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Palahniuk, Chuck (b. 1962)  
 
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His paternal grandparents' lives had been particularly fraught with violence. One day, his paternal grandfather shot and killed his wife, reputably during an argument about how much she had paid for a sewing machine; next, he went looking for his then 4-year-old son, with the intent to kill him as well.

"My father's first memories are of hiding under a bed, hearing his father call and seeing his heavy boots walk past, the smoking barrel of the gun hanging near the floor," Palahniuk reveals in "Consolation Prizes," one of the essays collected in Stranger Than Fiction. Unable to find his son, Palahniuk's grandfather turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

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Palahniuk himself did not learn the truth about his paternal grandparents' deaths until he was 18 years old; prior to then, he believed they had both died of rubella.

Palahniuk's own father also met a brutal death. In May 1999, his father, long divorced from his mother, was shot and his body burned by the ex-husband of a woman he had just begun dating. The man was subsequently found guilty of first-degree murder and executed; Palahniuk was closely involved in the court's decision to give his father's killer the death penalty.

In the wake of these events, Palahniuk began work on his fifth novel Lullaby (2002), in which one of his main characters explores the moral implications of committing murder. It is a novel that "contemplates rampant evil," according to Tom Shone, but one which is also "about the power to do good."

Palahniuk attended the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. After graduating in 1986, he took a series of jobs including movie projectionist, bicycle messenger, and dish washer, before embarking on a journalism career at the National Public Radio station in Eugene, Oregon.

He later moved to Portland, Oregon to work as a newspaper reporter for the Oregonian. He also volunteered at a homeless shelter and at an AIDS hospice.

Palahniuk ultimately found employment at Portland-based Freightliner Trucks, where he stayed for thirteen years, first as a diesel mechanic and later as a writer of mechanical repair manuals.

During this time, Palahniuk also began attending weekly writing seminars conducted by gay author Tom Spanbauer, whom Palahniuk acknowledges as his mentor. Spanbauer, who studied creative writing with Gordon Lish at Columbia University, is the creator of a concept known as "Dangerous Writing."

Palahniuk has described the concept as a minimalist approach to writing that encourages authors to explore taboo topics that might personally embarrass or intimidate them in order to express their anxieties and fears more openly and honestly. Palahniuk discusses Spanbauer's philosophy and teaching methods in the essay "Not Chasing Amy" in Stranger Than Fiction.

Palahniuk's first written novel, Invisible Monsters, about the fluidity of sexual identity, centers on the relationship between Shannon McFarland, a once famous fashion model who has been horribly disfigured in a drive-by shooting, and Brandy Alexander, a pill-popping, pre-op transsexual who has based her gender modifications on what Shannon used to look like.

Palahniuk says that fashion magazines, which he used to read at his local laundromat, inspired the writing style he employed for the novel. "I love the language of fashion magazines," he explains in a Village Voice interview. "Eighteen adjectives and you find the word sweater at the end. . . . I thought, Wouldn't it be fun to write a novel in this fashion magazine language, so packed with hyperbole?"

Publishers roundly rejected the novel (although it eventually would be published in 1999 after the success of his next novel). Undaunted, Palahniuk set out to write an even more outrageous book, one that was "even darker and riskier and more offensive, all the things [publishers] didn't want."

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