Now this is more like it.
After stumbling with a gender experiment in Diary, Chuck Palahniuk has returned to form with his inspired new book, a weird amalgamation of poetry and 23 short stories integrated through an outlandish novel straight out of Lovecraft. It's an inspired form that allows the author not only to explore different voices, albeit ones that are so bleakly like his own staccato style, but also to wander further into the depths of the human psyche.
Is it sick? Well, sure, but I'm not sure what else you were expecting. This is, after all, the collection that contains the infamous "Guts," a story so knee-buckling that over sixty people have passed out, dropped right there on the bookstore floor, during the past year's readings.
Haunted reflects the enormous and underestimated cultural influence of the ghost story, the dark tales told around campfires and over flashlights, although I can guarantee that nobody ever told a horror story like Palahniuk. Some of the stories in this particular volume can give Poe a run for his money and send fans of modern storytellers like King screaming for the hills.
In a smart twist, the book is set in a writer's retreat, marginally modeled after that bleak summer on the coast of Italy when Lord Byron gathered Percy Shelley, his lover Mary and a handful of others to read ghost stories and spin their dread tales, Mary's becoming the basis for Frankenstein.
Write your best story. This is your last chance. Write your very best fiction ever. No pressure or anything.
They're horrible, in that brilliantly written, completely original way that made Fight Club a sensation and Survivor a cult masterpiece. There is no way to describe the shocking and excessive self-violence of "Guts" but there are plenty of other dark tales to be told here.
Like much of Palahniuk's work, there are the creepy, almost obsessive details that punctuated the best parts of Fight Club. Although they're often changed just slightly to prevent the reading masses from blowing themselves up (in point of fact, equal parts gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate will only give you a poisonous breakfast beverage, which seems no less dangerous than Napalm), Haunted is still packed with weirdly detailed research into everything from kitchen knives to insurance fraud to cannibalism.