“The minute something better than sex comes along, you call me. Have me paged.”
That’s the sentiment from our flawed protagonist, Vincent Mancini, at the start of Choke. Vincent, a former med student, and current Sex Anon member, works minimum wage at a colonial recreation village, where he gives lectures on disease to the students who come field tripping there. His best friend, and co-worker, Denny, is a chronic self abuser who is constantly in the stocks for being caught with anachronistic material. Every few nights Vincent and Denny go out to restaurants where Vincent purposefully chokes on his food, inviting one of the other patrons to save him, and in saving him, to feel responsible for him. He does this so that he can use the checks that he is sent to keep his mother in the expensive medical facility she stays in.
This will be the third Palahniuk book I’ve read I think. I honestly don’t remember. They’ve felt the same, I don’t mean that in a bad .way, but they’ve got his stamp on them. The skeezy protagonist who you manage to overcome the knee jerk reaction to dislike.
Vincent gives people a purpose by letting them save his life, he does it as much as a service to them. He hears about how the change that comes over a person saves a marriage, just because they gain new confidence in getting to act like heroes. Vincent’s mother was in and out of prison, and a significant portion of the book is given to Vincent criticizing how he acted as a kid when his mother would abduct him from his foster parents. Every time he chokes Vincent adds another surrogate family member to make up for the ones he didn’t have when he was growing up, right down to the faceless meetings in random places that read so much like small family reunions.
This couldn’t just be the story of a sex addict dealing with his dying mother. The element introduced to manipulate Vincent’s world is the idea that he was a biological experiment used from a ground up piece of Jesus Christ. Vincent has to adjust to the idea that he was made with a piece of divinity. Initially, he does this by rejecting it altogether, then he becomes comfortable with the idea, and starts trying to make small miracles, so that he can prepare himself for the big ones.
It’s his desire to start working miracles that leads to his inability to accept it when his friend Denny starts to become self sufficient. Denny begins the story as slovenly self abuser, progresses to a collector of rocks and then becomes a builder. In seeing this transition, Vincent begins to feel unnecessary and we see that what a messiah needs is to be needed, otherwise is sacrifice won’t be noticed.
“Choke” is book 61 in this series, and I wouldn’t be surprised if another Palahniuk book sneaks in. They’re pretty quick reads and I’m way behind schedule. That’s the superficial reason. He also totally shifted the modern landscape of writing and, for awhile in my life, not a week went by where “Fight Club” wasn’t referenced in some way, and he’s a great writer.