24 August 2005

Haunted (When the Minutes Drag)

I'm slowly, surely making my way through the CD version of Chuck Palahniuk's latest "novel," Haunted. I say "novel" because it's really a bunch of short stories with a narrative built around them. As mentioned earlier, this book has gotten some fairly shitty reviews (including a downright hostile one from my favorite magazine writer). As so often happens, when an artistic work -- be it a movie, album, TV show or novel -- gets uniformly glowing reviews, I'm usually disappointed when I finally get around to watching/listening to/reading it. Conversely, when something is almost universally reviled, I think, "How bad can it be?"

On that note, I says Haunted is not as bad as the playa-hater critics would have you believe. A couple of the stories have clumsy endings, but by and large it's kept me entertained, so I don't regret the money spent nor the time invested in the work.

However, the writer's retreat plot device is growing more and more ridiculous and over the top as I make my way through the 11-disc set. I like to think that this was intentional on Palahniuk's part. Overall, though, I'm enjoying it. It has to be said that Haunted features "Guts," a story that, legend has it, caused upwards of 60 people to puke, faint or otherwise physically react when Palahniuk would read it at book signings. Months before I ever thought about buying Haunted I was able to track it down quite easily online, but alas, it didn't make me vomit when I read it; nevertheless, it's a great story, as are "The Nightmare Box," "Swan Song" and "Dog Years."

One bum note: In "Ritual," Palahniuk engages in a bit of onomatopoeia with the noise one makes when they're dragging their finger across their throat in the universal pantomime for "cutting your throat." He describes it as the sound you make when you're hawking up a lung oyster from the back of your throat. If I had to spell it, I would go for something like KKKKRRRRRIIIKKKK -- not pronounced "crick," mind you. Palahniuk used "Sha-rook." And the actor who performs the story says, several times, "SHAH-ruk!" Which lends a story that is supposed to be cynical and morbid an air of unintentional comedy: the noise represents [spoiler alert!] someone getting their throat slit, as well as some guy accidentally slicing off his pecker, but with the nitwit actor bellowing "SHAH-ruk!" in a cluelessly deadpan fashion, it completely spoils the effect. This is one case where the printed page is preferable to its aural equivalent.

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