Tag Archives: Chuck Palahniuk

The Reading List #3

Oh yes, it’s another one of these again! Why? Because I have been getting very behind on my reading as of late. I don’t need to explain why this is at all (I’ve gone from having too many hours in the day to too few), but the fact remains that I still have a lot of books from Christmas left to read, plus some very new ones.

An update on where I left off (which was all the way back in October of last year). I made headway with Less Than Zero and read Imperial Bedrooms twice as the result of nearly two months of read trips with my dad. I’ll be reviewing these nearer the end of the month. ChokeInvisible Monsters and The Informers were also some picks of mine, with reviews to come, but the fact remains that there is still an awful lot left on my shelf to read. Considering months seem a lot shorter than they used to, though, I doubt I’ll be finishing all of these any time soon. Some of the books I’m hoping to sink my teeth into, and soon, though, are as follows:

On the Road
On The Road – Jack Kerouac

Reading about this book gives the sense that it is an important literary work. I probably won’t be able to dispute this in the slightest; and Beat literature is something I’ve been wanting to delve into for a while. There is something about Kerouac’s On The Road that captures my imagination, but other than this, I’m not entirely sure of what to expect – good things, of course, and fascinating things, and if some reviews are anything to go by, the same sense of freedom and wanderlust perpetuated by Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum DiaryI bought my copy today, so more on this to come very soon.

Cathedral

Cathedral – Raymond Carver

There are an awful lot of Carver’s books that I want to read, Cathedral is placed here because of all the great things I have heard about it. Minimalism is something that fascinates me, so the idea of exploring Carver’s stories is an exciting prospect for me and, I feel, important in understanding the technique. The prose might be a refreshing or welcome change, and I’m quite looking forward to it, and to immersing myself in it.

Glamorama

Glamorama – Bret Easton Ellis

I guess I lied previously when I stated that I only had The Informers and Imperial Bedrooms left of Ellis’ work to read. I guess I was ‘young’ and didn’t know. Regardless, I’m pleased to say that I received a copy of Glamorama for Christmas, but haven’t yet gotten around to reading it. The fact that it is nearly 600 pages long wasn’t really off-putting to me, but at the same time, I do feel as though I will really need to throw myself into this book to gain anything from it. Not a bad thing at all, but there’s a kind of build-up to this book. Honestly, with the way things are going, I have a sneaking suspicion that it may just take all of September for me to finish. Get ready for one hell of a review when I do.

The Road

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

I’ll admit it. I found out about The Road by way of the Fallout Wikia. It may be a step away from the usual for me, but more than likely a pleasant one. I read the first couple of pages as soon as I bought it, but didn’t continue. This had nothing to do with how I felt about the book, just that it was at a time when I was attempting to read about three different ones and wasn’t giving any of them the attention required. There is something incredibly haunting about what little I have read of McCarthy’s prose, though, so I would quite like to see this in full force and intend to do so very soon.

Survivor

Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk

A while ago, when I first started to get into Palahniuk’s work, I was also watching a lot of 9/11 documentaries on television – the end result of watching these documentaries was a kind of paranoia that every time I left the house something horrible was going to happen. This may have had some bearing as to why I didn’t even consider reading Survivor, but the paranoia has since passed and I’m looking to get back on a bit of a Palahniuk bender, starting with the above. I’m already fairly sure that I’ll breeze through this – Chuck’s novels all seem to have the same effect on me – and I’m hopeful of the prospects.

So, this is my offering for the time being; and if anyone has any recommendations they’d like to shoot me way based on the above, feel free; I welcome new reading material at every opportunity. I suppose that this means a number of book reviews will start popping up from time to time, and of course, I have plans. Oh yes, I have plans. For the time being, though, I’ll hopefully be steadily working through these books for the duration of September until the madness of October hits, and afterwards – of course – NaNoWriMo. I’m getting ahead of myself. This list should keep me busy for quote some time yet.

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I Can’t Help You With That Embarrassing Problem, I’m Afraid

Something went wrong, didn't it?

Last month’s Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain was excellent, very fun, and I couldn’t wait  for this month’s. Yesterday’s post was by Miriam Joy at A Farewell To Sanity and before that, Kirsten at Kirsten Writes! Both of whom have written really entertaining posts with some hilarious, and sometimes baffling search terms involved.

So, I am afraid to say that I don’t have nearly as many entertaining search terms. Mostly anyone who finds my blog via a search engine seems to type in entries such as ‘eat sleep write repeat’ or ‘felicity-zara stewart wordpress’, which all in all are pretty likely to redirect here somewhere along the line. Yet because of this, when strange search terms do come along, I tend to notice it quite quickly.

The first strange term was quite an early one, and while it does make sense in context, it’s far more entertaining out of it. One visitor in particular wanted to find details on;

‘Patrick Bateman lifestyle’ 

Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that my blog is a handy all-in-one guide on how to live life as a psychopathic Yuppie who does unmentionable things to women by way of starving rats. But if it was, then I can certainly see why this search would yield results.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), my blog isn’t an all-in-one guide on how to live like a psychopathic Yuppie at all. It is but a humble writing blog, you won’t find that much torture and misogyny here (or at least not intentionally). My apologies to whoever managed to find my blog while obviously searching for something much more visceral, though; I have a feeling that reading about the writing pursuits of a certain 19-year-old aspiring author isn’t exactly what they were going for with that one. This review might prove useful, though.

