Review: Pygmy

I really liked Pygmy.  It’s Palahnuik’s brand of demented satire, only this time it’s aimed at traditional American ideologies.  Here, a group of youngsters from a far off communist state are sent to America as exchange students.  It doesn’t matter what country they’re from, just that their native land is the pinnacle of everything America isn’t.  The kids are drones that have been conditioned almost since birth to carry out the will of their hyper-socialist state.  Basically, they’re everything right-wing America is afraid of.

There’s plenty of humor in pre-pubescent communist killing machines infiltrating Middle America and plotting to destroy it.  Scenes of the ultra-left country that Pygmy comes from show the flaws of that system, but so-called “mainstream” America is what’s on stage here.  Through Pygmy’s eyes we see everything bad about ourselves.  Ultra-consumerism, over-indulgence, religious corruption, greed, corporate culture, social gossip, and dysfunctional family dynamics are all on display.  In other words, the traditional American ideal is a sham, and Pygmy provides the perspective to see it.

Iconic American rituals are seen on Pygmy’s journey.  We see a school dance, a church baptism, trips to Wal-Mart, and a science fair.  There’s even a mock U.N. meeting performed by the students that’s particularly twisted.  These scenes along with flashbacks to Pygmy’s homeland show that both right and left-leaning systems are flawed and wrong.  One is stern and cruel while the other is hypocritical and corrupt.  And when these polar opposite cultures interact, they never seem to fully understand one another.  The miscommunication and faux pas are funny, and I thought they served to shed more light on the schism of old politics (and how they’re carried on to this day).

And all that isn’t even taking into consideration Palahnuik’s style in Pygmy.  He’s written the entire thing in broken English, the way a boy like Pygmy would say things.  Some may find it hard to follow, but I didn’t.  Mixed in is the usual wordplay you can expect from Palahnuik.  He’s taken careful steps to weave lots of thematic phrases into the language, like references to breasts, martial arts, the periodic table, and quotes from various revolutionaries/madmen from the 20th century.  The character of Pygmy always finds interesting ways to talk about his situation and the people around him.  That character along with the political imagery made this book very entertaining.

Get it here:


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