisible Monsters vs. Invisible Monsters Remix

This is it, fans of transgressive transgender madness, the moment you've all been waiting for. The debauched gods of literature have heard your prayers and your RLE (Remix-Less Existence) is about to come to an end. That's because this month sees the release of a radically refashioned 'director's cut' of one of your favorite Chuck Palahniuk novels.

I'm sure most of you know the backstory, but for those who don't, I'll be cribbing from my own biography of the man.

Jump to Tom Spanbauer's writers workshop, in which Chuck wrote his first novel, If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Already. The 700-page monster was his attempt at emulating Stephen King, and was rejected by publishers across the board. Unfazed, Chuck decided to dabble in even darker material. The result was Manifesto, a story about a model with a shot-off face which would go on to become Invisible Monsters.[1]

Jump to the preface of Invisible Monsters Remix. Chuck describes how the initial draft of the manuscript was inspired by fashion magazines and written while watching MTV.

The story would not unspool as a continuous linear series of "and then, and then, and then's..." At the end of the first chapter, the reader would be directed to jump to, for example, Chapter Thirty. At the end of Chapter Thirty, she'd be told to jump to Chapter Sixteen. Following the plot would mean paging forward and backward, and you'd never know where the story might end.

As with If You Lived Here, agents just couldn't embrace the dark tone in Chuck's work, and while his voice as a writer got some recognition, nobody was willing to take a chance on him or his crazy book. [1]

Invisible Monsters Remix is like the Navidson house in House of Leaves: It's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

That's when he wrote Fight Club, his two-handed, Twin Tower flip-off to the publishing industry. The rest, as they say, is dollar signs and history. Ka-ching! After the success of Fight Club and its follow-up, Survivor, Invisible Monsters was a no-brainer. It was released as Palahniuk's third novel, in paperback only, although by that time the chapter-jumping nature of the original had been (reluctantly) abandoned.

The book quickly became a fan favorite, and those fans have been clamoring for a hardcover edition ever since. Jump to twelve years later, and they are finally getting their wish. But in typical Palahniuk fashion, there's a twist.

...the publisher, W. W. Norton, suggested producing a hardcover version of the book, and I saw my chance. The Brandy Alexander Witness Reincarnation Program. I told myself: Here we go again.

So what's new (old?) and different? According to the PR copy, Remix is injected with new material and special design elements that fulfill Chuck's original vision for the novel. Laced in are new chapters of memoir and further scenes with the book's characters. Color me intrigued, which is probably some shade of Plumbago blue. It had been a while since I'd visited Ms. Daisy in the hospital, so I cracked the spine of Invisible Monsters for the first time in over ten years and then cued up the Reeeeeeeee-mix!

THE STRUCTURE

Chuck originally intended for Invisible Monsters to be something you could get lost in, like a fashion magazine or casino floor or the Sears catalog. Constantly jumping from chapter to chapter, never knowing how many pages you had left to read. And Remix does achieve the desired effect. Even having just re-read the original, it added a looseness to the narrative flow that I imagine would be disorienting for the first-timer. It's an interesting choice that adds another temporal layer to an already non-linear story. At the end of the preface, you are politely asked to jump to chapter forty-one, after which you are sent all the way back to chapter one, which is technically the second chapter of the original book. You then proceed to ping-pong back and forth between front and back, alternately ascending and descending a chapter at a time until you wind up smack dab in the middle with a gaping shotgun wound. Along the way you get tantalizing glimpses of new material, fueling your anticipation as you wonder how those chapters will be incorporated into the story. 

Turns out, they never are. I made it through the entire book without so much as a revised sentence. It was like a typographical Waiting For Godot. I thought back to the preface, in which Chuck wrote, you might mark every page with a little X, like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, to make sure you read them all. I should have realized that was a hint. So I started from the top and followed all the 'Jump To's', making a note of every chapter I'd read. When I reached the end of the book on page 133 and looked at my list, I had found the missing chapters.

Invisible Monsters Kevin Tong

NEW MATERIAL

It was at this point I noted that Invisible Monsters Remix is like the Navidson house in House of Leaves: It's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The original printing of Invisible Monsters is 297 pages long. Remix is only 301 pages, yet it has a brand new introduction and ten chapters worth of new material. What gives?

I compared chapters, pages, font size, line spacing- even kerning. Turns out, Invisible Monsters is actually only 286 pages long, because the book proper starts on page eleven. Remix is 301 pages, and the preface isn't included in that count, so that leaves us with fifteen pages of new material spread over ten chapters. Those chapters fall into three categories: misremembrances of the characters' favorite movies, anecdotes from Chuck on the writing of Invisible Monsters, and 'where are they now' coda scenes featuring Daisy St. Patience, AKA Shannon McFarland. Each of these chapters are scattered throughout the rest of the book, and each grouping is a self-contained Ouroboros with no definitive beginning or end.

Did I mention some of the chapters are printed in mirror image? From page 104:

If you're an old person, older than, say, twenty-two, you're going to hate these backwards parts you're forced to read.

