This week I listened to Chuck Palahniuk, the author of books like Fight Club and Choke, talk about “absurd existentialism” and what it means to him. He finds this concept played out in books like Slaughterhouse Five, Geek Love, and Catch 22.
Palahniuk states what these stories hold in common is they “depict existence as a completely absurd, bizarre, strange thing that's not sentimentalized. It's not judged, it's not weighed as oppressed versus oppressor – it’s just everything is messed up and everything is crazy. Get used to it.”
He mentions that literature released in times of war, for example, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, and Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 shared themes that “everything is insane and you have no control over it and you can die at any moment.”
I found the conversation timely, and an example of how art in all disciplines can mirror society’s psyche at a moment in time.
As someone who mostly takes for granted basic rights, freedoms, and safety, it’s disturbing watching from afar someone else's vastly different reality, even when I know fundamentally that life is unfair. People are born into different circumstances. Someone will always have more, and someone less. Disorder is a part of life as much as peace, love as much as grief, and despair as much as joy.
It feels to me all one can do is acknowledge the lack of control, look to others for guidance on how they lived amongst the volatility, and continue to maintain what we can in our daily life. Even when it feels insignificant, we still make the bed.
Here is a poem I wrote in January.
Chuck Palahnuik on Dax Shepherd’s Armchair Expert
Ilya Kaminsky on His Viral Poem and Watching a War From Afar
Timely, yes. All of this. Thank you. And it's lovely to see your poem here, speaking to the absurdity and horror and grief and fuzziness and comforts we live with, often as we shake in disbelief at the horror alongside the coffee or the kissing. (Substack won't let me heart this post for some reason but you know I heart it.)
WOW that poem... it's one I can feel, namely in my shoulders and my gut. Thank you for sharing.