Haunted (Unabridged)

ISBN: 1415920052
ISBN 13: 9781415920053
By: Chuck Palahniuk

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About this book

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.

Reader's Thoughts

Tee Jay

This is a bad book barely held together by fleeting and brief moments of fantastic insight. Just when I felt like I was wasting my time and the novel couldn't get any more disgusting, stupid, boring, or any other negative sentiment, it would then turn for just a brief second and capture my interest fully and completely. At these dispersed points the book would almost redeem itself. Then, within no time at all, the nice respite from the garbage prose would come to an end and the author would then resume his contrived and gimmicky (and also badly written) prose found throughout Haunted.I couldn't help but think about the movie Fight Club when I read this novel, which is a glaring indication that Palahniuk is a one trick pony. The dialogue, the plot, the outlandish events—it was like Palahniuk was just trying to redo and at the same time outdo what he has already written. What else can I say? This books sucks. It blows. It'll make a reader's skin crawl and feel there is no hope for humanity—if humanity has ever existed at all anyway. However, simultaneously, these reactions are also true feelings, guttural, visceral, real—human. And therein lies that quirky and depressing insight.


Read a book by this author already and enjoyed it so I'd like to read another.This was a difficult book to get through. I'd classify it as horror, though there is nothing paranormal about it ~ the horror arises from perfectly normal, everyday situations involving regular people. The premise is intriguing ~ a handful of characters locked together away from society for three months' in a so-called "writers' retreat." Though no one gets any writing done, each chapter is followed by a poem about and short story by one of the characters. Through these writings, you learn more about the people and why they chose to hide away from the world for an extended period of time.I felt the characters' descent into madness and their loss of humanity seemed to happen pretty quick. I would've thought they would have to be confined a bit longer before things would deteriorate to the extent they did. Then again, none of these characters were candidates for sainthood to begin with.Overall, I enjoyed the characters' short stories more than the novel in which they were framed. I would've rated this book higher if it were an anthology of such stories, and not a novel.


First of all, I'd like to warn you all that the cover of this novel glows in the dark. I didn't find this out until I was more than half way done with the novel and after reading one night, but it on my bedside table, only to have the crap scared out of me when I rolled over and saw a glowing face! In Palahniuk's own twisted way he really gives a great commentary on society and the human condition through this novel. If you can get past the disgustingly gory, and yet entrancing, scenes it really holds a great message.


Haunted is a trip into all those nasty squalid corners of the human soul, and all those dark little things we like to pretend to ourselves that no one is actually capable of, not really. But they can and do really happen, and most of them happen in Haunted. Haunted is a collection of Palahniuk's most twisted short stories threaded together around a frame story. Most of them will put your jaw on the floor. They're sick, they're nasty, and they're almost impossible to stop reading. It's like watching a whole string of horrible train wrecks strung together and masterfully orchestrated for your own personal amusement. The weak part of the book is the frame story itself, but that's fairly typical of frame stories in general so I wasn't really bothered by it. The individual short stories more than make up for it; ranging from the murder of Marilyn Monroe to the dark side of Reflexology, they just get better and better.The only problem I really had with the book has to do with the physics of paring knives and breast-bones, but, then, I guess that's just a matter of the suspended disbelief that's supposed to go along with reading fiction anyway. Over all, it's an awesome book. Oh, and for just a little extra awesome, the cover glows in the dark.


I was really excited about this one after being disappointed with "Lullaby" and "Diary." Basically, it's a book of short stories each by a fictional author, each introduced by a poem about the writer, and linked together by mini-chapters about the writers' retreat they are all on. Trapped in a house and running out of food, they write, record, and videotape their experience, certain that when they are finally rescued, they will all become media darlings destined for reality tv fame, if any of them survive, that is. The first story, "Guts," had a reputation for making listeners pass out when Pahlaniuk read it aloud at book signings. My friend Jim and I also took great pleasure in reading that story aloud to oblivious victims. I think he even read it to his mom. My other favorite story is the one about the life-like dolls at the police station, just totally unbelievable. One critic complained that this book was "too over the top," and it's like, dude, what the fuck do you think the point was?

