Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review: Haunted

It had been too long since I'd last read me some Chuck Palahniuk and Haunted had been sitting neglected on my shelves for far too long, so in an effort to do a bit of a year-end clean out, I picked this one up and gave it a go.

If you've never read anything by Chuck Palahniuk, his stuff is, to say the least, interesting.  His characters often tend to be folks who are fed up with the normal, run of the mill life and wind up rebelling in violent or illicit ways against the norms of society.  In some ways, Haunted, and the characters that populate the tale, fit this description; but in many ways do just the opposite by engaging in sometimes extreme behavior so that they fit in with society's image of what their life should be like.

Haunted is a book comprised of 23 short stories "written" by the characters who have all answered an ad for a writers retreat.  Assuming the retreat will be some cushy place where the writers can idle in luxury and miraculously create their masterpiece, the diverse and strange group of "artists" are woefully unprepared when they discover that they are being held against their will in a situation that is more like "Survivor" meets the Donnor Party than it is Villa Diodati.

Once the group discovers that they are trapped until they can create their masterpiece, there seems to be group effort to make their living situation as dire and horrible as possible so that when the media discovers them, their personal survival story will be all the more interesting and marketable.  From there, characters take to extremes to make themselves the "star" of the story by any means necessary, which often includes the removal of body parts.

As time passes, and behaviors become more extreme, the short stories themselves become increasingly intense.  Palahniuk has a strong gift for writing that will completely suck you in, often against your will. There were many times during Haunted that I was queasy from the content, but couldn't bring myself to stop reading.  That said, there are times when Palahniuk can write things that are absolutely hilarious, and on the flip side of that coin, write something that is absolutely the most disgusting thing you've ever read, only to outdo himself a chapter or two later.  It makes for quite the reading experience.

If you like to feel like you are running a gauntlet of pain, depravity, and nausea inducing moments only to arrive at the end and see that your reward is punch in the gut, than you can do no wrong with Chuck Palahniuk and Haunted.  But, rest assured, there's no doubt that you'll be reading something completely different than your usual piece of fiction.

In Haunted, Palahniuk's skill and story telling prowess is top notch, and his ability to suck a reader in is uncanny.  However, I think his style of fiction is maybe an acquired taste, and probably not for everyone.   If you are like me, and have a type of story or style of narrative that you enjoy but occasionally go looking for something outside your reading comfort zone, than Haunted is a great place to venture to. I enjoyed being outside of my reading comfort zone.  That being said, I've enjoyed some of Palahniuk's other works more than this one.

Grade: B-

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