The next is more than a little odd, and possibly inappropriate, too. Cover your eyes, kiddies;

‘Balls sleeping accidentally exposed’

I …  don’t have anything witty to say about this one off the top of my head, as every time I read it, it seems to make less sense. I just don’t understand this search term.

What I mean to say is; dear visitor, I am very sorry to hear about your embarrassing predicament, even though I can quite honestly say I have never found myself in such a position. This is primarily because I lack male genitalia, but also … well, no, actually, it is just because I’m a girl.

The strangest part about this search term, however, is that I really have no idea how it relates to my blog. I’ve never posted tips on how to avoid this issue, having never suffered from it myself, and in living memory, I’ve never written about anything dealing with it, either. Until today, I can’t even remember whether the word ‘balls’ appears on this blog (maybe in a quote, I’m not sure). Okay, so that book review might have had something to do with it … somewhere along the line? Very, very vaguely connecting point A (the search term) to point B (the review) is the underlining fact that the book in question is ‘about’ the porn industry. That said, I doubt exposure is a worry in said industry. More the whole point.

Next up, we have;

‘Nanowrimo cannibalism’

I swear, you couldn’t make these up.

I mean, what in the heck is NaNoWriMo cannibalism? Oh, yes, today I decided that I was going to live on a healthy, and somewhat sustainable diet of human body parts while writing like a maniac. Is that it? Or … the … you know what? I just can’t get my head around this one at all. It pains me to say this, but I’m not writing about cannibalism for this year’s NaNoWriMo (at least not yet), although I have encountered a few characters who have made cannibalism a part of their lifestyle.

And finally,

‘M love a’

Probably the most baffling one yet. As in, I don’t even have a book review (because, yes, my oddest search terms have all related to my book reviews) to link this one to, or understand what it is that this person was actually trying to ask, let alone what they were trying to find.

Honestly. I don’t think I could even guess at what m loving a actually pertains to, unless it’s some kind of special code, or initials. Could be that ‘Mia love Anthony’ … or ‘meerkat love ants’? Yes. This search term is really that strange to me.

So my take on this? The people who reach my blog via search engine are either psychopaths, people with extremely obtrusive genitals or cannibals.

I also have a feeling that several of my visitors were sorely disappointed when they searched for ‘Jannah Reid’ most likely in the hope of hitting on one of the websites included in the 90% that are porn sites. Don’t ask how I know that. It could be why I’ve been getting some rather strange notifications on my computer as of late, though …

These are probably the most notable results I’ve … well … noticed, but some worthy mentions go to;

‘Where do jackals sleep’ – I couldn’t honestly tell you. I might be able to tell you where they lie, though. My apologies, that was absolutely terrible … this blog isn’t ideal for nature enthusiasts.

‘Hunter S. Thompson sleep’ –   not really sure what they were getting at with this one, not surprised they ended up here, though.

‘Eat write or die’ – well, that’s quite an interesting form of self discipline. I don’t doubt that it gets results.

‘Writing and droning’ – how nice of you to point out that this is what I do most of the time.

‘4 storey freefall’ – something I can help you with, dear visitor! I’m not sure how the 4 storey part relates, though. But if you want to know about someone falling at least 1,000 feet, I’m your girl.

So, there you have it; the weird and sometimes wonderful world of my stats page. As a part of the blog chain this month, a quick NaNoWriMo update;

I hit 50k late on Thursday evening. I’m nowhere near done with my story, though. Actually, I don’t want to be done with it; I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been struggling to even get 14k done over the weekend, but this has much more to do with time than it does my novel. So right now, I’m sitting on 66k and barely halfway through, in love with even the characters who are despicable human beings, and not looking forward to the end because … damn it, I just don’t want to say goodbye. I guess that’s what editing is for, though …

So that’s me punching in and out for the month! I urge you all to check out the following blogs, as they’ll all be coming up with some excellent posts, with far more interesting and amusing search terms than mine, throughout the course of this month!

November 5th —http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/– Kirsten Writes!

November 6th — http://delorfinde.wordpress.com – A Farewell To Sanity

[You Are Here] November 7th — https://thelitjunkie.wordpress.com – Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat

November 8th — http://alohathemuse.wordpress.com – Embracing Insanity

November 9th — http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com/ – Novel Journeys

November 10th —- http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com/ – Red Herring Online

November 11th — http://taystapeinc.wordpress.com – Tay’s Tape

November 12th — http://herebefaries.wordpress.com/ – The Land of Man-Eating Pixies

November 13th – http://randominmind.wordpress.com – Random On My Mind!

November 14th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/ – This Page Intentionally Left Blank

November 15th — http://herestous.wordpress.com – Here’s To Us

November 16th— http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com –  The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

November 17th — http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for the next month’s chain)

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Book Review: Snuff

Snuff

I’m having a little difficulty in thinking of how to start this review, not because Snuff was a difficult read by any means, but more because there is no way in which I can say what I want to without sounding terribly desensitized. So I’m just going to come out and say it;

Snuff was not what I expected.

