Haunted -Chuck Palahniuk
“My goal was just to write some new form of horror story, something based on the ordinary world. Without supernatural monsters or magic. This would be a book you wouldn’t want to keep next to your bed. A book that would be a trapdoor down into some dark place. A place only you could go, alone, when you opened the cover. Because only books have that power.” I think Chuck Palahniuk did just that with Haunted.
WRITER’S RETREAT: ABANDON YOUR LIFE FOR THREE MONTHS.
Just disappear. Leave behind everything that keeps you from creating your masterpiece. Your job and family and home, all those obligations and distractions – put them on hold for three months. Live with like-minded people in a setting that supports total immersion in your work. Food and lodging included free for those who qualify. Gamble a small fraction of your life.
That’s what the ad said. It sounds innocent enough. People go to retreats all the time. Haunted is a different kind of book. It’s dark, twisted, weird, disgusting, and graphic. Don’t read this if you don’t like descriptions of graphic violence and weird, sexual scenes. Or if you’re easily grossed out!
Twenty-three people answer the ad. It sounds like a good idea. Imagine having three uninterrupted months to devote to something. The retreat doesn’t turn out to be what they signed up for. It’s held in an old theater that desperately needs some TLC. It’s boarded up and no one can get in or out unless someone lets them. The retreat turns out to be more of a survival game and less of a getaway for writers. Not what they signed up for.
There is no power or heat in the building. And they have no food. They’re instructed to write the project of their dreams…and it had better be good. But three months stuck in that horrible place is no easy feat. They want to get out. The shock of what’s happening and their desperate desire to get out starts to get the better of them. Add to that the fear of what happens if they don’t write something good and they slowly start to lose it. And fight to survive.
The stories are written by each attendee. They start with a little poem and introduction. They write something from their past and something about their time there. I have to admit that it was a hard read. My stomach turned more than once. Some of it is rough (but good in a sick kind of way).
Palahniuk takes you on quite a ride. It’s pretty disturbing. This is not something to read if you’re looking to relax, and make sure you don’t have a full stomach when you read it! Even worse, these are things that technically could happen in real life. We’ve all heard stories about real-life psychos that kill and torture. Weird shit happens!
In between the stories the narrator pops in to offer his two cents. And it’s funny! But the longer everyone is locked in, the more desperate they become. They each want to “win” and you have to live to do that. The characters have names like “Chef Assassin” and “Lady Baglady”. Of course, some stories are better than others.
Did I like this book? Yes, no, and maybe. It’s one of those books that you will either love or hate. I think my feelings fall somewhere in the middle. I’m going to repeat my initial warning – DO NOT read this book if you are offended by weird sex or easily grossed out!!!!! The sexual descriptions are very graphic and the gore is a lot. A LOT! I admit to having a few stomach-turning and uncomfortable moments. Chuck Palahniuk is a twisted man! Is that good or bad? Well, that’s up to you, my friends.