Week 7: HAUNTED by Chuck Palahniuk
Behind. So woefully behind. HAUNTED is a book that I should have been finished with sometime in the second week of February. The only excuse I can offer is up that my college classes started to get a bit interesting and on top of that, this is a very different book from a very different author than my previous reads. So, let’s go to this!
Chuck Palahniuk is the type of author not afraid to take you on a wild ride. I know his most well known work is FIGHT CLUB, which was turned into a movie that nearly every human being in the solar system has seen at least six times. If you haven’t seen it, close this blog right now and get on it! Operation Mayhem awaits you! This book was recommended to me by a friend, so I had no idea what it was going in besides a very quick synopsis: “.. it’s pretty intense, dude.” That’s all I got.
HAUNTED is about people. These people want to be writers. Just like me, maybe just like you. They have day jobs and responsibilities and a bunch of other bullshit excuses as to why they’re not chasing their dreams. They answer a local ad for a “writers retreat,” a three month long episode of isolation so they can hone their craft and create the next great American novel. The characters are never named, but Palahniuk embellishes them with monikers that have purpose, but you’re not entirely certain as to what they mean until later. A principle complaint I have is that because there are twenty-three different characters, it became a bit cumbersome keeping up with all of them, especially considering their names were things like “Comrade Snarky,” “Assassin Chef,” and “Agent Tattletale.”
The book is split up between the main story, these twenty three writers and the decrepit old Mr. Whittier and their own individual stories. The stories are the real meat and potatoes of this book. They’re gruesome. Diabolical. Some of them are borderline campy and others are just sickening. There’s more than twenty-three of these short stories, as Mr. Whittier has several, as does his compatriot Mrs. Clark, his confidante who helps him wrangle the other characters into isolation.
An important and interesting subplot exists in that these people start to sabotage the secret bunker they’re locked in. They hope to craft the perfect story for when the three months expire and they emerge. They spoil the food. They cut the heat. They want to suffer and make Mr. Whittier their own personal devil to exploit when they finally make it back into the world. Everyone however, is unaware that the others are sabotaging the operation, and things go awry. I won’t spoil things further.
As far as reading goes, one of the reasons I couldn’t get into this read wasn’t the writing — it’s phenomenal — or the story, — it’s amazing — but rather because I think the pacing was.. off. The short stories are intricate, unique and have their own individual voices. The interim scenes between the nicknamed writers as they sabotage each other and sit around telling stories truly slowed the story down. I think I could have finished the book much quicker had there not been intermittent scenes of the main characters sawing their pinkies off to appear as if they’d suffer more than the next guy.
All that being said, Palahniuk is a gifted writer with a vast, imaginative mind who shows he’s at the top of his game by turning ordinary things extraordinary with very little effort. He’s a writer worth reading if you’ve got the time to read something that will definitely make you think.
That’s all for now.
Bonne journée mes amis.