Palahniuk's "Survivor" -- Tender's Fate?

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Palahniuk's "Survivor" -- Tender's Fate?

Postby DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 4:24 pm

In Chuck Palahniuk's Survivor, the narrator is aboard a jetliner high above Australia. He hijacked the plane and put off the passengers gently. The pilot has taken the plane to cruising altitude, put on the automated pilot and parachuted to safety. Tender, the narrator, is alone in the cockpit, telling his life's story to the flight recorder. He does not know how to fly a plane. The plane has enough fuel for him to ride for several hours before crashing. (Yes, I know autopilot doesn't work this way, but apparently Chuck did not.) Tender does not want to die. He wants to get off the plane. His psychic girlfriend has told him he will get off the plane, but Tender does not know how.

SPOILER
The last sentence of the novel makes it clear that Tender is not speaking directly into the flight recorder but has played back another recording he made earlier, apparently on a cassette player with auto-reverse function.

Palahniuk has let slip that Tender probably survives the flight, becoming the survivor of the title in more ways than one. So - how does Tender get off the plane? We are told there are no more parachutes. We are told Tender does not know how to fly. Is Tender merely an unrealiable narrator?

Thoughts? Go for it, friends. Iconny, open my mind.
Last edited by DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 5:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 4:36 pm

HOLY SHIT.


SPOLIERS:



For some reason I must have missed that last line or two all i remember is "the sky is a glorious blue"
I have been living under the assumption that he dies in the crash. Thank you Dennis for letting me know otherwise. I think I like the book even more now.






END SPOILERS
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Postby DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 5:05 pm

The first line of the book is "Testing, one, two, three." The last line of the book, after the glorious blue, is "Testing, one, two --."
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 5:10 pm

DennisMM wrote:The first line of the book is "Testing, one, two, three." The last line of the book, after the glorious blue, is "Testing, one, two --."




:oops: :oops: :oops:
D'OH
Of course!!!

Ok I'm start to re-read this tonight.
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Postby DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 5:16 pm

You understood the ideas behind The Matrix and sequels, so you ought to be able to tell me how this works.
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Postby Coldfire24 on Mon May 22, 2006 5:27 pm

Dennis...I never even thought about that....geez I like that book more now. I love happy endings. When is his next book coming out? I didn't like the last one too much...I appreciate he was doing something different but I just didn't like it.
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Postby Keepcoolbutcare on Mon May 22, 2006 5:27 pm

SPOILERS

2nd to last (first?) page...

"you should know the passengers were put off the plane in Port Vila, in the Republic of Vanuatu, in exchange for a half-dozen parachutesand more tiny bottles of gin.
And after we were back in the air and headed for Australia, then the pilot parachuted to his freedom."

So there are five other parachutes.

Now, this was supposedly put up on the old message boards by Chuckles himself...

Chuck Palahnuik wrote:The end of Survivor isn't nearly so complicated. It's noted on page 7 (8?) that a pile of valuable offerings has been left in the front of the passenger cabin. This pile includes a cassette recorder. Even before our hero starts to dictate his story -- during the few minutes he's supposed to be taking a piss -- he's actually in the bathroom dictating the last chapter into the cassette recorder. It's just ranting, nothing important plot-wise,
and it can be interrupted at any point by the destruction of the plane. The minute the fourth engine flames out, he starts the cassette talking, then bails out, into Fertility's waiting arms (she's omniscient, you know). The rest of the book is just one machine whining and bitching to another machine. The crash will destroy the smaller recorder, but the surviving black box will make it appear that Tender is dead."


There's also the discrepancy between the

"Testing, testing. One, two, three."

and the final lines

"Testing, testing, one, two-"

Notice the differences.

I still say it's open to interpretation, one of the most fabu open-endings in literature.

