In his latest novel, Damned: Life Is Short. Death Is Forever, Chuck Palahniuk is the antithesis of Judy Blume whose character mused, “Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Thirteen-year-old Madison finds herself in Hell after what she assumes is a marijuana overdose (the reader will later find out what really caused her death). Believing she was wrongfully assigned, Madison quickly sets about finding out how to get herself where she belongs with the assistance of her newly adopted posse, a hellish sort of Breakfast Club of the Underworld. The crew travels though waterfalls of excrement, dandruff deserts, and mountains of disposable diapers, and observes the daily tortures of the damned as they are tormented by monsters and never ending showings of the film The English Patient. Because Hell is the mother of bureaucracies, Madison takes a job as a telemarketer while she waits for her papers to be processed. Now you know where those annoying calls originate. Palahniuk delivers a hilarious parody of the young adult novel while dishing up some existential truths like this:
“No, it’s not fair, but what makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven. Earth is earth. Dead is dead. You’ll find out for yourself soon enough. It won’t help the situation for you to get all upset.”
Even the horror of having your liver eaten every day loses its horror after the first few times.