Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk Biography.com

Author(1962–)
American writer Chuck Palahniuk is best known for creating novels that include 'Fight Club,' 'Choke' and 'Lullaby.'

Synopsis

Chuck Palahniuk was born in 1962 in Pasco, Washington. Palahniuk faced early rejection for his dark and satiric writing, but persevered to write Fight Club, which was published in 1996. The 1999 film version of the novel, which starred Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, shot Palahniuk into the spotlight. He remains a popular author whose other novels include Choke (2001), Lullaby (2002) and Damned (2011).

Early Years

Charles Michael Palahniuk was born on February 21, 1962, in Pasco, Washington. He grew up in a mobile home in nearby Burbank. His parents, Fred and Carol, divorced while Palahniuk was in his early teens.

Palahniuk attended journalism school at the University of Oregon, receiving his degree in 1986. After college, Palahniuk reported for a radio station in Eugene, Oregon, then started to write for Portland's Oregonian newspaper. He soon switched gears entirely, going to work as a diesel mechanic, a job he would hold until his career as a fiction writer took off.

Writing Success

Chuck Palahniuk had a short story, "Negative Reinforcement," published in 1990, then tried his hand at producing a novel. However, when he sent publishers his book about a disfigured model, it was consistently rejected. Palahniuk believed this was because of its risky subject matter (this submission was an early version of Invisible Monsters, which would eventually be published in 1999).

Palahniuk decided to embrace his inner voice and go even darker with his next book, Fight Club. He jotted down notes for this novel while lying underneath trucks he was repairing at his job. Real-life activities also provided Palahniuk with inspiration for Fight Club—as a member of the Cacophony Society, a group that pulls off large-scale public pranks, Palahniuk had the seeds for the novel’s Project Mayhem.

Despite its dark tone, Fight Club was published in 1996, and won the Oregon Book Award the next year. But it was the 1999 film version—directed by David Fincher and starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt—that garnered the most attention. Though the film divided fans and critics, it quickly became a cult favorite; along the way, it turned new eyes toward the author of its source material.

Personal Tragedy

Unfortunately, 1999 was also a time of devastating loss for Palahniuk. His father, Fred, and Fred's girlfriend were murdered that year. (The life of Palahniuk's father was marked by tragedy—as a child, Fred had seen his own father kill his mother, then commit suicide.)

Fred had been killed by Dale Shackleford, the former partner of his girlfriend. Shackleford was convicted of the murders in December 2000, and ended up being sentenced to death, a decision that Palahniuk supported. However, that sentence was later transmuted to life in prison.

Later Works

A prolific writer, Palahniuk has published numerous novels and short stories since first breaking onto the literary scene with Fight Club. His novels include Choke (2001), Lullaby (2002), Diary (2003), Damned (2011) and Beautiful You (2014). In 2013, it was announced that a graphic novel sequel to Fight Club was in the works. The 12-issue series is expected to be released in May 2015. In 2014, Palahniuk's web site announced that James Franco bought the film options for his novel Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey (2008).

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Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk in Spain in 2013. (Photo: Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com)

Palahniuk has also produced works of nonfiction, such as Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon (2003) and Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories (2004). 

Personal Life

Palahniuk spends time in both Oregon and Washington. He is gay and lives with his longtime partner.

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