'Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey' is the latest novel by Chuck Palahniuk, probably best known for his debut-novel-turned-Hollywood-blockbuster, 'Fight Club'. In a writing career that has been consistently edgy and shocking, if not a little light on substance, Palahniuk's eighth novel could be his most complete piece of work since millions of readers across the world acquainted themselves with the rules of an underground boxing club.
Initially what is most striking about 'Rant' is the form in which it takes place. 'Rant' is told as an oral biography, that is, as a collection of interviews, which pieced together, tells us of Buster 'Rant' Casey and the events surrounding his subsequent demise.
As a literary device, the oral biography works devastatingly well as a satire of small-town American life. Throughout the book, however, it succeeds in injecting a frantic pace, its short, half-page monologues teasing the reader enough to keep the pages turning.
The story revolves around Rant, a deviant with a heightened sense of smell and taste and an obsession with poisonous insects. At the beginning of the book the reader is told that Rant is dead, and what then forms the book is Rant's life, culminating in the events surrounding his death.
As a child Rant is drawn to the macabre side of life. For example, to get thrills he puts his arms down holes hoping to get bitten by insects and rodents. One year at Halloween he succeeds in replacing all the fake props in a house of horrors with real ones.
Rant manages to contract rabies and pass it on to half the students in his school year and some of the teachers too. This theme of the spread of disease is to have a major bearing on the book’s final outcome.
Rant moves to the city and it is here we become aware that the novel takes place in the future, or more likely, an alternative present. Residents of the city are forcibly divided into two cultures, daytimers and nighttimers. Rant becomes a nighttimer and begins what is known as 'Party Crashing'. Party Crashers cruise around the streets looking for other participants in the game to crash into. Think Fight Club, but with cars as opposed to people.
Unfortunately, however, as often happens with Palahniuk’s work, when the novel hurtles along towards its conclusion all semblance of reality is dispensed with. Throughout the book the story constantly evolves and changes which, although thought-provoking, is ultimately detrimental to the book’s (pseudo science-fiction) ending.
However, for fans of Palahniuk, 'Rant' should be seen as a return to form following some of his more recent exercises in shock-writing. As mentioned earlier, his choice of using the style of an oral biography is an effective one. The author uses the arguments of real-life. A gothic novel, which is both fast and funny; the author succeeds in creating his most believable and interesting anti-hero since Tyler Durden.