ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
October may be your lucky month, if you're a Chuck Palahniuk fan, anyway. He's the guy who wrote Fight Club. His most recent book is titled Haunted. It's a collection of short stories in Palahniuk's trademark style: shocking, subversive and often disgusting. Remember Brad Pitt's character in Fight Club making soap out of rendered human body fat from liposuctions? Right, think that.
Palahniuk has a zealous fan base, mostly centered around his Web site, where he's announced that for this month only, he'll accept their letters, and he'll answer every one. Joining us from Portland, Oregon is Chuck Palahniuk. So how've you been?
Mr. CHUCK PALAHNIUK (Author): I have been good, and yourself?
SEABROOK: Thank you, I'm very well. People can't just dash off a note to you. There are strict guidelines to this. I pulled the guidelines here from your Web site, and we'll post your Web site at npr.org so people can get to it. They have to be postmarked by the end of October, no packages are allowed. But the letters are actually snail-mail letters. You aren't accepting e-mails, right?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: Exactly. I really love snail-mail. There's just something so much more deliberate about it.
SEABROOK: Why are you doing this?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: I do it specifically - I designate windows of time when I know I will be able to respond, really devote my entire life to this. And it will take me six months, at least six months, to respond to all the mail that I receive just from this fairly small window. But why I do it, that's a darn good question.
SEABROOK: Had you not thought about why you do this?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: Junior high school, okay. I wrote a letter, the only letter I've ever written, to somebody I admired. I wrote a letter to Kate Jackson, okay?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. PALAHNIUK: This is before Charlie's Angels. I remember her from Dark Shadows, from that far back.
SEABROOK: Wow. I don't know that.
Mr. PALAHNIUK: And she never wrote me back.
SEABROOK: She never wrote you back?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: Well, of course she never wrote me back. But if she had, that would've been such an incredible experience, event, and so, you know, if I can do that, I'll do that.
SEABROOK: You've done this before, and do you get this sort I'm your biggest fan kind of letters? Or what sorts of letters do you get from your fans?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: That's always the most awkward thing, is - is how do you keep this from being a sort of, you know, pointless, shallow interaction? And so the last time I did this, I asked people to tell me what they were really committed to accomplishing in the coming year, and so people sent me these very detailed outlines of what they were going to do.
And this time around, I really, you know, would like people to tell me something that they've accomplished within the past year that they're exceptionally proud of. And so in a way, you know, we avoid the whole hero thing or worship thing and we make it about sort of an exercise in acknowledgement and, you know, deliberate planning. It is torture to read some of these letters.
SEABROOK: Really, torture?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: It is torture to read some, and it is incredibly funny to read others, but out of the thousands and thousands of letter, there will be a half-dozen stories that are the most remarkable things that you have ever seen in your life.
SEABROOK: You're going to respond to every single one of these letters. You said it's going to take you six months.
Mr. PALAHNIUK: Last time it took me six months. This time might take me well over six months, but I do not respond to abusive letters, and if the letter is creepy or scary or written in your blood, I will never see it.
SEABROOK: Your Web site says you might even respond with a package. What do you plan to write back to people? What are you sending them?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: No, I'm not telling. No, that's the big surprise.
SEABROOK: Can you give me a hint?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: No, nope, nope, nope.
Mr. PALAHNIUK: But it is always something really as over the top as I can possibly manage.
SIEGEL: What did you do last time?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: Oy. Last time people got everything - no, I'm not even going to say. No, no.
SEABROOK: Why not?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: It'll establish a baseline. No, this has entirely got to be a surprise.
SEABROOK: But see, you have to have a baseline to surpass our expectations with this one.
Mr. PALAHNIUK: Mmmm, I can't hear you. La, la, la, la, la.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SEABROOK: Chuck Palahniuk, do you keep copies of these letters? Are you fishing for story ideas and characters for future books?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: You know, typically if I take anything from the letters, it's a really small anecdote, and I might tell that anecdote at book events because they are such magnificent little stories that in three minutes can really make you laugh and also shock you and sometimes just break your heart completely. And beyond that, I do keep the letters. I date the letters and I make some notes about what the person got. But they all get filed away. And some day I'll be old and I'll just put them all on a bed and I'll lie on them naked and think everyone loves me. Yeah.
SEABROOK: You don't do that now?
Mr. PALAHNIUK: No, I don't do that now.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SEABROOK: Chuck Palahniuk's most recent book is called Haunted. We've posted an excerpt from it at npr.org. Chuck Palahniuk, thank you so much for letting us grill you about this.
Mr. PALAHNIUK: Oh Andrea, Andrea, Andrea, thank you so much.
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