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Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Haunted: A Novel (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Chuck Palahniuk

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5,884128711 (3.4)107
Title:Haunted: A Novel
Authors:Chuck Palahniuk
Info:Anchor (2006), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:@wishlist: to read

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Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk (2005)


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English (125)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (129)
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
It would be naive to say that the graphic nature of this novel isn't one of its major draws, and that upsets a lot of people, understandably. Not everyone is into the weird, gross, and macabre. If you can handle it however, or are even-*gasp*-intrigued by the darker recesses of humanity, Haunted is a wonderful novel.

The framing story is enough to pique interest if you've not already heard of the novel for its short stories. A group of people, all different, most never identified by their real names, answer an ad for a writer's retreat out away from their lives and the rest of civilization for three months so they can focus their entire energy on producing their life's work.

Things, of course, aren't all they're cracked up to be, and the writers soon figure this out. Minor spoiler: Instead of banding together to formulate a plan to escape, they engage in self-sabotage, finding ways to make their already bad situation even worse, in the hopes that they will be rescued by some unknown entity, and their made-up story on how they were kidnapped, starved, and mutilated will generate enough buzz to make them all famous and soon production studios will be lining up to purchase the film rights.

While the writers don't ever do much writing during the framing chapters, each give way to a poem about a certain character and a short story by them. It's usually never clear when the story was written, and some are even just recited by the character telling it, but by that time you'll have realized that the actual writing process of these characters isn't the point, and never was.

None of the characters sound too different from each other in the way Chuck writes their stories, so some may understandably have an issue with that, but if you latch onto the increasingly sick and depraved stories these characters tell, you won't mind. You'll be wondering what awful story someone will tell next. It's more morbid satisfaction to me than meaningful literature, but I'm perfectly okay with that. They're all well-written, interesting, and so certifiably Chuck Palahniuk that I enjoyed this novel immensely.

My favorite of the short stories include the infamous Guts, that will make you pucker right up, Mrs. Clark's trilogy of stories surrounding The Nightmare Box, the horrifying and oddly sweet Exodus, the absurd Civil Twilight, and the graphic Hot Potting.

Don't miss this if you're an envelope-pushing Palahniuk fan, a fan of horror, or the absurd. Those aren't the only qualities this book has to offer, but don't kid yourself if they don't make it a little more morbidly exciting. ( )
  TheTylex | Jun 3, 2016 |
This anthology includes classic text that is written in language accessible to American teens, The individual biographies of the authors is located toward the end of the book presumably to prevent distraction from the stories themselves, but available as a resource to apply background knowledge to the text which is imperative for understanding the context of each story.

This would be great for teaching classic text around Halloween. It would also be a great feature in the library around Halloween time along with other books that relay ghost stories ( )
  MagLuCliff | Apr 15, 2016 |
2005 ( )
  ChrisPisarczyk | Mar 17, 2016 |
This is one of the most horrible books I have ever read! Not because it is a "bad" book but because the characters are completely and utterly terrible people. I was so disgusted by some of the things I read I had to take breaks just regain some emotional stability. It was like watching an episode of reality television; you know it's wrong and you should stop but you just can't help but tune in. ( )
  AmberKirbey | Mar 10, 2016 |
The main story centers on a group of 17 individuals (all of whom go by nicknames based on the story they tell) who have decided to participate in a secret writers' retreat. After having noticed an invitation to the retreat posted on the bulletin board of a cafe in Oregon, the characters follow instructions on the invitation to meet Mr. Whittier, the retreat's organizer. Whittier tells them to each wait for a bus to pick them up the next morning and bring only what they can fit into one piece of luggage (in particular, only what they feel they need most).

The next day, the 17 characters, Whittier, and his assistant Mrs. Clark are driven to an abandoned theatre. Whittier locks all of them inside the theatre, telling them they have three months to each write one story before he will allow them to leave. In the meantime, they will have enough food and water to survive, as well as heat, electricity, bedrooms, bathrooms, and a clothes washing and drying machine provided.

The characters live under harmless conditions at first. However, the group (not including Whittier or Clark) eventually decide that they could make a better story of their own suffering inside the theatre, and thereby become rich after the public discovers their fate. They then begin to individually sabotage the food and utilities provided to them, each character trying to only destroy one food or utility to slightly increase the drama of their stay. However, as no single character is aware of the others' plans, they end up destroying all their food and utilities, forcing all of them to struggle to survive starvation, cold, and darkness.

The format of the book is unique. Each chapter contains 3 sections: a story chapter, a poem about a particular writer on the tour (its author is unknown) and a story written by that writer.

