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.jack
** 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?!?!?!?!!?!!??!?!!!!Paul
I'm only on p 75 of this thing and I'm about to hurl it at the wall. What is it supposed to be? Does this guy really think these lame parodies are funny? This is from the section called "Slumming", which is about rich people, a couple of whom are pretending to be poor :"Inky always said being absent is the new being present." (p 69)"Poverty, Inky says, is the new wealth." (p71)"Social divers, Inky says, are the new social climbers." (p71)"Nobodies are the new celebrity." (p72)"Public is the new private" (p 72)You get the picture - how could you not - it's the same joke repeated over and over again, a joke which Tom Wolfe was cracking in 1975 (black is the new black, with variations). So : is this supposed to be amusing? Because if so, it really isn't. Is it supposed to be stupid? Because if so, it really is. Prior to this chapter you get a spoof all about television and advertising. I find myself bleeding profusely from the extreme cutting edge qualities of this book every time I pick it up. Not! Ha-ha! ROTFLMAO!! Only in the world of Chuck, this would be ROTFLMPO - that's right, Roll On The Floor Laughing My Penis Off! Ha ha! Why? Because it's gross, and it isn't that funny!**Update : the hurl has now been performed, and Chuck Palahnik's Haunted sailed in a graceful arc then smashed against the wall, its guts spilled out and several rodents started gnawing them...oh shut up.Toby
** 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.Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen
5 Amazing Disturbing StarsFirst of all I have to warn readers about the disturbing content in this book. This book is not for the weak stomach....It has been reported that when Chuck has read the short story "Guts" from this novel, there have been injuries with people passing out.To me this book reminded me somewhat of the setup of "The Canterbury Tales". The frame style of this book consists of each chapter starting out with what is going on in the story with the 17 would be authors who have signed up for a "Writers Retreat", then it follows with a poem about the person who will tell a story and then the story. There are 23 stories and the motifs of these stories consist of sexual deviance, sexual identity, homosexuality, desperation, social distastefulness, disease, murder, death and existentialism.The satire of this book is "the battle for credibility" that has resulted from the ease with which one can publish through the use of modern technology but some say it is a satire of reality television.The main story centers on a group of 17 individuals who have decided to participate in a secret writers' retreat. They are only allowed to bring one piece of luggage. They are all picked up by bus and brought to an abandoned theater and are locked inside for 3 months. During this time each participant is to write a work of art. They start out having enough food and water along with heat, electricity, bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry facilities.The group starts out innocent enough but then they decide that they could make a better story of their own suffering inside the theater and become wealthy from their story of fate. They then start to individually sabotage the food and utilities with each character trying to only destroy one food or utility to increase their drama slightly. Since each character does this individually and don't work as a team, they end up destroying all the food and utilities forcing them all to struggle with starvation, cold and darkness.Oh, but they don't stop there. Each character wants to out-do each other with their suffering (just so they are cast as the main role of their suffering) so self-mutilation, murder, suicide and cannibalism.OK - I'm stopping there so I don't give away too much of the book. The short stories are sick and demented but all tie back to the story and each deals with the sick mental psyches of people today.This book may have taken me over a day to read but it was so worth it!!Emily
easily the most disgusting book i've ever read. There's an afterword at the end where he talks about how books are the only medium where you have free range to tell the story however you want to tell it, to say whatever you want to say. Whereas in movies, you're trying to hit a certain audience and your work is censored and edited to a certain extent. Books alow you to travel to this deep, dark secret private place inside yourself. That's why he writes. A very compelling explanation. I think one of the major themes of the books is that we are all haunted. We all have our own demons and that the truth is much more terrifying than fiction.Perhaps the scariest thing about Haunted is this:Late one night while i read i noticed i was starting to nod off. I placed the book on my bedside table and turned out the light. As i laid my head down on the bed i noticed a large blurry glow out of the corner of my eye. Sitting up, I took my glasses from the table and as i slid them up my nose i let out a little scream. A big, bug eyed ghost like face was staring back at me. None other than the face on the cover of Haunted. Word of advice: keep the book in a drawer at night.Danny
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.Shaylene
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.Travis
