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Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk (1 Viewer)

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Senior Member
Love it or hate it, Star Wars has a following few other franchises could ever dream of. Not many movies can get people to dress up as aliens or intergalactic warriors and line up on a cold city street to wait for a ticket to the opening session. Not many movies would inspire that many toys, books, conventions, video games and advertising bombarments. Not many movies would have the expectations for a prequal so high.

We all know the story. Fans waited for years for The Phantom Menace... and when it finally came out many of them were disappointed. Not just a little, a lot. Gone was the style of the original, instead it was replaced with, well, trite: a comic relief character, an annoying kid, lots of explosions and jumping around. Not to mention one very sappy love story.

It's called George Lucas Syndrome. And Chuck Palahniuk seems to have caught it.

Fight Club remains one of the best books I've ever read. Invisible Monsters is right up there as well. Survivor and Choke are up pretty high as well, although they're not as good as those two. In short, early Palahniuk was great. He was the author that introduced me to Minimalism and the transgressive scene. He had interesting stories, a really twisted sense of humour and characters that, while they were somewhat archetypal, were great. He really loved his urban legends and Google research, but his other qualities as a writer made up for it.

Then along came Lullaby. Now Lullaby was good - it started off a little slow, but it was fairly good by the end. It was not, however, great. It stood up to multiple readings, but it didn't blow me away in the way Palahniuk's previous books did. Diary was even worse - it was well written and the humour was subtle, but while it had its moments it simply wasn't very good. It wasn't all that interesting. Non-Fiction, also known as Stranger Than Fiction, was basically literally masturbation. Sure, some of the essays were interesting, but it was hardly worth buying. Borrowing, maybe, but not buying.

And now there's Haunted, a book that's almost The Phantom Menace of Chuck Palahniuk. While Non-Fiction and Diary were released just last year, this one has been hyped up for a while thanks to Guts, the world famous short story that's made seventy plus people faint worldwide at various readings and literay events. It's been labelled a number of things, including the funniest and saddest short story of all time, as well as the most disgusting short story ever.

Personally, I loved it. Like many of Palahniuk's fans, I agreed that it was the best short story I ever read. When I heard it was going to be in a book of similiar stories, I was very happy indeed. The collection was to be called Haunted and it was to take the form of what Palahniuk labelled a "novel of short stories." It would be a mix of ordinary novel characters, short stories and... poetry.

The mention of poetry had me raise my eyebrows. I imagined haikus on the art of masturbation, limmericks on felching, koans on zoophilia. It was Palahniuk, after all.

And now the book's been released. And I'm sorry to say that right from the word go, it's Phantom Menace all over again. Everything that was good about Palahniuk has been thrown away and replaced with, well, everything he set out to protest against when he wrote Fight Club and started putting writing tutorials on his homepage.

First and foremost, the premise of the story: it sounds bad, it is bad. Other stories he's written don't sound good but are, but with this you get exactly what you see. Basically, it's about a writing retreat. Writers are selected by evil old man, evil old man locks them in a house, evil old man says don't come out for three months. He provides them with food, water and all the rest. The whole idea is in the house they'll be able to complete their masterpiece without any outside world distractions. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong and people start dying and trashing all the food because it seems as if they all want to starve and die.

The writers all have stupid names and they're hardly believable, nor are they worth caring about. They have no redeeming features at all. They're not funny or sad. They're not gross. They're just stupid.

To introduce the characters, Palahniuk has written poems which come before their short stories. The idea behind them seems to be along the lines of the "video diary" technique a lot of reality shows use - the person is standing on a stage and saying some stuff, only it's not relevant stuff - it's just babble. It's not about the house they're in or the problems they're facing, it's not really about them. It's just... babble. It's like one of those stories someone writes where they get really wordy and don't worry about other, less important things like a plot, characters or a point.

In short, the poetry's crap... which is kind of fitting, really. You see, the stories suck as well. Like the poetry, most of the stories have no point. A lot of them don't really have a plot. Some border on Naturalism, but you can tell they're trying to be a story.. which means they end up sucking at being Naturalism and at being a story.

And with all this going on around it, Guts really shows its flaws. It loses the magic it had as a standalone story when surrounded by this crap.

And then there's the novel itself... and it's a joke. The novel chapters are horrid. All they do is say over and over again how the situation these people are in is sucky because they want it to be sucky. Most of the chapters involves someone saying they need to get out and everyone else doing their best to make sure they never get out. And occasionally, someone dies. But that doesn't matter - you won't care.

This is one of the worst books I've ever read. It's simply pathetic. It's amateur drivel. It's exactly what Palahniuk protested against since he started writing almost ten years ago. It's just... trash.


Senior Member
Wow, I heard that it's bad, but this is a scathing review, especially coming from you, Saph. I did a book review on Diary and found it to be a huge disappointment. For Haunted to eclipse that, well, sweet fuck it must have been trash. Thanks for sharing.


WF Veterans
Yea, I concur, it's terrible. The poems are so bad...
But I liked Exodus.

It's funny because I was looking at the rating it was getting at Amazon, and there's this one guy continually giving the same review, so that the rating stays above a 4.


Senior Member
Okay, I put the book aside for a couple of weeks since I first started reading it. I've started again and I'm doing my best to appreciate it for what it is, rather than what it was hyped up to me.

I take back some of what I said, but not all of it. It isn't as terrible as I initially thought, but it's hardly good. It really suffers from having no central character. Saint Gut Free seems to be the main one (probably because his story is the most famous), but he's still no Tyler, Shannon or Victor. It's hard to care him or any of the others, but maybe that's the point. I don't know.

We'll see.


WF Veterans
t really suffers from having no central character
Yea, I think that's the main problem, along with those poems. Also the names of the characters get annoying after awhile.


Senior Member
That they do. Reading them again, I'm starting to see the idea behind the poetry. The idea is alright, but I feel as if the execution is a little flawed. There wasn't enough thought put into them.

I feel as if Palahniuk was trying to do the same thing he did in previous novels, where the narrator spent a bit of time expressing his or her thoughts about this or that. With a central character it works, but when everyone is having their say it doesn't seem to work all that well.

The Evincar

Senior Member
Hmmm, good review, I agree that Haunted is probably Palahniuk's worst novel after Diary, hopefully he can pull himself out of the rut...
It does suffer from having no central character, although some of the characters were passingly interesting, they weren't developed at all...
It wasn't the worst book that I've read, and I do think the idea of having short stories/poetry of multiple characters, i.e. the Haunted concept, is a very intriguing and possibly cool concept, but it was badly delivered here.

Chris Miller

WF Veterans
re: guts

First off, great review of the evolution of an author. I don't really blame the author though, I blame the publisher. I think that if he were given time to rest between offerings and perhaps lead a more spherical life, every book would be great. John Irving, for example, is one of my favorite authors. But it seems to me that each novel, even though he takes years between them, has been just a little less... than the previous, with a particularly large dip at that Piggy Sneed joke which was just a collection of notes and bad essays and other crap, something to publish with Irving's name on it.

I was intrigued by the "Guts" story mentioned, and found and read it on the web. I can see where it would gross out a lot of people. But mostly I found it to be well researched and hilarious. I laughed out loud a few times. Terrific detail. It blows me away that he would read it aloud to any audience. I may never masturbate again.... Nah, I'll get over it. Really funny stuff. Great study of human sexuality.

Check it out:



Senior Member
The worst thing is, my first book by him was Diary. Though that mad eit kind of nice, only one way to go and that was up. Survivor is still my favorite
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