Haunted

hauntedTitle: Haunted.

Author: Chuck Palahniuk.

Summary: Haunted is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you’ll ever encounter. They are told by the people who have all answered an ad headlined “Artists’ Retreat: Abandon your life for three months”. They 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 theatre where they are utterly isolated from the outside world – and where heat and power and, most importantly, food are in increasingly short supply. And the more desperate the circumstances become, the more desperate the stories they tell – and the more devious their machinations to make themselves the hero of the inevitable play/movie/non-fiction blockbuster that will certainly be made from their plight.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: This book took me ages to finish, but that’s my life’s fault, and no reflection on the book. I read it in two bursts, with about a month’s gap in the middle. For shame.

The book is good. The front cover blurb sums it up perfectly:

By turns nauseating, darkly funny and brutally graphic.

If you don’t like the sound of that, don’t bother.

The pattern of the book is interesting. Each chapter consists of a slice of the main narrative, a poem written about one of the characters and a story (often autobiographical) written by the character the poem was about. Make sense? Good.

None of the characters go by their real names. They’re each given nicknames related to the story they tell. And really, there were too many characters. I couldn’t keep track of them or remember the stories for all the characters (or even know if all the characters got to tell a story). What was Mother Nature’s story? I can’t recall. Did The Duke of Vandals even get a story? I couldn’t tell you.

I do remember Saint Gut-Free’s story. The first one in the book, it’s easily the most memorable. The fact that the first chapter had me cringing and feeling sick and wanting/not-wanting/wanting to keep reading was an immediate selling point for me (i love to feel uncomfortable and grossed out, because it’s so hard to do that to me). Unfortunately, as much as i loved some of the other stories (namely Exodus, The Nightmare Box, Product Placement and Evil Spirits) none of them matched the gross factor of Guts.

The main story got pretty damn gross, though. Kudos to it. This group of nicknamed strangers locked together in an old abandoned theatre, living a self-induced tortured existence in the hopes of becoming famous once they’re (eventually, in a while, not just yet) rescued.

Overall it was an interesting read. The set up of the chapters was interesting, with the poems and stories providing breaks from a narrative that would have been depressing and lacking without them. The stories help us learn about the characters gradually, and as we need to. The poems felt kind of pointless, to be honest, and (to me) only served as a way of indicating who the story following it would be written by.

I found the book hugely quotable. A line here and there, in context and in isolation, would make me pause, re-read it and smile at its cleverness, comedy or thoughtful truth.

I don’t think i liked this book as much as Fight Club (the only other Palacniuk book i’ve read), but i think this one has more depth. Possibly. Fight Club was funny, excellent and clever, but this book is more… haunting. (See what i did there?)

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About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

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