Josh Cutting

This book is incredibly uneven, that's its downfall. There are some really good moments, some really bad moments, and one or two truly brillant ones. Looking at it as what it essentially is; a collection of short stories, it's really no better or worse than any other short story collection, and actually should get extra points for its brazen audacity. The unifying material that links all of the stories together is terribly weak, and is what ultimately sinks the book.The first story "Guts" is the best. Not because it's so incredibly gross (and it truly is) but because it is unblinking in its logic. It creates an outrageous yet believable scenerio and follows inexorably to its horrifying conclusion. It's the one story that really stuck with me on a visceral (ha ha) level.The rest of the book reads like it's trying to keep up with the pace of the first story, but it can't. No story that follows is a strongly written or as moving as the first one, but more just shock value for shock's sake. For every story that almost hits the right stride (Exodus) there are those that just plain don't make sense (Punch Drunk, Something's Got to Give)This is the second Palanhuik book that I've read, and I think there really is something there. I appreciate his outrage at society, but I think he needs to dial back his delivery just a hair in order to create truly effective satire. He goes from 0-60 so quickly that the social commentary gets lost in the absurdity of the scenerio. If you can't believe it's possible, it doesn't hit home. Writers like Vonnegut push right to the boundary, then siddle a toe past. Palanhuik sprints to the boundary, then vaults as far as he can go. Vonnegut is a razor, Palanhuik is a blunt instrument.I'm not done with him yet, he's at least shown me enough to give him another try.


** spoiler alert ** Sometimes in the humor section of the bookstore you can find a spoof of a popular book or writer. That's not what Haunted is, but it's the first thing that comes to mind.While the cover promises that Haunted is "A Novel," the innards tell a different story: 24 short short stories and 24 prose poems tied together by a thin framing device. This frame is supposed to evoke storytelling parties of the past, such as the Canterbury Tales or the Decameron, in which the participants each tell a story. Henry James' "Turn of the Screw" was structured similarly. In Haunted, each of the semi-anonymous characters from the frame "novel" tell a story and have a poem told about them. The problem with this approach is that every character tells their story as if they were Chuck Palahniuk, and about halfway through bits of the framing device start slipping into the stories. The novel itself is narrated in first-person although the narrator never participates in any of the activities of the others.And oh, the activities! The basic hook for the novel here is that a group of aspiring writers have gone off on a weird "Writer's Retreat" in which they hole up in an abandoned movie theater somewhere for 90 days. The dust jacket tells us this is "a satire of reality television" -- and sure, the group of strangers locked in a house together is a common reality TV trope. But if this were a satire of Chuck Palahniuk, what would happen?What would happen is that the writers would all have horrible personal problems, would begin worshiping at the First Church of Self-Destruction, they would start talking like coroners and doctors with jargon littering their dialogue, they would repeat themselves with a chorus, and they'd throw up a bunch of plot twists.And that's just what happens. For no reason at all, except that the participants of this "Writer's Retreat" think they can cash in someday if they suffer enough, start chopping off fingers, starving themselves, sabotaging the environmental controls, and consuming human flesh.Palahniuk is best when he's right at the edge of absurd. Fight Club was there. Survivor and Choke were at the precipice. Those novels worked. Even with its flaws, Rant toed the long drop. But Haunted hurls itself into the abyss, and I understand how Chuck writes and I understand how Chuck wants you to feel when you're reading his books, and this isn't it. This book makes you exclaim aloud "This is fucking ridiculous."These complaints are all about the framing device, the Canterbury participants with stupid nicknames like "Earl of Slander" and "Lady Baglady." The morons like "The Matchmaker" or "Agent Tattletale" who chop off all but two of their fingers but are still described as holding objects.if this were a Chuck Palahniuk satire, would one character chop off their penis and another choke to death on it? Would a story involving dressing in drag and getting your ass kicked lead to fundraising for crashing planes?You bet it would.Haunted is an obnoxious mess that fails to get any reader buy-in to the things the characters are doing, and Chuck's signature style is turned up to eleven -- to the point that you're constantly reminded that you're reading a book by an author with an identifiable style.Would a Chuck Palahniuk satire be written that way?So Haunted is, at best, a self-satire by a writer who maybe recognizes his own tropes and wants to poke a little bit of fun. At worst, it's an unsuccessful experiment at creating a compelling anthology novel.The stories themselves are mostly really good, but as presented it feels like Chuck cleaned out a file named "Novel Ideas" and threw them into this stew instead of developing them individually.Of stand-out note are "Guts," which Chuck read aloud on his "Diary" tour and was previously published in Playboy. It's plotless but has a decent 1-2-3 punch to it. "The Nightmare Box" is a great little scary story. "Dissertation" feels like it could get some legs under it. "Obsolete" is a fun piece of speculative fiction. "Evil Spirits" is good enough it should go somewhere, but it doesn't. Many of the others are simply average, and a few are completely forgettable ("Ritual", "Green Room", "Speaking Bitterness").My advice: if you're going to read this book, skip the "Chapters" and the poems, and just read the stories. The attempt to add context to them with the weak writer's-retreat frame doesn't work.