[edit] Characters
The following are the 19 characters in the main narrative, along with the stories they tell:

Character Story Description
Brandon Whittier "Dog Years", "Obsolete" A wheelchair-bound rich man who owns the abandoned theatre and hosts the writers' retreat. Though he appears to be a very old man, he is in fact a 13 year old boy who suffers from progeria. He amassed his wealth by convincing middle-aged married women to sleep with him, telling them that he was an eighteen year old virgin, then blackmailing them into giving him money.
Tess Clark "Post-Production", "The Nightmare Box", "Poster Child", "Cassandra" A housewife turned failed amateur porn actress who has become Whittier's assistant to learn what happened to her daughter Cassandra at Whittier's last writer's retreat.
Saint Gut-Free "Guts" An abnormally skinny man who lost part of his lower intestine in a masturbation accident.
Mother Nature "Foot Work" A reflexologist and homeopathic therapy expert who was once employed in prostitution based around her skills with reflexology. She has joined the retreat to escape the Russian Mafia, who are out to kill her for abandoning her job and being an accessory to the murder of her friend's pimp.
Miss America "Green Room" A pregnant model who wants to become famous.
Lady Baglady (Evelyn Keyes) "Slumming" A rich woman who, along with her husband, used to pretend to be homeless to get over her boredom with being rich. After she and her husband witness a crime leading to the murder of a wealthy Brazilian heiress, her husband is murdered by the killers, and a string of homeless people are murdered in the search for her. She comes to the retreat to escape the people who want to kill her.
The Earl of Slander "Swan Song" A reporter who murders a former child star in order to frame him for collecting child pornography, so that he can write a Pulitzer Prize-winning article about it.
The Duke of Vandals (Terry Fletcher) "Ambition" An amateur artist who sneaks paintings into museums. He later becomes a respected professional when he murders a famous artist as a favor to the man's patron. He has come to the retreat to escape the same fate as the other artist.
Director Denial "Exodus" A social worker at a police station. She brings with her a cat named Cora Reynolds, named after its former owner, a co-worker who killed herself trying to stop police officers from using anatomically correct dolls for sexual purposes.
Reverend Godless "Punch Drunk" A former soldier who, with a group of other soldiers, raises money by lip-syncing in drag and allowing people to assault him, in order to fund a war on religion.
The Matchmaker "Ritual" A man who dresses similar to a cowboy. He convinced his wife to marry him after hiring a male prostitute to ruin her idea of the perfect man. Rather than being autobiographical, his story is an extended "joke" he learned from his uncles, which is in fact an anecdote about a freak accident in a Nazi POW camp that saved their lives.
Sister Vigilante "Civil Twilight" A religious woman who carries a bowling ball with which she may or may not have killed people.
Chef Assassin (Richard Talbott) "Product Placement" A professional chef who murders critics who write negative reviews of his cooking and blackmails knife manufacturers by threatening to tell the world that he uses only their knives to commit his deeds.
Comrade Snarky "Speaking Bitterness" A woman who is critical of other women's looks. When she was a child her parents divorced and her mother continually warned her that her father might sexually abuse her. This, however, never occurred but because of it she has been wary and critical of men for her entire life. She came to the writers' retreat after she and the members of a women's retreat sexually assaulted an individual who may or may not have been a post-operative male-to-female transgendered person for virtue of their having been born male.
Agent Tattletale (Eugene Denton) "Crippled" A man who becomes temporarily crippled and tries to cheat the company he worked for out of worker's compensation after he recovers. After killing a man who was collecting evidence on him for the company, he takes that man's job and is almost killed by a woman on whom he spied.
The Missing Link "Dissertation" A member of the Chewlah, a tribe of people who are, according to local rumor, able to transform into sasquatches.
The Countess Foresight (Claire Upton) "Something's Got to Give" A woman with psychic powers. She was arrested for murdering the owner of an antique shop who would not let her touch (and therefore receive psychic visions) the unborn child of Marilyn Monroe located in a milky jar of fluid. She now wears an electronic tracking bracelet as part of the terms of her parole.
The Baroness Frostbite (Miss Leroy) "Hot Potting" A former employee of the White River Lodge who lost her lips to frostbite while trying to save someone from an accident at the hot springs nearby.
Miss Sneezy (Lisa Noonan) "Evil Spirits" A woman with chronic sinus problems. She claims to carry an incurable disease, and that she escaped from a government isolation facility.