This is not to say that it was a let down, at all (I enjoyed it rather a lot, make of that what you will), but rather that the title connotes something a little more extreme than I found inside. A little context, look away now if you would like. I won’t bother linking to the Wikipedia entry, mostly because it is not safe for school or work. Essentially, ‘snuff’ is a film genre in which an actual murder is depicted; not fancy Hollywood special effects, a living, breathing human being murdered on film. If one was to watch a snuff film, they would be watching a person die … needless to say, as murder is a punishable crime, these films are not exactly part of a mainstream genre.

Now what does this have to do with the novel, other than the title? What does it even have to do with the review? Well, first, let me make it clear that I did not buy this book based solely on the title, as it suggests something rather different than the actual content. That said, I didn’t buy the book based on this, either. I was feeling particularly gutsy at the time I made The Reading List #1, and wanted to read Snuff before those guts went away (no pun intended). The context that snuff films are used in throughout Snuff is in pornography; Wikipedia won’t cover this, although there is evidence to suggest that this is a subgenre that exists. The shameful, shocking fact of the matter is that some of pornography floating around the Internet can actually tend be a lot worse than snuff films are; here, in Snuff itself, there is no mention of brutal murder, but rather the insinuation that Cassie Wright, the woman all the novel’s narrators (apart from Sheila) are here to have sex with on camera, may even just die accidentally.

The story is told through the eyes of four characters in particular; Mr. 600 (or Branch Bacardi), a seasoned porn actor seemingly reaching the end of his career; Mr. 137, a former prime-time television star intending to act in the film to out himself as straight after an adult movie from his past surfaced, ending his career; Mr. 72 (Darin Johnson), a nineteen-year-old who believes that he is the son porn actress Cassie Wright gave up for adoption and Sheila, Cassie’s personal assistant and talent wrangler on-set, tasked with the job of keeping six-hundred men in check. I’ll take a moment to explain the plot, because none of the former makes much sense without it. Porn actress Cassie Wright is looking to set a new world record, by having sex with six-hundred men on camera – we quickly learn that she was impregnated during the filming of her debut, and that the money this record-breaking film makes will all go to her child, a boy she put up for adoption nearly twenty years ago, in an attempt to make things right between them. When I picked Snuff up, I didn’t expect there to be so much emphasis on the theme of mothers and sons, but there is, to quite and extent.

There is much more emotional depth than the title, or even the synopsis suggests, and to an extent, more of an engagement with the characters than I initially thought would be possible.  In true Palahniuk style, almost everything is described in vivid, brutal detail, but only the things that might make your stomach churn; the idea of six hundred men sharing the same, small toilet should give you enough of an idea to go on. Interspersed between these are small snippets of movie and pop-culture trivia – what could be small facts, such as Marilyn Monroe cutting one oh her high heels shorter than the other to give the desired effect on her rear as she walked, or Lucille Ball letting her hair grow down the sides of her face, wrapping it around toothpicks and pulling the hair back, effectively giving herself a face-lift without surgery, albeit an agonizing one. Things like this, that seem so absurd they may just have happened (a number that I know are facts due to being an ex-film student).

It would be easy enough to dismiss this as a novel solely about the porn industry, or about sex in general, or a sweeping indictment of popular culture. It is not. The one thing that is far more prevalent than the trivia about pornography, or films in general, or the gristly ‘behind the scenes’ moments is the emphasis placed on relationships. Relationships between parents and children, first and foremost, but also the relationships formed in a day, in an instant, or the relationships based on what almost seems to be nothing. Mistrust, and essentially, lies. Or the relationships that are ruined forever in a split second, by way of one small secret getting out, that influences far more important choices. This is what I, personally, felt Palahniuk was getting at with this novel. That is not to say that I am right, but this is what I took away from the experience of reading it. Where I went into it apprehensively, not fully knowing what to expect and holding my breath, I came out of it realizing the relationships illustrated were more touching than I had initially considered they would be.

Of course, another thing that Palahniuk is undoubtedly getting at is the damaged nature of society – perhaps the most disturbing thing about reading Snuff was that it caused me to re-evaluate myself as both a person, and a reader, to an extent. I read and reread it, and yet, I didn’t find myself shocked in the sense that I was unable to believe some of the things mentioned actually existed. I met much of the subject matter with a weary kind of acknowledgment, but maybe this is just a side-effect of being a twenty-first century teenager; maybe I am exactly the kind of person that Palahniuk was aiming a hefty kick at when writing this. We’re too far gone to see exactly what is wrong. This is the underlying message, rather than the projected one, and indeed, it is easy enough to miss – I missed it almost entirely during my first reading, possibly because I was still trying to come to terms with the fact that this was not what I had expected. I do love it when a book takes me by surprise, however.