Carac Allison

I'm not a squeamish reader. I actively seek out books that get labelled as "disgusting" and "horrific". And I have a great deal of respect for Chuck Palahniuk.But.But.But I did not enjoy "Haunted" in the least. I lost count of how many readers recommended this title to me. I actually think that's why it took me so long to get around to reading it--I had very high expectations.The framing structure of the work is clever. And the words crackle.But.But.But I don't think the stories are very good. There. I typed it.The one that starts the book off is infamous. I found it plain silly. It didn't shock me because I didn't believe any of it. I'm sure the author can reference real pool incidents where creative masturbators severally damaged their insides. But that just means it happened. It doesn't make it believable or interesting.The stories that followed didn't do much better. Overall the title reads like a literary "Saw" but the individual bits felt like leftovers from one of Palahniuk's good books like "Fight Club" or "Snuff" or "Survivor".Carac

Lex Larson

Apparently working in a vet clinic for the better part of 5 years is precisely the recipe required to inure one to the effects of Palahniuk's writing.You'll see tons of "OMG SO GWOSS!!" reviews here, but this ain't one of 'em. I was entertained. All the blood-and-guts and bodily fluids in the world don't really gross me out. What really sickens me is people.And that's what Palahniuk does best: he writes about the dark sides of people and how precious little it takes to make those sides surface. I enjoyed turning the pages as each character tells his or her tale of how they had sunk so low. Even more fascinating was how each character manages to keep upping the suffering ante when they perceive they've not endured enough. And don't take Palahniuk's pretentious tale of Saint Gut-Free's story making people pass out at face value. I even read it three times through trying to see how that could make someone's knees buckle... because I didn't feel it. Perhaps I truly did gain something from those years of shoveling shit from kennels and picking teeth out of the tub drain and plucking bits of unidentifiable flesh from surgery floors: I gained the ability not be grossed out on a dare.


** spoiler alert ** look, i'm a really huge fan of chuck palahniuk. i've read everything he's written (except that book about portland, but i'm getting to it, okay?). i'll read the new one when it comes out/i get around to it. so, what i mean is, i wanted to love this book. right? we all want to love the work of those we already appreciate. to not love it is to feel...betrayed. somehow.this book gets three stars because it did entertain me. i did keep reading it. i did finish it. but i probably should give it just two. because it fell so far below what i expect from palahniuk as to be insulting. i could be taking it too personally.here are my issues: #1 you never attach to the characters because there are too fucking many of them.#2 this shit is just not shocking. i know everybody is all, oh my god "guts" was so gnarly. i don't care. no it wasn't. he eats his own intestine? so? i've watched "aliens" and "the thing" about a billion times combined, splatter movies just make me laugh, i can watch medical shows on a&e during dinner, etcetera, etcetera. bo-ring.#3 okay. if somebody trapped in the theater with them has a full viral load of an illness that's killed everyone around them within days and they're in there for three fucking months why isn't anyone dead dead dead? i mean, that plot hole is so big it's not even a hole anymore. it's an ocean. in the way that the oceans are so big as to be the majority of the planet and the rest of everything. well, it's just islands.#4 wow, whittier comes back from the dead? who didn't see that one coming? the ending feels rushed and thrown together which, unfortunately, is how i've felt increasingly about palahniuk's more recent books. i know this is a bummer train to wah-wah. i didn't hate this completely. or not really at all. i just wanted it to be really really good and it wasn't. it wasn't bad. but it wasn't good.the two stories in here i really did like were "the nightmare box," which i know was supposed to be scary but just sounded beautiful and "hot potting," which actually did gnarly me out a little, but i think that's because i'm afraid of falling into things like vats of acid, boiling oil and WHO LEFT THE FUCKING SHARP KNIVES POINT-UP IN THE DISH DRAINER AGAIN GODDAMMIT?!?!?!?!!?!!??!?!!!!

MJ Nicholls

This enormous hardback, with hideous shocked-doll peepers peeping out the gothic stencilling and black laminate paper, foregrounds the content rather well. It’s a tongue-in-cheek homage to Poe and co, mingled with some of that postmodern irony so beloved by the people in marketing who run our lives through bar charts.As a stylist, I respect that Palahniuk isn’t lazy, putting his trademark transgressive style away in novels like Pygmy, a hilarious and brilliant little comedy that hit the mark nicely. This book feels like Chuck on autopilot, and though I admired the structure initially, the repetitiveness of the ‘present-poem-short’ sequence became banal, and as Dan pointed out, the stories written by the characters have the same voice and tone as Chuck.There are some engaging pieces here—several like a bloodier, blunter Ballard— others mordant satirical attacks on fame, artistic ambition and so on. (Easy targets). Others are blatant shock fodder or forced attempts to shock that become embarrassing. The main narrative involves hologram characters chopping off their fingers and toes, and as such doesn’t sustain a 400-page novel as much as the stories do. In the end, it seems as though a point was being made, but it got lost somewhere in all the dismemberment. Let’s call it an ambitious failure and move on.


