Rant by Chuck Palahniuk – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Rant is the oral history of Buster ‘Rant’ Casey, recounted by an array of people including his relations, friends, enemies and lovers. Rant’s childhood companions from the small rural town where he spent his formative years remember his remarkable immunity to poisons and diseases, such as black widow spider bites and rabies. When Rant moves to the big city he becomes the leader of Party Crashing, an urban demolition derby that becomes extremely popular.
In the various accounts Rant is portrayed as an anti-hero, an evil, disease-spreading scourge and even a Messiah. Some assert that Rant time-travelled and changed the past. After his death people claim to have known him, and leverage this for their own benefit. As the myth of Rant propagates, rabies becomes desirable.
Rant can be viewed alternately as a book about religion, rabies, car crashes or simply an oral history of Buster Casey (Rant). This is a challenging book, employing an innovative interview format, which though initially onerous, is increasingly engaging and effective. In customary Palahniuk fashion the text is brimming with dark humour, lurid descriptions and satirical observations.
The book adroitly challenges our own traditions by demonstrating how we contort our recollection of events in accordance with our desires, motives and beliefs. There are obvious parallels with the gospels and the role the oral tradition had in their formation.
Although Rant is ambitious, insightful, thought-provoking and eminently readable, it becomes convoluted, chaotic and confusing towards the end.