Friday, August 04, 2006

Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk

(hb; 2005)

From the inside flap:

Haunted... is made up of stories: twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tale you'll ever encounter – sometimes all at once. They are told by people who have answered an ad headlined 'Writer's Retreat: Abandon Your Life for Three Months,' and who are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of 'real life' that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them. But 'here' turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theater where they are utterly isolated from the outside world – and where heat and power and, most important, food are increasingly short supply. And the more desperate the circumstances become, the more extreme the stories they tell – and the more devious their machinations become to make themselves the hero of the inevitable play/movie/nonfiction blockbuster that will surely be made from their plight...”


Twenty-three writers with troubling, often foul, secrets are brought together to what they think is a writer's retreat, only to discover that they're in a Lord of the Flies situation (largely exacerbated by their own intentional acts of sabotage). Brought together, manipulated and dominated by Brandon Whittier, who may be the most foul of them all, the writers write what might be their “masterpiece” tales, all of which are autobiographical; many of these tales are nasty enough to make easily-queasy readers lose their lunches (as some listeners did during Palahniuk's Haunted book-tour readings, particularly during the Saint Gut-Free pool masturbation scene).

Echoes of Palahniuk's earlier novels appear: Lullaby, which had a malevolent Earth-First hippie named Oyster in it – there's a passing mention of boy named Oyster in Haunted; also, there's a vaguely Fight Club-ish element in one of the writers' tales.

Your typical Palahniuk novel, this, with an ongoing fascination for bodily functions and fluids, fractured stories making up its structure, plenty of ghoulish cleverness, and an end-twist so out there I sat upright and nearly yelled, “What the f***?”

Recommended, for those with strong constitutions and a really dark sense of humor.

1 comment:

megastein said...

Loved Lullaby so I might give this author another try. Choke was a huge disappointment and Fight Club just wasn't my style. His talent is obvious in Invisible Monsters, so perhaps I'll pick up another Palahiuk book and try again.

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