I could go on, of course, on and on about how so many of the shocking things the reader can be exposed to in Snuff are actually quite real. Whether it is immediately apparent or not, there are some extreme tongue-in-cheek moments, not counting every single mention of porn pun titles which are, in some cases, explained by the various narrators. While this review hasn’t exactly been PG so far, I think I can spare you all some examples lifted directly from the text; indeed, there is no way in which to write a PG review of a Palahniuk novel, or at least, I have yet to find a way. The changing perspectives, also, were of course, something I have found useful to look into due to my own work on Free Fall; the four voices are all at once very similar, but also very different. After the second reading, I found myself able to effectively pin-point which character was speaking without having to refer back to the chapter ‘headings’, there are always certain mannerisms, signs, that point towards which of them are speaking, the most obvious being short phrases that occur regularly throughout; Mr. 600 referring to everyone as ‘dudes’, Mr.137’s ‘wouldn’t you know it?’, Mr. 72’s ‘I don’t know’ and Sheila making frequent use of the phrase ‘true fact’, which is usually preceded by some variation of the aforementioned Hollywood trivia.

Make no mistake, reading Snuff is not a task that should be entered into lightly; there are stomach-churning moments, and events that will simply make you cringe and almost weep with embarrassment for the characters … this is all without mentioning the shocking ending that I am not going to reveal or spoil for anyone. What I will say, however, is that it featured an event that I would have never thought possible. Intestines being sucked out, I can understand, I’ve heard that one before. Being boiled alive in a hot spring, not so implausible. Snuff’s finale, however, is something I never considered, though this is most likely because it’s not particularly one of those things you tend to think about late at night. It’s not something that immediately comes to mind when considering the finer points of human intimacy (or carnality as the case may be).

For the most part, I haven’t found Snuff to be immensely well-received, but it does have its advocates. In case it isn’t immediately obvious, I am an advocate myself, but this is not unusual – I tend towards the things that other people are opposed to, or repulsed by, or quite simply, hate. It’s something I’ve been doing for years. Much of the emphasis of many of the reviews I have read has been on the fact that it is set during the filming of a pornographic movie, rather than what I feel the novel’s actual content is … a shame, or possible denial, and indeed, it is very easy, while reading, to launch directly into denial. It is almost sinfully easy to flick from page to page and proudly think to myself, ‘I’ve never watched anything quite as messed up as that‘, even though the fact remains that this is, most likely, untrue. Whether it be pornography or gore, or anything else on this spectrum, sometimes denial is the only real way of admitting to over indulgence.

Denial like Mr.72’s refusal to consider the fact that he is unable to return home purely because of his own choices, until after his money shot.

Like Mr.137 starring in an all-male porn film to prove that his father didn’t molest him.

Like what seems to be Mr.600’s entire life, or at the very least,  his inability to accept that the withered shadow of a porn star that he is watching on screen is him, only five years prior to the shoot he is about to partake in.

Snuff is not really an examination of why men and women alike choose to shoot these films. Why websites I won’t mention here do so well, and make so much money. One thing it is impossible to deny is that it does look at society as a collective, but rather in what is no longer there – how we seem to have lost some combination of our compassion, humanity, or our capacity to recognize how wrong some things really are. It takes into consideration the notion of freedom of choice, not so much how free our choices are, but whether or not to point out to a grown adult that they are doing something wrong. I was most at ease when reading this, when I was considering others rather than myself; when I was considering why the characters act in the ways they do, and when their motives started to make more sense according to their back stories. I wasn’t so comfortable when I was forced to acknowledge that yes, as a reader, I most likely am one of those people who is beyond help.

The Final Summary:

Palahniuk is, of course, true to form here. From a personal standpoint, Snuff is not X-Rated, but it is easy to see why it would be. This is nothing new, of course; much like Haunted, this is not for the weak of stomach or will, and the ending is, quite literally, shocking – a visceral image that stayed with me from finishing my first read through to finishing my second, where it stunned me slightly less because I knew what was going to happen. This book is not a read for everyone, but is interesting enough if you’re a Palahniuk fan, or looking for something disturbingly different.

A Few Links: 

Snuff Book Review at the Chicago Centre for Literature and Photography
Snuff on Goodreads
Snuff at The Cult [Official Chuck Palahniuk Website]
Snuff on Amazon.com

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The Reading List #2

I really didn’t think I would be posting another one of these for at least a month. Lo and behold, though, here it is, in spite of the overwhelming fact that I didn’t manage to read everything on my last list … mostly due to costs.

Before I press on, though, a quick update on this; I finished The Rules of Attraction,  Snuff and Haunted in quick succession, and most likely burned myself out. I’ll probably be going through Less Than Zero on Monday – yes, my ‘Currently Reading’ widget lies! Honestly, I updated it, but sort of burned myself out … that, or I’m scared to finish my final book too soon, because that means I have to wait quite some time for more. A couple of weeks, at least.  So, Monday shall be spent reading, though seeing as the NaNoWriMo forums reset on Monday, I might get all enthusiastic about that instead, we’ll see. So, the menu for the next few weeks is:

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey
Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey – Chuck Palahniuk

I’m on a major Palahniuk bender at present – I really wish I’d delved more completely into his writing earlier. It would be easy enough for me to simply make this entire list a list of Palahniuk’s books, but I don’t think that would be entirely fair, nonetheless, the sooner I can get my hands on the rest of his novels, the better. Why Rant? Let’s just say I’ve heard some very, very good things about it from some of Palahniuk’s more disparaging critics, so that’s got to mean something, right? That aside, the concept itself seems strangely similar to something I cooked up quite a few years back (though undoubtedly, Rant is far more polished, and much more well-executed) , and as a result, I find myself with something of a soft spot for it. It strikes a chord with me.