Great topic for discussion tho'!
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Postby Iconoclastica on Mon May 22, 2006 5:34 pm

SPOILERS

haha Dennis you rock . . .

well, for a while I considered that it might have been a psychotic hallucinogenic state and that the plane never actually makes it off the ground, or that it never even existed (explaining the recording, as well as sort of creating a theme along the lines of the ending of the novel Fight Club . . . like "this is what I'm writing to you as the nice men in white coats give me my haloperidol"). The only reason this made sense to me was because of the fact that the black box recorders don't last longer than thirty minutes, and as you said, this was a separate recording . . . I know it seems sort of cop-out-ish, but I don't know, it sort of fits in a number of ways. I know it isn't true, but I wouldn't put it past Palahniuk to play that kind of game with his reader's head, especially without ever even divulging of such, just sort of leaving it as a trail of crumbs that might get eaten up by the animals in the woods, never to be discovered by anyone, or might not.

My brain's in a million places at the moment, so I assure I'll get back to you on further theories of mine on other parts of the book when I'm a little less in 16-hour a day study mode, but I must say, the potential direction of this thread makes me extremely happy :-)
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Postby Nachokoolaid on Mon May 22, 2006 5:40 pm

I never realized it, but that quote up there from Chuck himself seals the deal for me. Tender lives!
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 6:02 pm

So all that stuff about him thinking to himself he's to stupid to figure a way out of things is just bullshit to throw people after Tender off the scent?

I assumed Fertility telling him he was going make it off was a lie so he didn't try and do anything differently. Course the aforementioned evidence I was apparently to dumb to get has changed how I view this now.
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Postby DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 6:10 pm

Keepcoolbutcare wrote:SPOILERS

2nd to last (first?) page...

"you should know the passengers were put off the plane in Port Vila, in the Republic of Vanuatu, in exchange for a half-dozen parachutesand more tiny bottles of gin.
And after we were back in the air and headed for Australia, then the pilot parachuted to his freedom."

So there are five other parachutes.



[Jack Bauer]
DAMN IT!
[/Jack Bauer]

I haven't read the book in a while, but I was piqued by the Chuck discussion in the EFBR and seeing the book recently, here in the library. I didn't page through it, damn my bad memory, or I would have caught the half-dozen parachutes. (Was the number to make them think he's even more nuts than he seems?)

Honestly, if Tender knows nothing about using a parachute he is gonna be in some bad shape when he lands, no matter what. Also, how does he get out of the plane? It's very difficult to open a door at altitude, because they have to be pushed out before pulling back -- it's a safety feature. Does he blow an emergency exit window? How does he exit at several hundred miles per hour?

Chuck's spreadin' it a bit thin here.

I assumed the difference in the opening and closing was that the plane hit as the cassette player moved into autoplay and switched back to the beginning of the tape -- the "three" was cut off in the crash. Otherwise, why would he say testing, testing again? Now that Iconny has told me about the limited recording time of a black box, my theory is shot even further to hell.
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Postby raasnio on Mon May 22, 2006 6:14 pm

This is the only book I've ever read by him. I had forgotten the ending, though when I read the title for the thread my first thought was that he lived. Since it has been about 6 years since I read it, I'm glad to be reminded of how it ended.

Wasn't this supposed to be a film as well? Starring Kevin Spacey? Or am I wrong?
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Postby DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 6:21 pm

That was what I'd heard, raasnio, but the book isn't very suited to film. Most of Palhniuk's aren't. Imagine doing Invisible Monsters, in which the main character is almost never seen or heard except for first-person v.o.
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Postby raasnio on Mon May 22, 2006 6:26 pm

I can agree that they probably aren't suited for film, but an independent film could surely be attempted with Survivor, right? It doesn't need a big budget.
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Postby Iconoclastica on Mon May 22, 2006 6:35 pm

DennisMM wrote:I assumed the difference in the opening and closing was that the plane hit as the cassette player moved into autoplay and switched back to the beginning of the tape -- the "three" was cut off in the crash. Otherwise, why would he say testing, testing again? Now that Iconny has told me about the limited recording time of a black box, my theory is shot even further to hell.


