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Haunted: A Novelby Chuck Palahniuk
You've gotta love the reviews piling up for Haunted: "provokes a lot more nausea and eye rolls than deep thoughts" (Booklist); "all but dares the reader to be seasick" (New York Times); "a catalog of atrocities" (Library Journal); and my personal favorite, "Stomach-churning horror that takes a bit too much joy in its diabolic machinations" (Kirkus), which I think should be the front-cover blurb of the paperback version. One easily imagines Palahniuk cackling with delight
"Nothing mere about it: Haunted is crap of a high order, flung fresh against the wall and obsessively smeared by a deeply troubled fellow. As his cardboard characters' internment gets more grim — no heat, no food, no exit — Chuckles performs his standard striptease: grotesque sex, murder, self-mutilation, and cannibalism." Scott Raab, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
Haunted is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of them, to be precise. Twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you'll ever encounter — sometimes all at once. They are told by people who have answered an ad headlined "Writers' 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 in 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.
Haunted is on one level a satire of reality television — The Real World meets Alive. It draws from a great literary tradition — The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron, the English storytellers in the Villa Diodati who produced, among other works, Frankenstein — to tell an utterly contemporary tale of people desperate that their story be told at any cost. Appallingly entertaining, Haunted is Chuck Palahniuk at his finest — which means his most extreme and his most provocative.
"What elevates Palahniuk's best novels (e.g., Fight Club) above their shocking premises is his ability to find humanity in deeply grotesque characters. But such generosity of spirit is not evident in his latest, which charts the trials of a group of aspiring writers brought together for a three-month writer's retreat in an abandoned theater. The novel intersperses the writers' poems and short stories with tales of the indignities they heap upon themselves after deciding to turn their lives into a 'true-life horror story with a happy ending.' They lock themselves in the theater, reasoning that once they're found, they'll all become rich and famous. They raise the stakes of their story by first depriving themselves of phones, and then of food and electricity; eventually they cut off their own fingers, toes and unmentionables before they start dying off and eating each other. Palahniuk tells his story with such blithe disregard for these characters that it's hard not to wish he had dispensed with the novel altogether and published, instead, the 23 short stories that pop up throughout the book. For instance, 'Obsolete,' about a young girl about to commit state-mandated suicide, and 'Slumming,' about rich couples who pretend to be homeless, play so deftly with expectations and have an emotional core so surprising that they consistently, powerfully transcend their macabre premises to showcase the heart beating beneath the horrors. Agent, Edward Hibbert at Donadio & Olson. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[W]hile a number of the stories here are ingenious, in a devilish sort of way, the constant barrage of wicked sadism soon palls. Stomach-churning horror that takes a bit too much joy in its diabolic machinations." Kirkus Reviews
"None of Chuck Palahniuk's books are for the faint of heart. But Haunted may be his most outrageous yet....Palahniuk's stories in Haunted all explore...the seemingly unappeasable human hunger for narrative and what it teaches us about the human heart." St. Petersburg Times
"[An] over-the-top gore fest....
"Mr. Palahniuk all but dares the reader to be seasick....Like Neil LaBute and Todd Solondz, he can turn the revenge of the nerds into a bold feat of liberation. Or he can throw in one dead dog too many, which is what happens here." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"The short stories would work if taken singly and at intervals, but strung together they become a catalog of atrocities. Palahniuk is a clever and inventive writer, but this book is recommended only for...readers with strong stomachs and morbid dispositions." Library Journal
"To produce a tract on the cultural depravity that's devouring culture, Palahniuk would have been better off writing a snappy essay; as for this work of fiction, even the most ardent of his fans may have trouble mucking through this world of ingrates." San Francisco Chronicle
"Palahniuk's latest is not the best of his work, but it is not the worst, either. Devoted fans of his creepy hyper-reality fiction will surely find something in it to recommend this work..." BookReporter.com
"Frequently entertaining [and] often appalling....There are paragraphs here — entire pages, in fact — that are as disgusting as anything I've ever read. Truly vivid and harrowing (and often quite funny)." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[A]ll the characters share the distinctively choppy writing style of Chuck Palahniuk, as well as his grim world view and fetishistic attraction to suffering....I've recommended this book to a few people, but they are all a little bent." Seattle Times
"All of the stories are written in pretty much the same style and tone, and while the writing occasionally has a certain bug-zapping crispness to it, it's not nearly as amusing as the author thinks....Haunted has plenty of guts, but little glory." Chicago Sun-Times
Made up of 23 of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales readers will ever encounter, Haunted is Palahniuk at his finest — which means his most extreme and his most provocative.
About the Author
Chuck Palahniuk's six novels are the bestselling Diary, Lullaby, and Fight Club (which was made into a film by director David Fincher), Survivor, Invisible Monsters, and Choke. He is also the author of the nonfiction profile of Portland, Fugitives and Refugees, published as part of the Crown Journeys series, and the nonfiction collection Stranger Than Fiction. He lives in Washington State.
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