Pygmy: Chuck Paluhniuk's Exploration of Individualism

This post is nothing as organized as a book review. But I recently finished Paluhniuk's Pygmy and have some strong impressions.

Pygmy is the story of a an adolescent teen in a terror cell, who infiltrates the US under the guise of being a foreign exchange student. "Pygmy" as his host family is not alone. Over a half-dozen peers attend the same high school using the same ruse. Their mission is to kill as many Americans as possible through "Operation Havoc."

Paluhniuk offers enough back story to let us witness the young terrorists indoctrination. The terrorist must not stand out through excellence or poor performance. Standardization is the highest virtue. Individual expression is surrendered for the good of the State. Each terrorists' future spouse has been chosen for them by the government.

Pygmy finds life in the United States as decadent his instructors promised. The home, school, and church are all filled with moral corruption and sexual decadence. Pygmy expresses contempt throughout the novel for the Americans he was trained to hate.

But he ultimately fails to complete his mission, but not because of a political chance of heart, or by embracing American sexual mores. Pygmy break ranks because for the first time in his life he's experienced freedom. He discovers the pleasure of being a hero and standing out in the crowd. America is saved, not because of the its Constitution, democracy, or religious heritage, but by the very thing that led to Paluhniuk's debauched suburbia: radical individualism.

A disclaimer for the uninitiated: Paluhniuk is a biting satirist. Pygmy's broken English and military training allows for comic descriptions of graphic violence and sexual inappropriateness. He offers a slapstick sensibility that draws the into the dark underbelly of a consumerist wasteland with a wink and a nod. If its possible to laugh and gasp at the same time, then this is what I did through much of the book

1 comment:

  1. can't wait to read it, larry. thanks for the recap.