16 February 2007

Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk (Anchor Books, 2006)

I picked this book up almost cold -- it didn't even have a dust jacket, just a plain grey hardcover book. All I knew about the author was that he had written Fight Club, and I had seen the movie, plus other literate people I knew both read and recommended his books. So when I found Haunted at the United Way Book Sale in the fall, I grabbed it for a mere $2 and then it just sat on my desk until a day I wanted something different to read.

Haunted is certainly different.

Haunted is two, maybe three books in one. There is the novel itself, the basic story of the writers gathered together for a retreat gone wrong; plus there is the collection of short stories that each of the fictional writers tell; and then there's something .... else. Maybe all the talk of ghosts, the gore, the skeletons in everyone's closets, maybe all of that eventually got to me, because by the end I was convinced the story had taken a hairpin turn ducked through a tunnel and somehow returned the way it came. Then again, maybe that's what Palahniuk intended.

Ultimately, this book disappointed me. I kept hoping the next chapter would be different, better, illuminating. Instead each one made me think I'd been duped. Palahniuk clearly likes to play with the reader's head, and I finished reading Haunted, but it was like watching one too many horror films; eventually you start seeing the fake blood and rubber corpses for what they are.