Imperial Bedrooms

Imperial Bedrooms – Bret Easton Ellis

Have you guessed who two of my favourite authors are yet? Naturally, I’m going to wait until I’ve finished Less Than Zero before reading this, namely because both books follow the same character, at different times. In the case of Imperial Bedrooms, the central character, Clay, is middle-aged as opposed to being a teenager, hence the reading order. Every time I find myself in my local WHSmith branch, I pick up Imperial Bedrooms without having enough cash on me to afford it; it’s the only Easton Ellis book they seem to stock, which is a complete shock in itself. This may be part of the reason why I’m so ostensibly drawn to it. Imperial Bedrooms isn’t rated too highly, but this seems to be a common trend, and yet still, I’m compelled to read on. This and The Informers are my only Easton Ellis books left, and I’m determined to read them before the year is out.

Bright Lights, Big City
Bright Lights, Big City – Jay McInerney

It has c0me to my attention that I am in dire need of some Jay McInerney on my bookshelf. Where better to start than where McInerney himself started? I’m not going to pull what I pulled with American Psycho here, I don’t think – instead, I fully intend to start at the beginning and go from there. Apart from Bret Easton Ellis’ comments about McInerney in Lunar Park (and considering he was writing a pseudo-Ellis, I’m not so sure these comments were entirely reliable), I don’t know an awful lot about Bright Lights, Big City – from what I’m aware of, though, this book seems to be right up my alley. It’s been slated as ‘beloved, imitated, and iconic,’ so I have high hopes, but perhaps not so high that I’ll spoil the reading experience for myself. And, oh yeah, second person narrative. Should be fun.

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 – Hunter S. Thompson

Oh no, she’s here to gush about Hunter S. Thompson again! Damn right I am. Fear and Loathing in Last Vegas is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of all time, and yet, I haven’t gotten around to reading this because, until recently, I was unaware of the concept. That said, from the collective works and essays of The Great Shark Hunt, I do have some idea of what to expect here, and of course, I expect quite a lot indeed. I honestly should have snapped this up much sooner. Silly me. That said, had I done that, I wouldn’t have had the chance to read The Rum Diary when I did … it’s all a little bitter sweet, really. Oh, unfortunately, I couldn’t actually afford The Curse of Lono … should make for an excellent Christmas present, though!

Slaves of New York

Slaves of New York – Tama Janowitz

I remarked to my mom recently that I’d probably fit right in in New York. I have no idea what the basis for this comment was, but anyway; Janowitz, like McInerney is an author I heard about through reading Lunar Park, and as such, the link makes me think that I’ll very much enjoy Slaves of New York. Judging simply on the Goodreads synopsis, this is another book that is very much my kind of reading material, and I’m also absolutely thrilled that it is by a female author for once! I was starting to feel very much alone in my endeavours; Slaves is now a must-read for me.

Lullaby – Chuck Palahniuk and Diary – Chuck Palahniuk

Lullaby sounds positively chilling, or the concept does. This is only one of a number of Palahniuk’s books I intend to read, as I’ve already stated many times (you can almost see the hipster stereotype starting to emerge now, can’t you?), but what draws me to Lullaby is not only its narrative, but also the fact that it is part of the ‘horror’ trilogy Palahniuk intended to write – the other two books in the trilogy being Haunted and the above, Diary. After enjoying Haunted as I did (the review was posted a couple of days ago) I’m actually rather to finish this trilogy as soon as I possibly can. There seems to be significantly more bad press for Diary than there does for Lullaby, but as I’m sure you all know by now, since when has that stopped me? I admit, I’m not so sure about the concept on this one … which I’m hoping just means that I’m likely to be pleasantly surprised by Diary.

So, that’s another list done and dusted, upon which I’ve had to severely limit myself considering there are still maybe a dozen more books I’m lusting to read right about now. It’s so painfully easy to tell that I don’t have much else to do, isn’t it?

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Book Review: Haunted

Haunted
Haunted may very well be infamous, or at least, one of its short stories, Guts most assuredly is. If you’ve never heard of Guts, then you most likely won’t want to hear about it, and if you have heard of it, then you’ll know at least a little about its bizarre legacy. The public readings peppered with two or three people fainting during each. Also known as ‘The Guts Effect.’

I powered through Haunted in much the same way as I have powered through all the books I have bought and received in the past few days. It’s difficult to describe exactly what drew me to it in the first place, other than a curiosity instilled by a friend who explained Guts to me before English class last year. I’m still not sure why I didn’t hunt for it to begin with. Maybe I was a little scared of it.

