bookmark_border“Not Forever but for Now”, by Chuck Palahniuk

In an afterword, Chuck Palahniuk reveals that the story of this novel is meant to be an exploration of addiction and addictive behavior. While not as absorbing as some of Palahniuk’s other novels, I feel this one succeeds in its goal.

Unreliable narrators are par for the course in in Palahniuk’s works, and this novel is no exception. My favorites of his novels have narrators who are not unreliable because they are liars, but because they are honestly ignorant. In Fight Club, the narrator is ignorant of the true identity of Tyler Durden and his own feelings towards Marla. In Diary, the narrator has no idea what is really going on. In Rant, which is presented as a series of interviews, almost none of the speakers have the full picture and can only describe the parts they have personally witnessed.

In Not Forever but for Now, the narrator is unreliable for every reason imaginable. There are things he does not want to tell you. There are things he has not been told. There are things he has been told that are lies. There are things he has been told that are terrible truths. There are things he has just never noticed. The narrator is unreliable like a fish is wet. He is unreliable because “unreliable” is the nature of his environment.

If the nature of a story is that the main character goes through some kind of change, then in order for this narrator to change his entire environment must be unraveled and rebuilt. Every terrible truth must be told. Every lie must be exposed. Every villain must be defeated. Every addiction must be broken. The fish must learn to live in the desert.

I got through this novel still not being sure what was real in the narrator’s world and what was not. If this novel is about addiction, he has succeeded in kicking most of his bad habits, but it’s possible his essential nature has not changed. It’s possible that this was his true nature the whole time, and it has merely been allowed to surface. If so, it has had to fight its way up through such a sea of unreliability that it has been somewhat damaged. One set of addictions has been exchanged for another, and the narrator is still unreliable.

It is a disquieting tale, which is also par for the course in Palahniuk’s novels. Also, it has 68 chapters. Not nice.