by Brandon Tietz
Chuck Palahniuk is the author of 16 novels, two non-fiction books, and a slew of short stories. He penned the cult hit “Fight Club” which was later adapted to film, starred Brad Pitt and Edward Norton and was directed by David Fincher.
He’s also a huge hero and influence of mine. Now that isn’t to say that I absolutely love everything that he does, but when I engage in his work I do so with the expectation that I will. It’s been that way for the last 13 years, all the way back to when I picked up my first Palahniuk novel, and he inspired me to attack the blank page myself. I’m an author because Chuck gave me the writing bug and I’m still an author because I found the job that doesn’t feel like work.
This person, whom I’d never met until recently, essentially changed the course of my life in the best way possible. So how did I react when I found out that Chuck was gay? Honestly, it didn’t really affect me. As Chuck would probably say, “I’m not a gay author; I’m an author who happens to be gay.”
That’s another way of saying that his sexuality doesn’t define his work. A good book is a good book, regardless of someone’s sexual orientation. The same goes for movies, music, art, etc. Some people disagree with that. Considering the hyper-masculine themes of “Fight Club,” a good portion of people felt as if they’d been lied to or deceived somehow when Chuck made his reveal.
That intrigues me … the idea that you could like something and then suddenly feel differently about it based on the sexual orientation of the person who made it. I suppose when you hold something or someone in high regard, a detail like that can throw it out of whack. However, that is the failing of assumption and close-mindedness hard at work.
A hero, an influence, leads by action – not the details of his personal life. There’s that old saying: “Never meet your heroes.” Because it’s never going to go as well as you can imagine it, and I had that fear when I was finally scheduled to meet Chuck. It was on Oct. 21 in San Francisco at a club called the DNA Lounge.
I didn’t just get to meet my hero; I read live and performed with him in front of more than 700 people. And the thing I remember the most isn’t the show or the crowd or the adrenaline rush, it was hanging with Chuck in the green room and shooting the shit about literature. Talking shop and sipping drinks. He’s an inspiration and a giant in the industry, yes, but he’s also one of the nicest dudes you could ever meet. So what does being gay matter when you’re kind, and you’re talented and you inspire everyday people to attempt something bigger than themselves? How does sexual orientation change a really good book or song or painting? It doesn’t. Chuck Palahniuk taught me that.
Brandon Tietz is a Kansas City writer and the author of “Out Of Touch” and “Good Sex, Great Prayers,” both of which are to be released through Perfect Edge Books. His short stories have appeared in “Warmed And Bound” (Velvet Press), “Amsterdamned If You Do” (CCLaP), “Spark” (Vol. II), and the Chuck Palahniuk anthology “Burnt Tongues” (Medallion Press).