So, I’m sitting on the back row (as usual) in a very important meeting (as if) not really listening to a colossally boring speaker (and how), and I decide to break out Pygmy, by Chuck Palahniuk, just to pass the time – big freaking mistake! You know how hard it is to stifle a laugh when you’re trying to stifle a laugh, and you’re in a place where you’re supposed to be all serious and quiet? Well, there I am, cracking up all over the place. People are turned around, looking at me, most of them shooting me dirty looks, a few of them trying to figure out what it is I’m reading.
Pygmy is a funny book, a laugh-out-loud hoot of a read.
It’s the story of a group of adolescent terrorists, or operatives, depending on your point of view, who’ve come to an unnamed city in the middle-west of the United States as exchange students to execute a dastardly plot, codenamed Operation Havoc, against the evil and corrupt American empire. They were selected at age 4 for their intelligence by officials of their unnamed totalitarian state, and then highly trained for their mission. The story comes to us as a series of dispatches from agent number 67, who refers to himself as operative me, but who everybody knows as Pygmy – he’s rather small statured.
Pygmy’s got an unusual diction, and although his English vocabulary is large, his grammar and his world view combine to make for a unique voice. Here’s an example. Pygmy is making his first trip to that most iconic American megastore:
So, that’s Pygmy. It could be that his cultural education has a few gaps. But that’s what makes the story work. As seen through Pygmy’s eyes, this book does a nice job of capturing the angst of adolescent life in the suburban United States. The plot is propelled forward by a number of the sort of events that have, sadly, become a hallmark of growing up in the USA nowadays. But the big question is: will Pygmy be seduced by American culture before he unleashes Operation Havoc. I won’t spoil the story, but I will let that Pygmy seems to develop a taste for fried chicken:Magic quiet door go sideways, disappear inside wall to open path from outside. Not total all glass, extruded aluminum metal frame silver edge, door slide gone until reveal inside stand old woman, slave woman appareled with red tunic, spring apparatus gripping tunic front to hang swinging sign, printed, “Doris.” Ancient sentinel rest gray cloud eye upon operative me, roll eye from hair and down this agent, say, voice like old parrot, say, “Welcome to Wal-Mart.” Say, “May I help you find something?”
Mouths of this agent make smile, face design into pleasing eye contact. This agent say, “Much venerate ancient mother…where sold here location China-make 81-S-type gas-operated, rotating-bolt, fire six hundred fifty rounds per minute machine gun?”
Face of ancient mummify bound in dying skin, clouded eye only look, no blink.
Smile of operative me say, “Revered soon dying mother, distribute you ammunitions correct for Croatia-made forty-five-caliber, long-piston-stroke APS assault rifle?”
Smile of operative me, breathing, await.
Sag windpipe of ancient parrot, sag skin jump with swallow. Edge smear of red wax slice open as mouth, wax smile melt flat, straight.
“Brazil-made FA 03 assault rifle?” say this agent, shout, maybe not could hear, shout, “Venerate ancestor, much respected dying soon rotting corpse,” shout, “where sell here Slovak SA Vz.58 assault rifle?”
Parrot face of dying skin fill with blood glow, red wax of mouth bunch until volcano pucker, tight until skin of pucker mouth pinched white of no blood. Cloud eyes flash electric bolts. Volcano blow open, old parrot voice say, loud shout, saliva erupt to fly, “You’ll find our sporting goods on aisle sixteen, young man.”
Could be, zing-wring, hands of this operative pounce in rapid Bird Wing Gentle Embrace to twist parrot neck, back-bone twist-snap, to bring mercy instant soft death.
Merely this agent say, “Thank you, much esteemed madam living skeleton.” Wish safe quick soon mission into next eternity.
I am certain the author had fun writing this book – I sure had fun reading it. It’s pretty gritty in places, but then anybody who’s read anything by Chuck Palahniuk already knows what they’re getting into.Along return journey, encounter frequent memorial honoring American battle warrior, great officer similar Lenin. Many vast mural depicting most savvy United State war hero. Rotating statue. Looming visage noble American colonel. Courageous, renown of history, Colonel Sanders, image forever accompanied odor of sacrificial meat. Eternal flame offering wind savory perfume roasted flesh.