An overnight success with his first novel, the cult-inspiring Fight Club (1996), Portland author Palahniuk (pronounced “Paula-nick") has written somewhat of a companion piece here, one that combines the social commentary of Don DeLillo with the surreal, satirical zip of a Kurt Vonnegut or Thomas Pynchon. The story is about modern-day screw-up Victor Mancini, a compulsive sex addict who pretends to choke to death in restaurants so strangers will save him (and later feel compelled to send him birthday cards with money because they feel like his savior; he does this as an occupation). The rest of his life involves hilarious scenes of his part-time work in a colonial theme park filled with drug addicts and retarded chickens, or caring for his hospitalized, dying mother, a zany anarchist whose cryptic Italian notebooks from her youth have Mancini convinced he was divinely conceived using a genetic sample from the foreskin of Jesus Christ. Asking himself, "What would Jesus not do?" Mancini struggles to find his identity and break the hold of addiction, to finally take control of his future from a mordant, obscure past. The tone here is one of cheerful nihilism, while main characters illustrate a potent existentialism underlying compulsive behavior. The author uses a blunt, jumpily cinematic style, alternating flashback observations from the past (for instance, the drugged up mother teaching the child ethics while feeding acid to zoo monkeys) with graphic scenes of sexual encounters and hilarious colonial re-enactments led by blushing stoners. The novel has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Unfortunately, Palahniuk was inspired to write the book because his father was recently murdered after answering a woman’s singles ad (the young author also attended sexual-addiction help groups during the writing, which provided ample humorous and grotesque detail). This 300-pager is fundamentally enjoyable for the cutting wit and economy of the writing, as well as the utterly believable glimpses it provides into the mindset of addiction ("We live and we die and anything else is just delusion … just passive chick bullshit about feelings and sensitivity. … There is no soul. There is no God … just decisions and disease and death.") Hope they do a good job on the movie version.