Bowie's Greatest: Chuck Palahniuk on 'Young Americans'

3.13.2013

By Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk recalls how Bowie's 'Young Americans' scored him his first book contract.

(Young Americans, 1975)

In the summer of 1986, I’d just graduated from college and had gotten an apartment one block away from the Civic Stadium in Portland, Ore. One afternoon, while I sat on the building stoop drinking beer with my neighbors, we listened to the first few minutes of “Young Americans.” Bowie was appearing that night at the stadium, and they did sound checks all afternoon, playing that one song. The song would start, then stop abruptly, then begin again. It played over and over, blasting the neighborhood. I remember the sunshine, the song, and how everything in the world seemed possible with a college degree.

Ten years later, disillusioned with the power of my B.A. in journalism, I snuck into a fiction writing conference, hoping to meet an editor from a big New York publishing house. The conference was held in a Seattle hotel, and my targeted editor was in the lobby bar, besieged by hopeful would-be novelists. The bar had a jukebox, so I dropped $10 into it and pressed the same selection for every quarter. The song “Young Americans” came on. It played again and again, eventually driving everyone out of the bar -- everyone except the editor, Gerry Howard. He bought my first novel, Fight Club, and 15 books later, he still publishes me today.

Chuck Palahniuk is the author of Fight Club, Survivor, and Lullaby

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