Yup. Count me amongst the old and crotchety. I do most of my reading on the subway or in bed. And since I don't carry a compact and I don't have a mirrored ceiling in my bedroom, that meant waiting until I got home from work or dragging myself out of bed and holding the book up to the bathroom mirror to be able to read them. Chuck does give a thematic justification for this, but... get off my lawn!

THE VERDICT

If the original manuscript of Invisible Monsters (what we are now calling the Remix) had been released back in 1999, would the book have been as popular? Or would the leap-frog nature of it have turned people off? It's hard to say. The structure of Invisible Monsters is non-linear to begin with; the only real difference is the shuffling of the chapters (is there such a word as chapteration?), which a lot of people might consider an annoying gimmick. And the extra chapters are just that: extras. They are like bonus features on a DVD of your favorite movie. It's nice to have them, but they probably wouldn't work if inserted back in.

If I had known this up front, I probably would have only read the extras, because I had just revisited the original. Better yet, I might have read Remix in sequential chapter order, front to back, creating a whole new version of the story in the process. I think that's a way more interesting experiment, and definitely adds to the re-read value of the book. I'm actually gonna go back and do that.

Overall, this makes a great companion piece to the original, especially for those who've worn away the binding on their paperback. I could give or take on the structure, but the new materials are definitely worth a gander. The movie remembrances are fun, as are the glimpses into Daisy's future, but the real gems here are Chuck's memoir chapters (which should come as no surprise). Each of these compact essays is a Stranger Than Fiction glimpse behind the scenes of Invisible Monsters, as well as the filming of the Choke movie adaptation. In fact, some of Chuck's anecdotes are so 'What are the odds?!?!' that he chose not to use them in the novel for fear people would find them completely unbelievable. I swear, sometimes I wonder how can one man have so many crazy stories. He must drink Dos Equis.

Anyways, I think that about covers it. Jump to the comments section and let us know what you think. Is Remix a better book? Did you like the additional materials? Was my use of the 'Jump To' device superfluous and unoriginal? Sound off like you've got a jawbone.


[1] Strange But True: A Short Biography of Chuck Palahniuk

Image of Invisible Monsters: A Novel
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Price: $25.00
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (1999)
Binding: Paperback, 304 pages
Image of Invisible Monsters Remix
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Price: $5.90
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 320 pages
Jacey Cockrobin

Column by Joshua Chaplinsky

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor.com. He has also written for the popular film site Screen Anarchy and for ChuckPalahniuk.net, the official website of 'Fight Club' author Chuck Palahniuk. He is the author of 'Kanye West—Reanimator.' His short fiction has appeared in Zetetic, Motherboard, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Dark Moon Digest, Pantheon Magazine, and multiple print anthologies. More info at joshuachaplinsky.com.

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Comments

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like June 13, 2012 - 10:35am

I haven't read the original. And it's been a loooooong time since I read any Palahniuk (Puh-lawn-i-ook), but this sounds pretty interesting. I should've tried harder in that contest.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne June 13, 2012 - 11:42am

I've read a fair amount of Chuck's stuff but not yet gotten to IM. I actually bought a copy with the original color cover, and I've got a copy of the hardback on the way, but I don't know where to start. Part of me wants to start with the disorientation, part of me wants to follow chronologically, the way his other fans experienced it. I'm as yet undecided.

Thoughts for someone who hasn't read it yet?

Will Bigelow's picture
Will Bigelow from New Jersey is reading The Sun Also Rises June 13, 2012 - 11:45am

@J.Y. Hopkins: It is Palahniuk pronounced Paula Nick.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life June 13, 2012 - 11:48am

Well let us know what you decide, Michael. I'd be curious to hear the reaction of someone who starts with Remix.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like June 13, 2012 - 11:57am

@Will Bigelow - It is, is it? I Will B. Damned. Phony phonetics.

511Kinderheim's picture
511Kinderheim from Calgary, Alberta is reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman June 13, 2012 - 1:09pm

Still waiting to get my signed copy in the mail. *u*

I loved reading the paperback, so I'm excited to see if my reaction to the new version is going to be the same or wildly different.

Mike Adam's picture
Mike Adam from Toronto, Canada is reading Wytches Vol. 1 June 13, 2012 - 1:43pm

@Michael J Riser: I would read the original first, it was the first book I read by him and IMO his best.

Chris Davis's picture
Chris Davis from Indiana is reading A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews June 14, 2012 - 5:08am

I've listened to a few of his books on audiobook and the introductions pronounce his name differently.  On the cd for Rant and Damned they used "Paula Nick" and for Snuff it was "Puh-lawn-i-ook".

As for the book, I loved Invisible Monsters.  I just wish i knew back when I read it that this would be released one day, I would've waited to read it.  I think the jumping around won't have much affect on people who are familiar with the story already.  I'll find out soon when my copy arrives.

Jeff Walsh's picture
Jeff Walsh June 14, 2012 - 7:50pm

So, this begs the question... if I had planned to buy the Kindle edition, how does that work?!?

robb's picture
robb from Chicago is reading Doctor Sleep June 21, 2012 - 12:12am

I tried probably three or four times to read IM a long time ago, and couldn't get beyond the first 40 pages or so. I just lost interest. I had already read at least three other CP books, so it wasn't that I wasn't into his style. Just didn't work for me.

