Haunted: A Novel
by Chuck Palahniuk
No Mere Crap
A review by Scott Raab
The first rule of reviewing a Chuck Palahniuk book is Be Nice to Mr. Palahniuk.
Not because he sells a boatload of books, which he does, nor because he has led a rough life, which he has. No, you are nice to Mr. Palahniuk because of all his Fight Club fan boys, wild with rage, choked by love and loyalty (like Ayn Rand devotees but with tattoos and tire irons), who, unlike their guru, unable to find a voice of their own on the page, tend to act out against strangers who tar their master's sinewy genius with discernment's brush.
So I won't dismiss Palahniuk's new book, Haunted -- a "novel" consisting
of 23 "short stories" linked by "poems," a thin "narrative," and the conceit
that this whole shebang is the work of the flesh- and fame-starved prisoners
at a ghoulish writers' colony -- as mere crap. 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.
Shocking? Nah, not once you get used to the reek of relentlessly shitty prose, because every one of these dull bastards thinks and writes just like Chuck Palahniuk. But at least nobody can accuse Palahniuk of not trying. Indeed, Haunted self-consciously seeks to follow a trail of daring blazed by writers like Chaucer and Boccaccio.
Boccaccio: "...in the manner of a wild and hot-blooded stallion mounting a Parthian mare in the open fields, he satisfied his young man's passion..."
Palahniuk: "At home, he whittles the carrot into a blunt tool. He slathers it with grease and grinds his ass down on it."
See how Palahniuk's use of the present tense makes his writing come alive?
My advice would be to start with The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales and work your way up to Haunted. Slowly. Very, very slowly.
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