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Lullabyby Chuck Palahniuk
2003 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award
Synopses & Reviews
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 anthology 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.
"Somewhere inside the book's frequently hilarious flippancy there is an authentic urgency....Like Kurt Vonnegut, Mr. Palahniuk juggles nihilism and idealism with fluid, funny ease....[W]ith this fourth novel, Mr. Palahniuk further refines his ability to create parables that are as substantial as they are off-the-wall." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"The latest comic outrage from Palahniuk concerns a lethal African poem, an unwitting serial killer, a haunted-house broker, and a frozen baby. In other words, the usual Palahniuk fare....Outrageous, darkly comic fun of the sort you'd expect from Palahniuk." Kirkus Reviews
"[Lullaby shows Palahniuk is] capable of tenderness as well as outrage....It's a fun ride, but what separates this novel from Palahniuk's previous work is its emotional depth, its ability to explore the unbearable pain of losing a child just as richly as it laments our consume-or-die worldview." John Green, Booklist
"Lullaby is a very funny novel. Palahniuk, author of the cultish Fight Club, has a clever and precise way with repetitive prose riffs and shorthand wisecracks. He is a macho stylist." Steven Poole, The Guardian
"Lullaby can be tedious and even confusing, but it redeems itself. The novel ultimately intertwines and explains its twists while presenting a chilling theme with malevolent characters — characters you eventually find yourself understanding." Nicholas Thomas, USA Today
"Hilarious satire, both supernatural and scatological....But the chief significance of this novel is Palahniuk's decision to commit himself to a genre, and this horror tale of both magic and mundane modernity plants him firmly in a category where previously he existed as a genre of one." Publishers Weekly
"Though he tells it with verve, [the story] quickly begins to sound awfully one-note, if not downright repetitive....Palahniuk's comic touches, though, do work their occasional magic....Palanhiuk hasn't delivered a coherent or inventive enough vision to make believers of us. The details are marvelous to behold, but that big picture really is missing." Dan Cryer, New York Newsday
"[The] plot outline barely hints at the range of the author's thematic obsessions....Characteristic for Palahniuk, the novel's setup is more subversively engaging than the follow-through, though his writing remains so deliriously rich in ideas and entertaining in its stream-of-conscious riffing that conventions of character, plot and plausibility seem like comparatively empty anachronisms." Don McLeese, Book Magazine
"It's great. It's better than great. It's edible, this story is juicy, delightful, funny, wicked, smart, silly....With Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk delivers what can only be described as a complete critical assessment, cut down, body slam of the banality of modern critical thought. With this novel, he tears everyone a new one, and smiles while doing it." Ain't It Cool News
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Choke and the cult classic Fight Club comes a cunningly plotted novel about the ultimate verbal weapon, one that reinvents the apocalyptic thriller for modern times.
Ever heard of a culling song? It's a lullaby sung in Africa to give a painless death to the old or infirm. The lyrics of a culling song kill, whether spoken or even just thought. You can find one on page 27 of Poems and Rhymes from Around the World, an anthology that is sitting on the shelves of libraries across the country, waiting to be picked up by unsuspecting readers.
Reporter Carl Streator discovers the song's lethal nature while researching Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and before he knows it, he's reciting the poem to anyone who bothers him. As the body count rises, Streator glimpses the potential catastrophe if someone truly malicious finds out about the song. The only answer is to find and destroy every copy of the book in the country. Accompanied by a shady real-estate agent, her Wiccan assistant, and the assistants truly annoying ecoterrorist boyfriend, Streator begins a desperate cross-country quest to put the culling song to rest.
Written with a style and imagination that could only come from Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby is the latest outrage from one of our most exciting writers at work today.
About the Author
Chuck Palahniuk's four other novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, and Choke. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
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