cover image Beautiful You

Beautiful You

Chuck Palahniuk. Doubleday, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-53803-9

Palahniuk (Fight Club; Doomed) continues to push limits in this satire of sex and consumerism, in which “the Nerd’s Cinderella,” Penny Harrigan, finds her average self in bed with tech megabillionaire Cornelius Linus Maxwell, dubbed “Climax-well,” the greatest lover ever known. What begins as Penny’s shy sexual exploration quickly becomes experimenting for Maxwell’s research into pleasure products. While enduring erotically induced comas and life-threatening orgasms, Penny moves up the social ladder, meeting Max’s former lovers, actress Alouette D’Ambrosia, and U.S. President Clarissa Hind. But as he did with his previous lovers, Maxwell dumps Penny on exactly day 136 of their relationship, and then releases his Beautiful You personal care products to the public—a revolutionary event that marks men’s obsolescence and turns women into titillated zombies. While women withdraw to their rooms for days and weeks, Penny learns that Max has much more power than anyone realizes. Men in suits following Penny and a Nepalese sex witch discuss the power of trends and brands, and the choice of self-pleasure over intimate human contact all contribute to Palahniuk’s satire. His cheeky wit is at its best in this grotesque novel; his semi-erotic writing is efficacious and there are some downright beautiful scenes. (Oct.)