Reading the Afterlife

This morning I listened to Chuck Palahniuk talk with Kerri Miller on MPR’s Midmorning.  His latest book, Damned, is written from the perspective of a dead girl, and the first excerpt he read from the book took on the afterlife and how it feels to be dead.  Madison narrates the story from Hell, and it is interspersed with asides that start “Are You There, Satan? It’s me, Madison.”  Sounds like Palahniuk’s usual subversive self is at work again, and I can’t wait to read it.

Though to be honest, I guess I have a strange affection for books narrated from the afterlife.  I hadn’t noticed before, but when I started listing books in my head I realized that off the top of my head I could think of several: The Lovely Bones, If I Stay, Sum (which I blogged about here), and Please Ignore Vera Dietz.

I mentioned Please Ignore Vera Dietz briefly in this post about teen fiction that addresses addiction, but I skipped the the fact that among the book’s several alternating narrators is Vera’s late friend Charlie, “the dead kid.”  He describes the afterlife as such:

“You’re surprised? You had a different idea of the afterlife? This goes against your religion?  Well, what did you really know anyway? No one living understands dying, and no matter what they dream up–from harps and heaven to pickles and Big Macs–they can’t prove a thing until they’re on this side.”

I guess that’s it.  When we don’t know something, there’s plenty of room for making up stories about it.  Those of you who read teen fiction may want to check out some of the titles on this list for various takes on what the fictional afterlife.  Everyone else: listen to Chuck Palahniuk read from his new book.  Tell me it doesn’t sound intriguing.

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