Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lullaby, by Chuck Palahniuk

(hb; 2002)

From the jacket flap:

“Carl Streator is a solitary widower and fortyish newspaper reporter who is assigned to do a series of articles on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In the course of this investigation, he discovers an ominous thread: the presence on the scenes of these deaths of the anthologies Poems and Rhymes Around the World, opened to the page where there appears an African chant or ‘culling song.’ This song turns out to be lethal when spoken or even thought in anyone’s direction – and once it lodges in Streator’s brain, he finds himself becoming an involuntary serial killer. So he teams up with a real estate broker, one Helen Hoover Boyle, who specializes in selling haunted (or ‘distressed’) houses (wonderfully high turnover), and who lost a child to the culling song years before.

"Together they set out on a cross-country odyssey. Their goal is to remove all copies of the book from libraries, lest this deadly verbal virus spread and wipe out human life.

"Accompanying them on their road trip are Helen’s assistant, Mona Sabbat, an exquisitely earnest Wiccan, and her sardonic ecoterrorist boyfriend, Oyster, who is running a scam involving fake liability claims and business blackmail. Welcome to the new nuclear family...”

Review:

Another edgy literary puzzle from Palahniuk, who specializes in this odd journalistic style. There’s lots of pitch black humor, necrophilia, off-kilter characters (especially Oyster, the antagonistic Earth-First hippie), unexpected bizarre twists and an ending that, true to Palahniukian form, brings the reader back to the start of the tale.

Not as focused as Fight Club, it’s better than Diary and Survivor (both of which I greatly admire).

If you have a morbid sense of humor, you should read this. I literally howled with laughter while doing so.

Great stuff from a great writer.

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