Entertainment & the Arts: Sunday, May 15, 2005
“Haunted”: 23 kidnapped, neurotic writers, 1 sick game
By Mark Lindquist
Special to The Seattle Times
Chuck Palahniuk, like the unnamed narrator of his best-selling novel “Fight Club,” appears to be going around the bend. In “Haunted,” he has splintered his personality into 23 hapless would-be writers who are snookered into a “writers’ retreat” gone bad, way bad.
The concept is that for three months this diverse group of neurotics will leave the mainstream world and just read and write, perfect their stories. “This much time, we’d bet on our own ability to create some masterpiece. A short story or poem or screenplay or memoir that would make sense of our life.” Sounds good, except that their benefactor traps them in an old theater to use as guinea pigs for some obscure purpose.
The main narrative is divided by 23 short stories, one from each character. However, all the characters share the distinctively choppy writing style of Chuck Palahniuk, as well as his grim world view and fetishistic attraction to suffering.
“War. Starvation. Plague. They fast-track us to enlightenment.”
Palahniuk’s novels are hard to categorize, this one even more so than most. Primarily it appears to be a satire of reality television — an effective one — but it’s also a homage to horror stories, and a meditation on pop culture.
Convinced their kidnapping is the stuff of contemporary news and movies and book deals, the characters decide to amp things up for better drama, for better marketability. Mind-numbing atrocities follow.
“Will this be just one horrible event after another after another after another — until we’re all dead?” one of the characters asks.
On the plus side, you won’t mind seeing most of these characters die.
The Bret Easton Ellis serial-killer satire “American Psycho” came to mind, but without the hipster wink and irony. Palahniuk appears to be earnest about all this. I’ve recommended this book to a few people, but they are all a little bent.