What do you imagine Hell to be like? Roaring fires? Gnarled, half-eaten and rotting bodies screaming in eternal agony? A horned, pitchfork-tailed Devil stirring away his cauldron of bubbling oil stained red with the blood of unfortunate souls before you? Oh wait, that’s Tom and Jerry. Anyway, no matter what your version of Hell, it doesn’t come close to what it really is. At least that’s what Madison Spencer will have us believe. And who are we to question her? She’s thirteen years old, knows words like ‘insidious’ and ‘disassociation’, is dead and in Hell.
Madison’s pretty grown-up for 13, I think. (But then, Justin Beiber is still a bit of a chump at 18, isn’t he? So one can never really tell.) She overdoses Marijuana (a rich kid to former-hippie, former-Rasta and former-punk rock parents, so big surprise) and is damned to roam for eternity across such Hellish marvels as the writhing Sea of Insects, the Swamp of Rancid Perspiration and – are you ready for this? – the great Ocean of Wasted Sperm. Honestly, on Chuck Palahniuk’s scale of making you squirm, the images of this book are bearable compared to Fight Club and Choke. In fact, they make the concept of Hell more interesting and… believable. Chances are, Madison – who works as a telemarketer (now you know where all those sales calls come from) – might just end up calling and convince me to join her there. (Maddy says that according to statistics, people standing shorter than five-foot-one and with a BMI greater than 0.0012 are more likely to be condemned, and I’m guilty on both counts.) And if I don’t, then she’ll communicate with me through a stomach ache or a nagging melody. Or think of me fondly by burning my toast.
Maddy’s not the only young one there. She’s got her own infernal Breakfast Club clique and goes around picking fights with historic figures. She’s also single-handedly responsible for leading more than half of humanity to perdition. And it’s not that difficult – simple acts of not washing hands enough number of times, honking on the roads too many times, stubbing cigarettes outdoors and what-not are sure-fire one-way tickets to Hell. Just as you begin to get used to the weirdness of it all, Madison’s life unravels in a series of terrific twists towards the end of the book in classic Chuck style.
I must say despite myself that I thoroughly enjoyed Damned, even if it was written by an author with the most bizarre imagination I have come across. He paints such a fascinating picture of Hell and writes in a way almost unlike his usual self, which is what I find most appealing. I finished it in three evenings flat. And I would love to reread it at least twice more.
In the meantime, though, I’d sincerely advise you to keep an eye on your toaster and not stub too many cigarettes outdoors.
This post was submitted by Nabila Tazyeen.