Yeah, black boxes only have the means to retain 30 minutes of information on a continuous reel (specifically, it would be the last 30 minutes of the flight before a crash). I'm not 100% clear on how they work, but I've seen this from a number of sources. I guess it would be possible that Palahniuk just didn't take this into account, but I'd like to think that he did his research and that it was a stealthy clue into the innerworkings of the character and structure of the novel
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Postby DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 7:06 pm

so we're hearing his story, but most of it is being deleted because it's being recorded over? Honestly, I don't understand.
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Postby Coldfire24 on Mon May 22, 2006 7:12 pm

Maybe he's talking really fast and we can't really know that because its in print...
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Postby Iconoclastica on Mon May 22, 2006 7:24 pm

DennisMM wrote:so we're hearing his story, but most of it is being deleted because it's being recorded over? Honestly, I don't understand.


No, sorry I wasn't clear. From what I can tell, we're hearing his entire story, but it's not being recorded by the black box - it's being recorded by some other recording device (I'd imagine something that he brought along with him inentionally, and turned off intentionally when the plane was supposedly going down). That was my justification for why the entire thing might be a fabrication (whether conscious or unconscious), or why there's something else specifically hidden between the lines.


EDIT: According to Wikipedia, cockpit voice recorders are required to record a minimum of 30 minutes (the tape circulates and old audio information is overwritten every 30 minutes), though more recent ones (I think since the late 90s) can record up to 2 hours worth of audio. Either way, I doubt that the entire book would fit even on 2 hours worth of recording, nonetheless the more common 30 min.
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Postby Pudie on Mon May 22, 2006 7:45 pm

If and when this is made into a movie, I hope they keep it open ended like the book.
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 7:48 pm

Right, so Tender records his story onto one recorder, he then goes to the bathroom and records some crazy shit that he will play for the black box so when investigators find it they assume Tender died ranting as the plane crashed.
If that's the case why did he record the whole story and talk constantly about recording it all into the black box if he's never going to actually play it to the black box?
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Postby Iconoclastica on Mon May 22, 2006 7:51 pm

TonyWilson wrote:Right, so Tender records his story onto one recorder, he then goes to the bathroom and records some crazy shit that he will play for the black box so when investigators find it they assume Tender died ranting as the plane crashed.
If that's the case why did he record the whole story and talk constantly about recording it all into the black box if he's never going to actually play it to the black box?


No, I'm saying that he recorded nothing into the black box . . . he's hardly sane, why would the logic/rationality of the whole thing matter to him? I dunno, it's just my crackpot theory . . .

still, there's either a mistake or a incredible explanation for the recording issue
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 8:02 pm

Ok, so (and forgive me if I'm being thick here), Tender doesn't record anything into the black box, but he imagines he does?
Then why is the last line the same as the first except cut short?
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Postby DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 8:04 pm

At first I assumed we were hearing the flight recorder tapes that were found after the plane crashed. Then I believed we were hearing Tender in the cockpit as he told his story -- but that part of it had to be on tape. The idea that he might be a completely unreliable narrator stops me cold. Palahniuk's narrators do tend to be mentally unstable, but I don't imagine he'd have one fabricate an entire book.

Would he?
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 8:06 pm

DennisMM wrote:At first I assumed we were hearing the flight recorder tapes that were found after the plane crashed. Then I believed we were hearing Tender in the cockpit as he told his story -- but that part of it had to be on tape. The idea that he might be a completely unreliable narrator stops me cold. Palahniuk's narrators do tend to be mentally unstable, but I don't imagine he'd have one fabricate an entire book.

Would he?


I'm sure the first line being repeated is a clue, to what I'm not exactly sure, but I'd hate to think the whole thing is a lie...what would be the point?
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Postby Iconoclastica on Mon May 22, 2006 8:10 pm

:sigh: this has been a question that's haunted me for a while . . . any other ideas as to what would justify the black box scenario, despite the 30 minute limit? . . . maybe we're meant to sit and wonder what really happened (or didn't happen) and can never know, and that was part of the catch . . . or maybe Chuck really didn't know about the 30 minute limit :? . . . as per usual, I'm so torn.
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Postby Pudie on Mon May 22, 2006 8:10 pm

From what I understand, he said it all into the black box recorder, went into the bathroom and recorded the last part, came back and played that for the recorder, and jumped out.
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Postby Iconoclastica on Mon May 22, 2006 8:15 pm

Pudie wrote:From what I understand, he said it all into the black box recorder, went into the bathroom and recorded the last part, came back and played that for the recorder, and jumped out.