In all honesty, I’m not so sure what I was scared of; Haunted didn’t disappoint, not by a long shot, but I got the sense, before I started reading it on Sunday night, that I would need to prepare myself for the worst. I had the expectation that whatever I had endured while reading American Psycho would pale in comparison to what Haunted was about to put me through. For someone who didn’t entirely know what to expect, I sure had my expectations.

Perhaps it was the reactions of other people that had read this novel that conditioned me; trying not to spoil it for myself, I still wanted to see what others had to say about it on Goodreads and elsewhere on the Internet. The bulk of what I found basically told me that everyone who had read this book was grossed out, with the exception of one or two strong-stomached reviewers. Fair enough. I have a strong stomach, I thought, or at least, I do in most senses. This isn’t something I need to harp on about, of course … I found myself significantly affected by American Psycho mostly for its brutality, so I expected to react in a similar way. I breathed in, out, in, out slowly before reading Guts, made sure I was lying down on the sofa (just in case), pillow behind my head, flicking through the pages with trembling hands. First comes Saint Gut-Free’s poem, and then … I prepare myself for the worst …

It wasn’t Guts that got me, though. Guts, I read through and genuinely wondered what all the fuss had been about. I’ve never tasted calamari in my life. It made me glad I don’t eat corn, though. When you stop and think about it, the scene in itself is horrific enough – if you’ve seen The Final Destination‘s swimming pool scene, you’re halfway there. If you haven’t, I’ll spare you the details; the words ‘pool filter’, ‘intestines’ and ‘prolapse’ should say enough. Maybe I was conditioned, long before reading this, by the tale about the guy who, imitating a Jackass stunt, ended up with a bird scarer attached to his intestines. It’s not as uncommon as it may seem.

Honestly, the two stories I can pinpoint as affecting me most while reading Haunted were Comrade Snarky’s tale, Speaking Bitterness, and The Baroness Frostbite’s Hot Potting, both for very different reasons. It’s difficult to fully explain why without spoiling the book should anyone want to read it, and without revealing rather too much about myself (more than I feel needs to be revealed right here on this blog). So I’ll say this: Speaking Bitterness disturbed me from a personal place, from personal experience. It was, however, a harsh warning, I felt, not so much directed at me, but I took it on. That out of what happened to the characters in this particular short story, a different kind of evil was born. It was a warning to me not to cross the line and become so mistrustful that I end up that way. Hot Potting on the other hand, was something a part of me dreaded reading, after finding out the basis for the story. The term itself yields numerous search results when typed into Google, but the story is based on a true event. This is the most disturbing part of it. It was the imagery, and attention to detail, that had me shaking; the juxtaposition of scientific fact and suffering. Hearing the details of how each condition affects the body, and then seeing the reaction of the person it is happening to. In case the title didn’t give it away, Hot Potting is, essentially, about being boiled alive in a hot spring. Another tale I heard from my friend, although after trying to digest Guts that morning (excuse the pun), this was a little beyond my capacity for fully understanding.

I suppose I should really take the time to explain Haunted’s concept. Seventeen writers answer an advertisement for an Artists’ Retreat, to abandon their lives for three months, leaving behind the distractions of real life to create their magnum opus. Their finest piece of work. There are many references to the Villa Diodati throughout, and rightly so, as the retreat, the old, abandoned theatre, acts as a modern-day equivalent.  Twenty-three short stories and nineteen poems intersperse the main narrative, each of them told by one of the seventeen ‘writers’, as well as the organizer, Mr. Whittier, and his supposed assistant, Mrs. Clark. These stories explain each character’s nickname; each story becomes something of a confession, often referred to as the things the characters cannot tell anybody else, the reasons they want to disappear or the things they have done wrong.

The biggest problem with this retreat, however, is that human nature begins to set in. The writers, instead of, well, writing, each seek to become a martyr in some way or another; they plot to fake their suffering in order to gain celebrity status, telling a story of pain and hardship and getting rich while they do so. Without coordinating their plans for sabotage, however, things quickly begin to unravel.

There’s violence. Blood. Gore, Dismemberment. Cannibalism. All these terrible things that should, in theory, make them so much more loved and respected by the general public. A race develops to see who can become the most dishevelled before they are ‘rescued’. In the first week, every character (with the exception of Whittier and Clark) has managed to lop off some number of fingers and toes, or slit their nostrils, or starve themselves enough to look emaciated (Saint Gut-Free doing so effortlessly due to his six-inch intestine.) The thing that struck me immediately about this was the lengths that people will go to for some form of financial gain, and while there is always the sense that most of this is exaggerated, it’s a jarring thought. If these thoughts weren’t possible, if this was beyond consideration, it wouldn’t have made it into the book. It begs the question: what would you do in that situation? Something I hadn’t been forced to consider since I read Battle Royale.  Would greed get the better of me, to the point that I would be happy to eat the flesh of someone I’d been living with?

