‘Guts’ by Chuck Palahniuk

Now, I don’t know about you, but I remember the hype and furore around this story when it was released. Reports of people fainting in the audience when Palahniuk read it out loud, suggestions to ban the sick filth of it by newspapers, reading it out to your mates to make them squirm and get dizzy. Not until ‘Cat Person’ was published do I remember a short story being so hyped – and this was way before social media existed. The story itself: a boy is finding different, increasingly more extreme methods of masturbating, until one day he is wanking in his swimming pool and is attracted to the pull of the pool drain, leading to what a doctor would call, trans-anal intestinal evisceration. It’s a rough read, graphic and bloody and gross, but it’s brilliantly represented on the page. ‘Guts’ was a total masterclass in extreme literature being allowed in to hallowed spaces like the South Bank (where I saw Palahnuick read it). It was published in Playboy and if I remember correctly, also in a UK newspaper. I think this would prove to be Palahniuk’s last great work, following great novels such as Fight ClubLullaby and Survivor.

First published in Playboy, 2004, collected in Haunted, Vintage 2005

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