“For a while Mitzi had called her work “politics”. Despite all the fuss about universal child care and income inequality, killing was the real measure of a woman’s progress.”
I read Chuck Palahnuik’s book in a day. I honestly don’t remember ever achieving such a feat. Granted that I usually read longer books. Chuck is the guy famous for writing Fight Club. Warning though: this book, The Invention of Sound, is not a book for beginners. Chuck doesn’t spoon-feed clarity. He’s not interested in that. The book has no chapters; just three parts. Nor does it have the now common declaration of which protagonist the story is being told from, when they have more than one. He doesn’t do that. He moves between Grant Foster, a man mourning the loss of her daughter who was kidnapped seventeen years earlier, and Mitzi, a sound producer who makes sound effects for movies. Chuck grabs you from the first page and he never lets you go. The story is a thriller without leaving you breathless like James Patterson.
I got fascinated by the theory of limbic resonance the minute I read about it. Living in a household with three dogs, I too have often wondered about the howling. Why do they do it? What starts the whole thing? And why do they all participate? Mitzi explains about it being a primal call that they have no choice but to respond to and they inadvertently continue, trapped in its trance, long after the initial trigger has died off.
Keep telling yourself that it’s only a movie…
That’s the bone chilling sub-heading of the book. You start off with that question lingering and thinking of all the memorable screams from movies in your head. Then comes Mitzi’ a disturbed woman on a quest to create a scream that is as captivating in humans such that it “make everyone in the whole world scream at the exact same time”. In one conversation she mentions how technology is making it harder and harder to achieve that because it requires a collective, which can’t be achieved from solo watching now common through streaming services.
It is the energetic exchange between two or more people. To me this was the main takeaway. The online experience simply does not activate the limbic system in our brains. Studies have shown that this leads to an array of issues from depression to even death in new borns. The limbic resonance is our primal response to each other, to sympathise and connect with our humanity. In a movie theatre, the presence of others makes the experience much more impactful. A joke is funnier when other also laugh along, and a scary scene scarier when other scream and gasp along. The collective has a role to play in helping us reach deeper into our humanity. And that apparently, makes us healthier. Sadly, social media is taking this life-sustaining experience from us.
Back to the book, Mitzi knew that a screening of a scream she had produced at the Oscars could be catastrophic. In the end she sees the culmination of ‘her work’, but she did not anticipate the results and the revelation that she is ultimately not the killer she thought she was. And she is instrumental in helping Foster find answers to his life’s mystery, “what happened to his daughter?”
I give this book a solid five. I’m working my way backwards through the published works of Chuck because I think he is really a genius.