It’s thoughts like these that cause Haunted to be … well … haunting. I doubt that this was the initial intention, of course, but they are thoughts that stay in my mind ‘long’ after reading (I finished the book early yesterday morning, instead of taking that jog I promised myself I would), alongside the other, more demure, urge to write my own confession. My own story. A short piece based around something terrible or humiliating I’ve done in the past. The problem is, I’m really not interesting enough to do it. The only thing left is to embellish, though this is something else I feel Palahniuk is getting at. While the stories have their basis in fact, there’s a feeling that each character may be exaggerating the finer points, making their story seem more shocking by comparison, in exactly the same way as they seek to make their suffering more terrible.

Haunted could easily stand alone as a series of short stories, but I don’t feel they would have as much of an impact. I don’t think that reading Ambition and Ritual and Dissertation as stories alone, rather than having the context of the characters being in the retreat, would have made me understand them enough. I know that my mind wouldn’t be buzzing for hours after with thoughts on the true meaning of Whittier’s second story, of what was inside the Nightmare Box (trying to comprehend the explanation given), as well as working to cover everything in my mind. The simple phrases that suddenly have that much more significance by the end. The loose ends that are only tied in the futility of the characters’ actions.

Of course it’s not uncommon for something from the mind of Palahniuk to be thought-provoking; in other respects, his work is what I consider to be white-knuckle, disturbing, genuinely pushing the boundaries of what people are prepared to hear or endure. Just as Palahniuk does this to his readers, his characters within Haunted do this to themselves. The one thing to bear in mind while reading, too, is that if a character did not immediately show their true colours, if we are not immediately aware of the sometimes terrible things they have done in the past, they gradually evolve into beings with much less humanity. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, or perhaps this in itself is a comment on ‘sheep mentality’ – again, forcing me to question, if someone was butchering an unconscious person in front of my eyes, with the intent to cook and eat their flesh, would I do something about it? In some ways, the possibility that nobody decides to do anything can come across as shocking – fortunately, I’ve learned not to expect too much from people.

These scenes are replayed several times over, starting rather early in the novel. Each terrible thing that happens is transformed by the writers, the characters, into something they can utilize. Watching a person die in front of them becomes a protracted hardship that they were forced to endure by Mr. Whittier and Mrs. Clark, whom they dub their ‘devils’, creating scenes of torture that never even existed.

I wasn’t entirely surprised that many reviewers don’t consider this Palahniuk’s strongest work; for me, however, it is a definite favourite. I’ll admit, now, that I found it difficult to get through at times, though these were not the times I expected. I know that a reread is not out of the question, but it isn’t something I feel I’d be forcing, considering that I’m actually quite looking forward to that point in time. The format gripped me as it forced me out of my comfort zone somewhat, the story not being linear due to it being, essentially, a collection of short stories interspersed by a narrative running parallel to it. I didn’t find this immensely hard to follow, if I’m being honest, and didn’t find that the short stories interjected throughout the main narrative detracted from the feel of the book at all; I’m not denying that it may be very easy to get confused if you put this down for, say, a week, and come back to it at some unspecified point, but the format worked well for the amount of time I put into reading this.

Similarly, I don’t regret reading this at all, which is another gripe some reviewers have had. The practice of throwing this book at the wall seems common enough. Putting it down and never revisiting this is another, although Palahniuk actually stated that he wanted to create something ‘you don’t want to keep next to your bed,’ so on this level, mission accomplished. I’m not one of those people, though. Haunted kept me glued to almost the same spot on the sofa for hours on end because I wasn’t about to just let myself forsake it. That would mean giving up. That would mean gambling away half of the experience for the sake of my own sanity (which I honestly don’t think I had much of to begin with), which hardly even seems like a gamble at all. No, Haunted is not Fight Club, just as it isn’t Snuff, either, but this is not a gripe by any means; the wonderful thing about it is that it is a reading experience in its own right, it doesn’t need the acclaim that Fight Club brought about. It stands on its own. My personal opinion is that you don’t need to have read any of Palahniuk’s other works to read Haunted … you just need to be aware of what you’re letting yourself in for.

The Final Summary:

Make sure you haven’t eaten anything before you read Guts, and that you haven’t got something in the oven while reading Hot Potting; you most likely will never look at a bowling ball in the same way again, and will start questioning if everyone with a cold is really carrying a life-threatening disease, but other than that, you’re good to go. Haunted is not for the faint of heart,  the squeamish, the weak of stomach, but it is a worthwhile read if Palahniuk’s work interests you, or if you’re looking for something that will stay with you for a long time. Haunted is the trap door to dark places that Palahniuk wanted it to be, and in this sense, it succeeds on every level … if nothing else, it’s an effective warning to stay away from swimming pool circulation pumps, or at least not to sit on them.

