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Chuck Palahniuk | Biography


Chuck Palahniuk (PAH-la-nick) was born on February 21, 1962, in Pasco, Washington. He grew up in a mobile home park in nearby Burbank, Washington, in the shadow of family tragedy. His paternal grandfather shot and killed his grandmother in the presence of Palahniuk's father, who was then a young child. That same night, the grandfather threatened to kill his son and then killed himself.

Palahniuk's parents divorced when he was 14; he and his siblings were sent to live with their maternal grandparents in eastern Washington. Palahniuk graduated from the University of Oregon in 1986 with a degree in journalism. After college, he briefly worked as a newspaper reporter. He then changed careers and went to work as a diesel mechanic for a truck manufacturing company.

Palahniuk credits his attendance at a 1989 Landmark Forum seminar with enabling him to become a writer. Landmark is an organization that offers seminars in self-improvement and personal accountability. Palahniuk learned the craft of fiction writing in workshops led by Portland author Tom Spanbauer, founder of the group Dangerous Writing, which favors a minimalist prose style and the use of difficult personal experiences as inspiration.

In 1990 Palahniuk published a short story called "Negative Reinforcement," which is about a man who imagines vivid and highly inaccurate details about the woman sitting behind him on a bus. Palahniuk then wrote a novel that was rejected by every publisher he solicited; it later became his third published novel, Invisible Monsters (1999). After those rejections, he wrote Fight Club; it started as a short story, which became the novel's sixth chapter. The author expanded it into a novel that was published by W.W. Norton & Company in 1996, and it was well received by a majority of critics, with Publishers Weekly praising Palahniuk's "utterly original creation." Some took issue with the novel's violence and apparent embrace of a stereotypical macho culture, although others note the book implicitly criticizes these values. In 1999 Fight Club was adapted as a film directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton; although it did poorly at the box office, it found new life on video and is now considered a cult classic. That same year, in another episode of family violence, Palahniuk's father and his father's girlfriend were murdered by the girlfriend's ex-husband.

Since then Palahniuk has been a prolific and successful author: he's written 15 novels as well as books of essays and short fiction, a graphic novel, and a story collection that doubles as an adult coloring book. Palahniuk publicly came out as gay in 2003. Palahniuk lives in Vancouver, Washington, with his longtime partner.

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