Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey is widely known as one of the Chuck Palahniuk’s most complicated reads, a mind-blowing “out-there” novel in what is typically considered a very extreme bibliography. The unconventional narrative style, plethora of contradicting narrators, and indecipherable subject matter all combine into one oral biography of a complex, incomprehensible man by the name of Buster “Rant” Casey—a man who liked to be bitten by venomous animals, a man who could discern a person’s life story from the sweat on their flesh, and a man who, even after death, taught us how we will always be slightly different versions of ourselves to different people.
The novel begins with the recollections of a car dealer on an airplane as he sees the person he will have to sit with for the duration of the flight: some cowboy hillbilly with arms so heavily scarred that, like a car crash, he can’t help but stare at. He soon learns that this terrifying man is, in fact, Chet Casey: the father of the infamous Buster Casey—the deceased maniac Nighttimer who was the “superspreader” of a rabies epidemic that sweeped the nation. And thus, the biography of Rant Casey begins.
From there, the book chronicles Rant’s childhood antics, from him actively searching out rabid dogs to bite him and give him rabies to him faking a chronic erection to get out of school. He walked in neighborhoods in his Boy Scout outfit to find stash after stash of rare, uncirculated million-dollar coins, then used this money to turn his small-town Middleton’s economy on its head. In one memorable incident, Rant was in charge of providing the “scare factors” of the annual local Haunted House, such as brains, or cooked elbow macaroni mixed with cold butter, and eyeballs, or hard-boiled eggs of various sizes. However, apparently Rant didn’t get the memo, so instead of macaroni, he found real brains from the local butcher, and instead of eggs, Rant used real cows’ and goats’ and pigs’ eyes. The kids were none the wiser in the dark confines of the House, but when they got out, they found their costumes, faces, and hands smeared with the thick black stickiness of old blood. And, thus, the community began to call Buster “Rant,” after the sound a child would make when they were about to puke.
Even here, in the beginning of his life, there is that sense of seeing different versions of Rant. People interpreted his actions differently; some, like Polk Perry, believed that the Haunted House Incident, for example, was “ a surefire sign the Casey boy would grow up to be a killer” (Palahniuk 58), while others, such as Lowell Richards, thought that “[Rant] was trying to find something real in the world…I think Rant wanted everybody to experience just one real adventure” (60-61). Everything he did, it was always the same result: some condemned him for it; others tried to take the blame away. Even when he grew up, even when he learned to use a person’s misconstrued interpretation of him as a human...