We decided to read IM for the podcast (Booked), and I blew through it in a day. (those reversed pages are easily thwarted with a phone's camera and about 2 minutes in Aperture.)

We're going to do a review with Caleb Ross as guest so I won't go into tons of detail, but I will say that it was effotless to get into the story this time around. Not sure if I can attribute that to the format with the out-of-order chapters, or just to my evolved taste in books over the years, but there you have it.

I won't whore too badly here, but can drop a link to the episode once it's up in case anyone's interested in more discussion on the book. Will certainly be referencing this BvB on the episode.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life June 21, 2012 - 4:54am

Sounds cool. Drop that link.

robb's picture
robb from Chicago is reading Doctor Sleep June 23, 2012 - 10:02pm

Here's the episode link:

http://www.bookedpodcast.com/2012/06/22/episode-93-invisible-monsters-re...

Thanks! We referred people to this article for a good comparison between versions.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human June 23, 2012 - 10:24pm

The Sun Also Rises: Remix The Reckoning

Saraluna's picture
Saraluna June 29, 2012 - 8:16am

I'm another newbie reading the remix first since it's the only version my local library has. Can anyone post the chapters with the new material that you'll miss if you just follow the page jumps?

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life June 29, 2012 - 10:33am

Tut, tut. Figuring it out is part of the fun.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne June 29, 2012 - 11:44am

Will check your link when I get back to my home computer, robb. Sounds fun.

I did end up starting with Remix. I sort of came to figure... why not? There's only one first time, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that the out-of-sequence stuff would mean a lot less if you'd already gone through the story. So I'm glad I made that choice.

It seems a tad like a gimmick, but it works because the story itself is already so out of sequence. If it was just a linear tale with chapter jumps, that would be sort of stupid, but the fact that everything is already as jumpy as it is makes it work. Initially it also seemed like you were just jumping between the front and back of the book, which displeased me because I felt I was simply coming to the middle, but I want to say that the last couple jumps weren't in that same "order". It's been several days... I'm just returning from my trip home to California and haven't done any reading for the better part of a week.

Will post more when I've finished. I think I'm pretty close.

Saraluna's picture
Saraluna July 3, 2012 - 1:36pm

Josh

There is really nothing to "figure out". The chapters are interspersed. Unless you keep track while you read (I didn't, because I wasn't aware of them until I was 3/4 of the way through), or mark the pages (it's a library book, so again, no dice), it's just arduously going through trying to find them. Since it's a library book, I have a limited amount of time with it, so someone posting the extra chapters would be helpful.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 3, 2012 - 2:34pm

Well, I did finish it. It turned out that it was just back-front chapter jumps over and over until you got to the middle, so that was very disappointing. Though I can understand, as it would have been somewhat irritating trying to find the chapters otherwise, and many of them are fairly short.

I enjoyed it. Not my favorite Palahniuk, but interesting and quotable and in some ways a total mindjob. Felt like the ending was phoned in a bit compared to the rest of it, but it was quite a tale. I don't think it matters at all which way you read it. The chapter-jumps really did nothing for me and I suspect I'd have enjoyed the read more without them (and it pains me to say this, as I generally love when people try to think outside the box, and this was at least thematically consistent with the whole).

So there you go, Josh, my general impression having started with Remix. 4 stars as a book, 3 stars for the gimmick, which could have been better utilized, but gains an extra star for the mixed-in extras. Which I haven't actually read yet. That's next on the list of things to do as soon as I actually have time.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life July 3, 2012 - 3:30pm

Nice. Great mini-review, Michael.

Gotherjawshotoff's picture
Gotherjawshotoff July 6, 2012 - 8:53pm

I just finished reading this, I dont know why but I was expecting a different story almost. Like the deleted scenes of a movie, not really like the extras. I had just bought IM on audio book and since I spend a lot of time driving, what I would do was listen to the book, then when I got home I would re-read what I had just listed to just to make sure I didn't miss anything, turns out the stories are either exactly the same or I missed something. I got to the end and there was no more "jump to chapter..." It just said "the end" so I went to the very last chapter and just read from there. 

Even though the stories are either the same or similar I still enjoyed it 100% all the jumping kept getting me lost every time my bookmark fell out or I accidentally closed the book lol. IM was the 3rd Chuck book I ever read it has since remained my favorite. I've found myself thinking the same thing while reading his books "how does one man have some many crazy thoughts" 

I haven't read the book in so long I had forgotten the big major plot line, so for me it was just as shocking and brilliant as if this was the first time. 

I really enjoyed all the extra material and now am hungry for more chuck! I can't wait till he comes to Seattle so I cam have him sign my book/s. I haven't  real all of em, so I just bought the ones I haven't. 
But after getting over the disappointment of the lack of more crazy Brandy Alexander adventures, or more of Shannon's hateful rants, I'm glad this book stated the same. Loved it!

I love chuck, and authors like Chuck, can anyone recommend any authors I should read?