The review of Beautiful You was one of the hardest to compose in a long time. Having read all of the other Chuck Palahniuk’s books, this was the most controversial and disappointing at the same time. I wanted to believe in book’s unusual nature and like its concept, but the plot never got me there.
The beginning was fantastic. Good 20% percent of the book — mostly first few chapters — were very decent. The issue is, this book doesn’t have any chapters. It’s modeled like a one-line story, which could (and should) be consumed in few short seatings. I cannot pick a better word for the process of reading of this novel, other than “consume”. The book is filled with big words that are supposed to shame all of us human beings of the “industrialized world”, especially women between 18 and 70. For me, that is a big gap. As it can’t be a true value for determining a target audience, it cannot engage and reproach such percentage of world’s female population. Everything that happens in this book after the ~20%-mark, feels very strange for Chuck’s readers. Without much joy, I consider the possibility that the rest of the book was written by someone else – a student, a protege, an apprentice from one of those infamous workshops, perhaps? It could have been someone’s barely passable midterm project.
Yet, returning to the plot: the whole setting feels like a rather sickening combination of 50 SoG and the image of Victoria’s Secret brand. Being a fan of neither, I must admit both are still better and less influential than the twisted misfortunate version of life Chuck has to offer.
In this gloomy future, each major city in the US opened its own Beautiful You store, and the lines of lustful customers were forming in advance. Here, it feels like Chuck tried to mock people’s obsession with big-name brands as Apple, for example. Women gave up their lives, work, families in order to own BU products, to try and try some more. Many of them forgot about hygiene, eating and sleeping (all of the above are primary instincts as well), just to waste their lives away while assaulting themselves with tools they thought brought them pleasure.
Females are portrayed as primitive, one-side-minded egotists, spending all their time indulging themselves. At first, even boyfriends and husbands purchased the BU products, but, when the situation gradually got out of control, no one knew how to stop such apocalypse and bring women back. Nothing seemed to be a substitute good enough to remember other aspects of life.
Of course, the “world” scene takes place in the US, but, per Chuck’s notorious repetitions, the crisis is also true for the rest of the “industrialized world”. No one can steady the economy or restore the life style, since women are too busy and start eventually dying and men, per Chuck, don’t have as much power as women do when it comes to decision-making and changing the world.
Though I do love Chuck the same way I love Nietzsche even though they both dislike and humiliate women, period, Chuck’s mockery sounds vicious, especially when unspecified masculine characters imply that they don’t care if “gals are just having fun”. Yes, many authors uncover dirtiest and lowest of the human desires to show the hidden side of each persona, yet in this book there’s just dirt, no wisdom. Main character’s best friend, having been an office diva prior to her introduction to the BU products, turned into a filthy addict who rejected anything else but the toys. Another woman, who was happily engaged and ready to get married, ran away, living in slums just to spend all her time, assaulting herself and acting like a wild animal upon contact with other humans. Now, it could have been described as a rough, but gentle reprimand, yet in this book all of the above events look very gritty and raw. Then, nano-bots come into the scene…
The Himalayan guru is, perhaps, one of the most likable characters, though she kept strange objects inside her and killed people for educational purposes. All of the thoughts and memories she has to share, at least have some depth. Of course, she died at the age of 200 years plus; obviously, by the hand of the Apocalypse bearer. We’re not taking about underbelly of capitalism and its power-hungry, greedy and ruthless associates, though Chuck intended to put all of the actions into the mind of such big person-corporation chimera.