Looks like it’s about time for another book review from the ol’ Danger. Chuck Palahniuk’s “Haunted” has been on my radar for a while now. I’d been meaning to get around to it, but I put it off and forgot about it until I found it at a rad non-profit bookshop in Chicago (Open Books). So, I bought it. Then I read the dang thing! Now you get to read about me reading about it. What a world.
A group of pseudonym-labeled creative types answer a mysterious ad for a “writers’ retreat” in which they are asked to give up 3 months of their lives -all expenses paid – to focus on their craft without distraction. It turns out that the “without distraction” part was more of a curse than a blessing. They’re locked into a huge old theater by (and along with) their patron, Mr. Whittier. They immediately panic, begging to be released and threatening the old man. Their panic is soon replaced with hardship when they all simultaneously and independently decide to sabotage their (relatively) comfy little quarter-year home. Clogged toilets – now you have to let us go. Nope. Spoiled food. Nope. Busted furnace. Nope. Someone dies. Oh shit. Things get bad fast. The group embraces their fucked up situation thinking the indignities and injuries they suffer will make a good story for when they are rescued. Soon the artists start dropping like flies, but not before telling some shocking, disgusting, and/or brutal stories.
Palahniuk has a way of going into an absurd level of detail on strange, esoteric topics. He is either a master researcher or a slick huckster. Are his details on cat scratch fever, brain injuries, and homeless millionaires (among other things) legit, or did he just pull it from his rich (very rich) imagination? I’m not going to risk spoiling that magic trick by looking up how it’s done. I’d rather enjoy the ride. And this book is quite the ride. The collection of shorts is strung together seamlessly. Connected via poems and projections of movie fragments, and nestled in among the increasingly desperate actions carried out in the inescapable theater. Desperate and vile actions. The book is not for the faint of heart. But that’s not you, right? You will revel in the bone crunching. The knives slicing flesh. The pool horror. You’ll eat it up (play on words!). Just don’t expect a literary masterpiece. Palahniuk has a gift for words and for illumination and he has a certain I-might-have-written-that charm, but he’s not flowery or particularly deep. If you go into it expecting a nasty collection of gut-wrenching gross-out and depravity, you won’t be disappointed.
The Final Cut: “Haunted” is a twisted collection of short stories that will have even horror veterans squirming with its nastiness.