It’s not the first Palahniuk piece you’ve read, but Jonathan Russell Clarks threads a nice line between profile and criticism—steeping himself in the novelist’s oeuvre before meeting with him, then using Palahniuk’s latest book to guide the conversation while also allowing space to bounce his own reads off the man.

When Palahniuk talks about this moment, I sense a real note of resignation in his voice. “That […] scene is the most human scene I’ve ever written,” he says. “But nobody will appreciate that. Nobody will appreciate the pathos of that scene, because they’ll fix on the sort of dirtiness of it.”

He’s hurt. It hurts him that people rarely grasp the emotional punch of his writing, that they aren’t more moved by the grounded feelings and earned catharses of his characters. Readers don’t see how much his own personal anguish and history informs his fiction. But they can’t. They aren’t privy to enough of Palahniuk’s life to make the connections. They’re understandably distracted by the heightened plots and grotesque imagery and lurid themes. The emotions are there, certainly, but sometimes the visceral intensity overpowers the soulful underpinnings.