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Review: Rant – An Oral Biography of Buster Casey

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk is a bizarre book, and that’s putting it REALLY lightly. Told from the perspective of several different people in an interview / monologue format, the main character technically never says anything aside from quotes sited by others. In this book we follow the plight of a homeless, rabies infected, time traveling vagabond that is constantly testing the limitations of existence. This book doesn’t necessarily need to be written from the point of view of people being interviewed, but through this process it begins to feel less like a book and more like a sordid tale being told around a campfire, and that attitude definitely lends itself to the story. Every interview leaves you with a little morsel of boundary-breaking philosophical goodness. I don’t want to give away too much, but be prepared to be thrown off constantly with plot twists and the divulging of character secrets. Palahniuk is an extremely versatile author, maintaining dozens of different accents and relaying a unique demeanor with each interview.

The first time I read this book, I read it straight through in a day or two and started reading it again from the beginning. It’s one of those books. The second you’re done you’re left with a definite sense of resolution and new found understanding, but then small details begin to nag at you; tearing down your certainty. Upon rereading for probably the fourth time, I decided to check out an audio book from the public library. It turns out that this is one of the best audio books I’ve ever heard (I’ll link to where you can buy it, it’s that good), with a different voice actor for each character with seriously top-notch performances from the lot. I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary, at least not anything much better than your standard issue audio book, but this one really delivers! With this sort of book, and knowing the oblique style of Palahniuk, don’t count on reading this one chapter by chapter, day by day. As with some other titles by the author, this one seems like it’s meant to be enjoyed in one straight read-through. Not a short book necessarily, but for those who read a lot it will feel like a leap into a totally different genre of storytelling, definitely a literary breath of fresh air.

Also, this book can be unsettling, frightening and even slightly graphic at times, so it’s definitely not for the easily offended. Although there’s a lot of time traveling and whacky antics, there’s also a severely dark undertone throughout. This book pushes the envelope in every sense, both thematically and psychologically. If you get a chance to check it out I highly recommend this one, probably even more so than Palahniuk’s more popular novel Fight Club. I’m not being an anti-Fight Club hipster here, I love both the movie and the book, but I believe Rant is a literary work of art in comparison to his earlier work. That’s my quick review, but I just want to talk about some stuff for those of you who have already read it.

Personal Retrospective


Our hero Buster Casey is constantly switching between dimensions. Theses shifts are unspoken of for the most part and are almost tongue-in-cheek, leaving the reader a little confused until a few interviews later… Usually. Dealing heavily with the concepts of immortality, amassing infinite wealth, and influencing the masses, the character of Buster Casey becomes diluted with each dimensional shift. The way Buster leaps into the past becomes something of an urban legend, shifting into another plane of existence by astrally projecting at the moment of impact in a fatal car crash. I think he takes this ability to astrally project on command, otherwise he would have become trapped in one dimension or the other. He uses this technique to horde gold coins until their value became greatly increased, and even impregnates his own grandmother and mother in alternate timelines. Buster believes that impregnating his own creator before she conceives him will cancel out the possibility of his own existence. This part of the book will easily confuse nearly anyone, seeing as it deals with untestable subjects out of the realm of possibility.

I’ll try to explain my understanding of this genetic time-traveling escapade to the best of my ability…

So Buster’s “father” is a man named Chester Casey. His mother is an average housewife who has a lot to deal with, obviously. Buster goes back in time at some point and stumbles across a young girl alone in the snow. He holds her down, and inseminates her not once but twice to ensure definite pregnancy. He tells her to keep it, and that he would be back to make sure she did. The story mentions this occurrence only a few times, leaving a very unclear impression upon the reader as to what happened to Buster in that dimension. I have a feeling he assumed the name Chester and went on living life in that era. Or maybe he simply used that timeline as a base of operations, eventually settling there after his youth had run its course. There’s also a character that goes by the name of Green Taylor Simms, a man who doesn’t exist according to the government in his timeline. Upon further connecting of the dots and adding up the character’s ages at periods of time, it appears that Chester Casey and Green Taylor Simms are the same person. Green Taylor Simms goes back in time further and impregnates Buster’s grandmother, complicating these timelines to an insane degree. Excerpts are read from the “Field Notes of Green Taylor Simms” throughout the book, from the point of view of an inwardly reflecting old man. His attitude seems like the complete opposite of Buster’s, the least likely candidate you would expect to be the original Rant himself.

So I guess Rant becomes three different people, leaving behind gold coins and children along the way. Again, this is a lot of speculation on my part, and I’m probably missing something but that’s just the sort of book this is; a mystery within a mystery.

Categorized as: Book Reviews | Written Reviews

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