I was planning on doing a streak of Palahniuk books. After reading Lullaby I read Haunted, and then I was going to read Choke. However, I think I need to step away for a minute…he’s depressing me. After finishing both Lullaby and Haunted (and knowing Fight Club by heart) I’ve decided that Chuck hates humanity. Maybe not so much that he hates it, he loathes it, in particular he hates the vanity that most people have nowadays. This is really evident in Haunted. I don’t know if you can consider the book a novel so much as a collection of short stories, and, to an extent, poetry.
The stories, and central stories themselves, follow a cast of characters: Brandon Whittier, Tess Clark, Saint Gut-Free, Mother Nature, Miss America, Lady Baglady, The Earl of Slander, The Duke of Vandals, Director Denial, Reverend Godless, The Matchmaker, Sister Vigilante, Chef Assassin, Comrade Snarky, Agent Tattletale, The Missing Link, The Countess Foresight, The Baroness Frostbite, Miss Sneezy.
We are introduced to them in the very beginning, as a group of people heading off in the early hours of the morning, to go to a three month long writers retreat. They are told
they will be taken away from the world and will work together to put out the best novel of their lives. The reality is much different. Rather then going to some lush retreat on the beach, in the mountains, in the forest, they are taken to an old theatre and locked inside. Literally. They are imprisoned. They have enough food and supplies to last them their entire stay…but from the
n it gets fucked up. Rather than write, which, I don’t think any of them actually had a desire to do, they begin to act out this brutal fantasy in which one day they will be rescued. The goal is to look the worst, the most tortured, the most in need of rescue. Why? So that when they are, they can get their 15 minutes of fame. Book deals, movie deals, television. So they begin mutilating themselves, sabotaging each other (and themselves). Along the way they each tell a story of their life (the short stories aspect), each story is introduced with a poem.
Now a long, long time ago I reviewed a collection of short stories that a prof of mine wrote called Animal Rights and Pornography, Haunted reminded me of this. I mentioned in my last review that he has a pre-occupation towards sex (in particular perverted sex), and that he has an affinity for the gross. In his afterward he even mentions reading a story from the book at his signings and the amount of people that fainted during each reading. Sometimes I think that is simply his goal…to gross out the reader. In some cases this works, in other cases, its frankly dumb. I can recall one story in particular about a breather doll (used to train on for CPR) that was filled with the semen of several different men. Although that story also had one of my favorite lines, ‘All those women,” the director says, ‘all chanting and protesting against Hustler magazine, saying porno turns a woman into an object…Well,’ she says, ‘what do you think a dildo is? Or donor sperm from some clinic?” Some men may only want pictures of naked women. But some women only want a man’s dick. Or his sperm. Or his money. Both sexes have the same problem with intimacy..
He paints pictures of a world where everyone commits mass suicide (imagine Jonestown on a worldwide scale), where people try to eat a severed penis and choke on the head (no really…that happens), where a persons guts get ripped out of them through their asshole by the suction of a pool. Where we are given (in gory detail) the decomposing body of a teenager, a person liquefied in a hot springs. We are told of a group of people who resort to cannibalism (only to have the victim eat herself You fed me my own ass?), who cut off their own limbs, who create monsters simply because there has to be one.
There are no happy moments in Haunted. There is no protagonist. There is no one to root for. There is no one to sympathize with. I think that’s the problem. Without at least one sane person we can’t become invested in the story. Or maybe its just because I can’t believe that everyone is that fucking insane, that someone out there would be a voice of reason.
As a plus though? The books cover glows in the dark. Freaked me out the first time I noticed it. I was like, “Why is a screaming face glowing at me from across the room?”