** spoiler alert ** SECOND REVIEW: My first review of the book was pretty quick and more of an opinion, partially because I think I was new to the book blogging world and partially because I felt that even though I'd gotten the story, I hadn't really been able to focus on the nuances as I'd read it on audio book. This time around, I decided to read it from the page and it was just as good if not better. Palahniuk paints a bizarre and haunting story of a group of people, all who are running from something in their lives, who answer the ad for a three month writers retreat. The retreat promises the chance to write a bestseller with no disturbance from the outside world. "No disturbance" means no contact, and the characters embrace the strangeness of the situation by bringing their own violent and izarre tendencies to the table. Caught up in both their own drama and the several individual ones from each character (as told through both poetry and prose of sorts), the entrapment becomes a painful challenge to see how horrible they can make their story. By cutting off body parts, starving themselves, and performing all forms of torture on themselves and each other, they work to ensure that their story is at its most tragic, each one trying to become the most tortured of them all for the fame that pain will bring them. At first glance, the book seems to be a way for the author to attempt to disgust his reader. All stories, including the main one, include elements of the grotesque, taboo, and uncomfortable: molestation, cannibalism, disfigurement, murder, miscarriage/abortion, sexual deviance, and general torture (e.g. one character has to chew through his own intestine, which is possibly the grossest thing I've ever read). But the story goes beyond that and upon really reading it, you can catch the author's nuances. The characters are given fake names to match the persona they bring to the group. Names like "Comrade Snarky", "Sir GutFree," "Miss America", and "Baroness Frostbite" give a weird whimsy to a dark story, but beyond that, it also shows the characters not as individuals but as a product of their experiences. The torture they put themselves through is dark, yet justified, as much of what they are escaping holds a torture of its own. The novel is multi layered, which lends the reader to discover new things each time, to allow the mind to make connections and see patterns. The story of the group gives way to the story of their captor which gives way to the story of the nurse. And peppered among these are the stories of the characters. I wouldn't say this book is for everyone because it's anything but a "feel good" book and it is very disturbing and sometimes nauseating. But for anyone who likes their limits pushed and who isn't afraid to read the things that most people refuse to give thought too, this is great read!FIRST REVIEW: I noticed that this book didn't get very high remarks, but I have to say I absolutely loved it. I listened to it on audio book during a couple road trips and my commute to work and could seriously listen to it again (though I'd prefer to have the actual book). I enjoy the way Palahniuk writes. Yes, he pushes the envelope and does the "gross out" thing in quite a few of the short stories, but it's the old train wreck story...I couldn't help but want to hear more. Some of the stories are actually just creepy, and the overall weirdness made me do a double take. If someone has a copy of the book they want to get rid of, I'll definitely take it off their hands. I loved this book!




Warning: The cover of this edition glows in the dark. Do not place on your bed stand unless you want to have a heart attack. I speak from experience.There are 21 short stories in Haunted. Some of them are amazing such as the notorious "Guts". Others are so-so. A couple of them are just boring. All of them are written to shock yet the brevity of the tales keeps both writer and reader focused. If this was a short story collection, I would rate it a strong three stars.Unfortunately it is not. Palahniuk has fashioned this book into a novel. One clearly modeled after The Tales of The Decameron except as written by a 21th century Marquis De Sade. The 19 protagonists are revealed from the beginning as vicious and stupid and we are never given a reason to care about them. Page after page they make insane and idiotic decisions that have no basis in any logic or reality and no purpose but to shock. Some may say that is the point, the author has created a bizarre and surreal horror setting as an analogy. That's fine but what is the author saying? My conclusion is absolutely nothing. Palahnuik's cynicism is so over the top it destroys any attempt at meaning.Perhaps I don't get "it". Yet anyone who perused my book list knows I'm not easily offended. This is the third book by this author I've read. The only reason I read three is because Pahalnuik is one hell of a writer at least technically. And from the short stories in this book I know he can pack a punch when he wants to. But this will probably the last Palahnuik book I will subject myself to.

Daniel Vaccereli

Chuck Palahniuk is one of those sad stories, I think -- a guy with an ear for language, who is pretty funny, who then went on to just write the same book AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and now it's tragic. Always the same set-up for the jokes, always the same kind of repetition, always the same tone. Meh, I say. Meh. I'm gonna go read some J.G. Ballard.

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