A Few Links:

Haunted at The Cult [official Chuck Palahniuk Website]
‘Guts’ Short Story at The Cult [BE WARNED: not safe for work, school, children, the elderly, the squeamish, or … well, anyone who hasn’t bothered to read this review.]
‘Slumming’ Short Story at Randomhouse Publishing [BE WARNED: not as graphic as the above story, but caution is still advised.]
Haunted on Goodreads 
Haunted on Amazon.com

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The Reading List #1

Or maybe that should be the first reading list. Or the October reading list. Or the ‘I don’t know how I’m possibly going to afford copies of these books but I’ll do it somehow’ reading list. I should probably add that I’ve been intending to read these books for anything from two to six months, if not more, and yet for some strange reason, I haven’t yet gotten around to it. So without further ado:

Less Than Zero
Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis

So, July was American Psycho month and August was Lunar Park, but I haven’t been able to shake the fact that I started reading B.E.E’s work in the wrong order. This is mostly due to the fact that the aforementioned novels were the only ones on sale within my price range, and I haven’t placed an order on Amazon since … last July, I believe. Goodreads lists this under ‘Books I never should have read’ and ‘the movie was BETTER than the book’ … but since when has that ever deterred me? If I believed at all in these lists, I wouldn’t even know about Bret Easton Ellis, I’m thinking.  On the other hand, it also appears in such lists as ‘Best existential fiction’ and ‘books you can’t live without’; a confidence boost , I suppose, but I was always going to read it anyway. I’m pretty determined not to ruin this for myself by reading too many reviews about it, or reading too much into it, so I can’t really say much other than I plan to read all of B.E.E’s works before the year is out. Whether or not I sleep after doing so is questionable, but will be well worth it.

Haunted

Haunted – Chuck Palahniuk

I first heard about Haunted from the same friend who, essentially, introduced me to Fight Club. (I can’t thank him enough for doing that) The infamy of one of its short stories, Guts, speaks for itself, and appears to be something of a precursor for the events to follow, but I’m a little … obsessed with reading more of Haunted, I have to admit. Goodreads will tell you that it is ‘one of the most disturbing books ever written’ and is one of the ‘books that should be made into movies’, but my interest stems from more than just testing my own personal boundaries. In spite of being penned by the same author, I have a distinct feeling that Haunted may be a rather different reading experience than Fight Club was. Oh, and I promise I won’t faint.

The Curse of Lono

The Curse of Lono – Hunter S. Thompson

The first thing I’m going to say? I would gladly shell out £594.99 for a signed copy of The Curse of Lono. I’d spend my entire book allowance on it. I’ve never read it before, so I’m as unprepared as they come, and yet I have the distinct feeling that it’s almost impossible for me to dislike HST’s work. The redundancy, then, of striving to own a copy of this book may seem apparent, but I don’t feel as though I can go without. Unfortunately, I don’t own a comprehensive collection of HST’s writings, but I’m working on it – believe me when I say I’m working on it – and one day I’ll make it happen. As such, there are plenty of other books that might have taken this spot on the list, but I’m more enthusiastic about reading this than, perhaps, any other book here, and the only reason it features in this spot rather than at the very top is because I have my doubts about getting it before October; should I manage it, you can expect to hear me raving about it in due course, I’m sure.

Meat
Meat – Joseph D’Lacey

The most annoying part of me entering this book into my list is that I saw it in store. I saw it, and wanted it; the unfortunate truth is that I only briefly glanced at the shelf before moving on, and I was curious about Meat, but nothing came of it. I wish it had. Again, I’m determined not to spoil the reading experience by indulging too much in Goodreads’ reviews, and already have a minor grasp on what the narrative entails, but thankfully not enough to put me off reading. This slight idea is what I’m basing my desire to read off – unlike with Easton Ellis and Palahniuk, I’ve never read anything by D’Lacey before, but I have the feeling that Meat may be a good place to start.

Snuff
Snuff – Chuck Palahniuk

The second Palahniuk novel on here, in part because I fear I might never read it if I don’t ‘bite the bullet’ now, as it were, and read. And that just wouldn’t do. My curiosity won’t let it lie, not at all, and so, here we have Snuff. I read a fairly comprehensive review of this that made my head spin, and the prospect of experiencing a similar sensation while reading this is almost too much to bear – I can’t pass up that chance, not right now. That said, I have the distinct feeling that I may eventually walk away and forget about this book, or be a little too perturbed by its contents to want to visit or revisit it. So, I’m seizing the day and scheduling this for an October read, before it’s too late.

The Rules of Attraction
The Rules of Attraction – Bret Easton Ellis 

Sean Bateman appears in American Psycho, the brother of its central character, Patrick Bateman. I’m not going to lie, this was what got me interested in reading The Rules of Attraction, and I’ve searched for a copy to no avail. I read the first page on Amazon, and this was enough to convince me – as with Less Than Zero, I feel that I should have taken the time to read this before both American Psycho and Lunar Park, but the fact remains that I didn’t, and there is no way in which to change it. Does that mean I’m going to abandon reading this altogether? Absolutely not. Three of the four authors of the books on this list are authors I need to read everything by, and B.E.E is one of them.

So there we have it – there are many, many more, but I feel that I probably couldn’t read much more than this over the space of one or two months. What started out as a reading list designated for October has … escalated, to say the least. I’ll take the time here to register the fact that some of these choices may seem either shocking or depraved, that there may be the question of ‘what is wrong’ with me raised; what would possess me to want to read some of these books? All I’m saying is that I’ve had a little head start. I don’t think any of these choices could disturb me more than anything else I’ve read.

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