Madison Spencer is thirteen years old and she is dead. She is the daughter of a Hollywood celebrity couple, and she died of marijuana overdose – or so she believes. The thing is that now, just like that, she lives in hell with four new companions: a punk-rocker called Archer, a nerd Leonard, Babette the mean cheerleader, and Paterson, the well-built American jock. The Breakfast Club switching the high-school for hell, one might think.
But no. As is to expect of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels, for now the author has no intention of exploring the relationship between the five of them, nor of making the plot move forward in a logical and sequential manner. He wants to stop along the way, and read us the new edition of his indecent varied scatology catalogue. He wants us to listen to his vulgarities. Palahniuk seems to be having fun, maybe even more than his readers, while he links sex, death and shit together in abundance. But damn. The guy is funny. And on top of that, his prose. Palahniuk’s prose is almost musical, his chapters – so short – look like stanzas that have as many repetitions as a pop chorus. And of course, you keep turning the pages. Halfway through the book, you are still unsure about what Madison’s plan is, but you keep going. On the other hand, it must be said that the fact that there are flashbacks to explain how Madison died helps, but hell, he never lets go of his determination in making us picture entire mountains made out of toe nails, or big rivers resulting from wasted semen, just to cite a few examples of the infernal geography his characters live in.
There are some characters who wander around with no apparent purpose, trying to dodge the dangers that they are bound to find along the way. Ancient demons, fatal orgasms, famous dictators and even a telemarketing job separate Madison and the group from Satan, whom the girl keeps referring to, explicitly (and in cursive), since the beginning of each one of the 38 mini-chapters that make up the novel. For what? A good question. Damned will not be a part of the history of literature, and you probably will not think much about it after finishing it, but you might have a few laughs. The fact that Palahniuk is still a diverse and funny prose writer is as certain as the symptoms he presents: he really needs a vacation.