But it's not possible. We'd never have gotten the first few hours of his tale - it would have been repeatedly erased every half hour, until all that was left was the final half hour of the story.

Unless.

Maybe we're supposed to realize that it was all erased. Maybe the story is his account as a narrator, alive after the fact, not a transcription of the black box recording. The painful irony is that his message was never discovered by the police as intended, besides that final half hour - the rest was lost.
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 8:18 pm

Ah, well, Chuck might know about the blackbox time limit but Tender wouldn't would he?, It's a cruel joke but perhaps he spends all that time recording his life only to have it all erased with the only thing left of being 30 minutes of ranting.
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 8:19 pm

Great minds Iconoclastica, great minds.
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Postby Iconoclastica on Mon May 22, 2006 8:24 pm

TonyWilson wrote:Great minds Iconoclastica, great minds.


IPAMPILASH, indeed . . . Now that feels like something Palahniuk would do - I think we hit the nail on the head :-)
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Postby TonyWilson on Mon May 22, 2006 8:28 pm

It's certainly his sense of humour. Anyone else think it might be that? Or is it just us two that are this clever? :lol: :roll:
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Postby DennisMM on Mon May 22, 2006 10:28 pm

It still leaves open the source of the story and why it ends abruptly with what appears to be the crash of the plane and destruction of the cassette recorder. Which is not to say it isn't a good idea.
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Postby Iconoclastica on Mon May 22, 2006 11:00 pm

DennisMM wrote:It still leaves open the source of the story and why it ends abruptly with what appears to be the crash of the plane and destruction of the cassette recorder. Which is not to say it isn't a good idea.


Okay, here's what I think . . . again, it might be screwy like the stuff I was wrong about before, so I apologize in advance:
I agree with the suggestion that he jumps to safety with one of the spare parachutes, and the plane subsequently crashes. The black box is discovered, but only the last 30 min of his rant is ever heard by the police. The source of the story that we are reading is the narrator himself, not any recording . . . it's not a transcription of what was recorded, because then we'd be missing most of it. It's an account, in the perspective of Tender, of exactly what he thought was on that recording.

Too far fetched again?


Man, my head's a scary place right now . . . :-p
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Postby DennisMM on Tue May 23, 2006 10:38 am

I'd gladly go into your head, Iconny. Not THAT way. Like the mullet guy who has only traveled back in time ONCE before he placed the ad for a companion. Like Fantastic Voyage.
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Re:

Postby Ribbons on Sun Nov 01, 2009 4:45 pm

Keepcoolbutcare wrote:Now, this was supposedly put up on the old message boards by Chuckles himself...

Chuck Palahnuik wrote:The end of Survivor isn't nearly so complicated. It's noted on page 7 (8?) that a pile of valuable offerings has been left in the front of the passenger cabin. This pile includes a cassette recorder. Even before our hero starts to dictate his story -- during the few minutes he's supposed to be taking a piss -- he's actually in the bathroom dictating the last chapter into the cassette recorder. It's just ranting, nothing important plot-wise,
and it can be interrupted at any point by the destruction of the plane. The minute the fourth engine flames out, he starts the cassette talking, then bails out, into Fertility's waiting arms (she's omniscient, you know). The rest of the book is just one machine whining and bitching to another machine. The crash will destroy the smaller recorder, but the surviving black box will make it appear that Tender is dead."


There's also the discrepancy between the

"Testing, testing. One, two, three."

and the final lines

"Testing, testing, one, two-"

Notice the differences.

I still say it's open to interpretation, one of the most fabu open-endings in literature.

Great topic for discussion tho'!


Interesting. When I was reading I had assumed maybe Fertility was telling the truth, but in a somewhat ambiguous way. Like the record of who he really is survives his role in the public eye. Although the machines talking to each other adds an interesting, slightly meta, wrinkle to the whole story, like the only way to free yourself from public scrutiny is to remove yourself from it entirely.

I kind of like that ending, if that's really what Palahniuk intended. The only thing that complicates that interpretation is that I don't think the last chapter is exactly the same as the first. Anyway it was a pretty cool book, definitely the best Palahniuk I've read so far, and it makes for a good discussion.
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