[edit] "Guts"
The book is best known for the short story "Guts", which had been published previous to the book in the March 2004 issue of Playboy magazine as well as on Palahniuk's website (Palahniuk offered to let them publish another story along with it, but the publishers found the second work too disturbing). It is a tale of violent accidents involving masturbation where the reader is told "to hold his breath" in the very first line.

While on his 2003 tour to promote his novel Diary, Palahniuk read "Guts" to his audiences. It was reported that over 35 people fainted while listening to the readings. On his tour to promote Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories in the summer of 2004, he read the story to audiences again, bringing the total amount of fainters up to 53, and later up to 60, while on tour to promote the softcover edition of Diary. The last fainting occurred on May 28, 2007, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where 5 people fainted, one of which occurred when a man was trying to leave the auditorium, which resulting in him falling and hitting his head on the door. Palahniuk is apparently not bothered by these incidents, which have not stopped fans from reading "Guts" or his other works.

In a September 2004 reading of "Guts" at Cooper Union in New York City, no listener admitted to fainting. When Palahniuk showed surprise, many members of the audience replied, "This is New York!" in a nod to the alleged inability to shock the city's citizens.

[edit] Plot summary
"Guts" begins with the narrator telling the reader to hold their breath for the duration of the story.

The narrator then describes three unnerving incidents involving adolescent boys masturbating. First, he describes a boy inserting a lubricated carrot into his rectum to stimulate his prostate while masturbating, and then hiding the carrot in a pile of laundry. His mother later takes the laundry away and presumably discovers the lubricated carrot, but never mentions it to him. Next, the narrator describes a young boy inserting a thin stick of candle wax into his urethra to stimulate it while masturbating. The wax slips back into the boy's bladder, requiring surgery to remove it. Finally, the narrator describes an incident in which he sat on the water intake at the bottom of a swimming pool while masturbating. The suction caused his rectum and lower intestines to prolapse and become tangled in the filter, forcing the narrator to gnaw through his own innards in order to free himself and avoid drowning. The narrator's sister later becomes impregnated by semen deposited by the narrator in the pool, which results in her having an abortion.

In all three cases, although the parents of the boys involved knew about the incident, they never discussed it afterwards, causing all three to figuratively "hold their breath" while they waited for the reaction that never came.

Purportedly all three of these incidents are based on true stories. According to Palahniuk, the first two tales came from his friends' experiences and the third he heard while shadowing sexual addiction support groups as research for Choke. In one of these groups, he met an extremely thin man. When Palahniuk asked him how he stayed so thin, he told him "I had a massive bowel resectioning." When Palahniuk asked what he meant, he told him the story which was the basis for the third episode in "Guts".

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
Palahniuk's always been hammy, but in the past, speedster plots and glossy prose salvaged the sitcom shallowness. Here, Haunted's wonky framing device tries to hold together 23 tales (and 21 accompanying poems) that would've best been served without garnish.
If books had aromas, this one would reek of "old potatoes melting into a black puddle under the kitchen sink."
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First words
This was supposed to be a writer's retreat. It was supposed to be safe.

An isolated writer's colony, where we could work,
run by an old, old dying man named Whittier,
until it wasn't.

And we supposed to write poetry. Pretty poetry.
This crowd of us, his gifted students,
locked away from the ordinary world for three months.
The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. (Mrs. Clark in “Post Production: A Story by Mrs. Clark")
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385509480, Hardcover)

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk is a novel made up of stories: Twenty-three of them, to be precise. Twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you’ll ever encounter—sometimes all at once. They are told by people who have answered an ad headlined “Writers’ Retreat: Abandon Your Life for Three Months,” and who are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of “real life” that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them. But “here” turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theater where they are utterly isolated from the outside world—and where heat and power and, most important, food are in increasingly short supply. And the more desperate the circumstances become, the more extreme the stories they tell—and the more devious their machinations become to make themselves the hero of the inevitable play/movie/nonfiction blockbuster that will surely be made from their plight.

Haunted is on one level a satire of reality television—The Real World meets Alive. It draws from a great literary tradition—The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron, the English storytellers in the Villa Diodati who produced, among other works, Frankenstein—to tell an utterly contemporary tale of people desperate that their story be told at any cost. Appallingly entertaining, Haunted is Chuck Palahniuk at his finest—which means his most extreme and his most provocative.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:57 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Twenty-three stories chronicle the experiences of people who have answered an ad for an artist's retreat, believing that they will find a peaceful refuge, only to find themselves isolated and trapped in a cavernous old theater.

(summary from another edition)

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