The book was a difficult read. Even more difficult to review. I struggled with how many stars to give it to the point where I've waited a few weeks to even write a review. It wasn't my favorite book by any means but I didn't hate it either. What it did do was stir so much visceral emotion that I haven't been able to pick up another book since. A reaction that intense warrants recognition so I reluctantly opted for 4 stars purely on its dark influence over my joy of reading (or lack there of now). Any book that could turn me off from all other books for a while is a book that I'll be talking about for a long time.This novel is not a book I would recommend lightly. It is not a book that I would recommend to many people at all in fact. The reader is going to require a specific taste in entertainment to be able to, first of all, finish the book and, second, do it and still consider me a friend afterwards. The overall disturbing and disjointed nature of the novel takes an attention span and an iron stomach. The twisted black humor will be lost on most but the few able to see it will enjoy the social commentary on a society obsessed with fame at any cost and the overwhelming selfishness that can drive seemingly ordinary people to climb over one another's lifeless corpses to achieve it.Do not pick this book up if you're a light reader. Do not pick this book up if you are not prepared. Do not pick this book up if you have a weak stomach. Do not pick this book up if you are easily offended. Do not pick this book up if you do not enjoy exploring the darker side of human nature. Do not pick this book up if you don't stifle a smile at the misfortune of your enemies. Do not pick this book up.Really. I'd just go ahead and skip it.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.Krystal
Don't be fooled, I may have chosen 5 stars for this novel, but not because I loved it. This book is dynamic.This novel looks so innocent and harmless, sitting there with it's ghostly lavender and white cover and "Fight Club" was great, I'll give it a read.This novel will stretch you to breaking point and beyond what you have ever read before. To give an example, when Chuck Palahniuk gives a public reading of the short story "Guts", the ambulance shows up before the end of it. People have fainted, vomited and moaned in disgust over this story. I was not able to read through the whole chapter, I felt very dizzy. And I think this is only chapter two. Things go awry when these strangers gather for a writing retreat and the rest seems like an experiment in how horrible people can possibly be to each other.The format is an overarching story about the downward spiral of the retreat and peppered with the short stories of the attendees. The end short story is the best, if you can make it that far.There is no "Love-hate" icon for this story. This book is horrifying in the experience; not unlike an STD it stays with you and you have to learn to live with the experience you had with it.I want to recommend it, but I'm afraid it's like going to bed with someone and not telling them you have AIDS. The reason you don't want to tell them is that you want to share the misery. You'll feel blindsided even if you are prepared for it. I suppose this would be extreme reading; but is somewhat of an underground cult-classic. Bring it up with the artistic circles or geeks alike and you will have found at least one or more persons who's read "Guts" at least.All in all Palahnuik has realized and exercised the right to be as explicit as possible, because books don't come with a Parental Advisory or MPAA rating.I gave my copy away, but I downloaded the audio...Carrie
This book is vile. It is disgusting. No matter how much you can take, you will squirm and say "Oh My GOD!" out loud on the bus or plane or couch or wherever it is you read. It is a nasty book. But Haunted is so much more than that and so worth reading. Haunted is set in a drab old theater, past it's prime, boarded up, invisible, and impenetrable to the outside world. Inside the theater are 23 characters. 23 people with names like the Earl of Slander and Agent Tattletale. Each character is introduced with a poem and a story. Usually gruesome or grotesque, the stories eventually create the world each person inhabits, explain why they agreed to drop off the face of the earth for a while, and how they relate to the other characters in the book. Narratives in between the character stories relate what's happening within the hotel. How the characters are coping with no modern amenities or food, who has died and what the remaining characters will do to themselves and others to obtain fame and sympathy once they're rescued.While the stories in the book are (as everyone has said) sometimes depraved, they all aren't like that and the book ends on a beautifully optimistic note - though not everyone is going to think that way. Really, I can only think of two that made me want to stop reading, but I didn't - I pushed through. And I encourage anyone who is thinking of reading Haunted to do the same thing. You might just love it to death.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.Lady Danielle
I... I... I just.... WTF?!?!?!Stopped on page 25 I can't finish this. I... this book is weird and disgusting and gut wrenching. I decided to read this book because I read in a group comment that it was the weirdest thing they've ever read. So I decided to give it a try... no. Just fucking no.Stories about some kid sodomising himself with a fucking carrot and some Vaseline; a teenager jacking off with some candle wax -- THROUGH HIS PISS HOLE. The storyteller jacking off in a pool hovering over the pool's suction shit so it's basically eating his ass whilst he jacks off and next thing you know it's sucking up his guts and he has to eat his asshole out to save himself. Occasional sentences about doing what the French do or some weird shit...No.Stop.What the fuck. "My goal was just to write some new form of horror story, something based on the ordinary world. Without supernatural monsters or magic. This would be a book you wouldn't keep next to your bed." -- Chuck PalahniukMr Palahniuk, this isn't horror, this is some vile shit, sir. Vile, vile, shit. I get you wanted horror without supernatural monsters or magic, but these stories are not it!. Read some of Stephen King's works for some real ordinary world horror -- Misery, for example. That's some nerve-racking stuff. That's horror. This... (shakes my head). My eyes felt as though they were about to pop out my head whilst I was reading. Excuse me, going to brush my eyeballs and brain to remove the images and thoughts I've just read.The author was right about one thing:This is a book I will not be keeping next to my bed.J.M.
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.