Chuck Palahniuk knows firsthand the ways grief can mess with a man, says David Sheff in Playboy. The author of Fight Club, Choke, and other violent thrillers, Palahniuk had to contend with his own shocking tragedy in 1999, when his father and his father’s girlfriend were brutally murdered by the girlfriend’s former lover. Palahniuk says the only way he could deal with the gruesome crime was to immerse himself in every detail, like a detective. “I just went out and collected everything about the murder I could find. I went to see the autopsy photos and the crime scene. I read all the stories and talked to all the reporters. If my sister calls and asks, ‘What were Dad’s last 20 minutes alive like?’ I can dispassionately say, ‘He was shot at this angle.’ I didn’t have any emotion attached to it. It was abstract.” The distancing, Palahniuk realizes now, was his only way of coping with his emotional devastation. Driving home from his father’s funeral, he recalls, he wanted to slam on the brakes and lie facedown in the street until someone—anyone—came along to help him. “I wanted somebody in authority to hold me, comfort me, and say all those clichéd things—‘You’re okay. Everything is going to be all right.’ They’d feel the side of my neck for a pulse. I’d feel their warm fingers. There’d be a physical reassurance I was alive.”
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