Lucy Black, July 10, 2009 (view all comments by Lucy Black)
First of all, Chuck Palahniuk isn’t for everyone. People who’re squeamish in regards to sex or violence need not apply. That said, often it is the very gritty, graphic nature of his writing that brings his stories so vividly to life. He is an author who writes about the uglier things in this world, and it is impossible to make notions like addition or abuse come to life using innocuous, flowery prose.
Haunted starts out with a great premise: a secluded retreat where a group of writers are to remain until they’ve completed their masterpiece. The catch?-- the people in charge literally won’t let anyone leave until they’ve written something, and after awhile human nature starts to rear its ugly head. The novel’s structure is unique in that the main plot (that of the writers and their collective fates) is interspersed between the stories written by the individual characters, as well as a poem proceeding each story, which gives tells a little personal history. Unfortunately, where Palahniuk’s explicit style succeeds in novels like Choke or Fight Club, it descends into gratuitousness in Haunted. Perhaps due to the bizarre format, there is only minimal character development, and the writers’ tales do little to create reader-sympathy for them. Although a couple of the shorts really engraved themselves in my mind, overall I found myself bored and annoyed with the people in this book, and even after several attempts I never managed to finish reading it. I would not recommend Haunted unless you’re merely reading for the shock effect that’s made the novel so infamous.
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bbyhershey, January 5, 2008 (view all comments by bbyhershey)
This novel is filled with some of the most entertaining stories i have ever read. the author has truly developed each character to the full extent. I would recomend this book to anyone.
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Carla, December 7, 2006 (view all comments by Carla)
To quote the referenced Esquire review:
"...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..."
As a book review--as an art review of any kind--this one is deeply flawed for two reasons:
1. It gleefully trashes the novel because, it seems, the reviewer dislikes the author. Saying in any review that an author is "deeply troubled" and calling his cadre of work "his standard striptease" is unprofessional--hiding trees of pettiness in a forest of x number of words, written for an editor.
2. The second part of this quote shows that this reviewer, despite his insinuations to the contrary, is not familiar with Palahniuk's work. For example, his astounding novels Lullaby and DIary do not contain "grotesque sex...self-mutilation, and cannibalism"; the murders that do occur in Lullaby are not committed, to write in the vernacular of Haunted's characters, on-screen. Neither are they graphic in the least.
Palahniuk has a mastery of the English language, and of the interiors of the human heart. He knows it's dark in there, and wants to show you. Perhaps this referenced Esquire reviewer rejected what he saw reflected.
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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
by Chris Bolton
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"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.)
"Review A Day"
by Scott Raab, Esquire,
"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." (read the entire Esquire review)
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[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."
by St. Petersburg Times,
"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."
"[An] over-the-top gore fest....[S]ometimes very clever and pitch-black funny. But Haunted provokes a lot more nausea and eye rolls than deep thoughts....[T]his novel will please Palahniuk's hardcore fans and few others."
by Janet Maslin, The New York Times,
"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."
by Library Journal,
"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."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"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."
"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..."
by Minneapolis Star Tribune,
"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)."
by Seattle Times,
"[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."
by Chicago Sun-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."
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.
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