Disappearing in ‘Haunted’
If you’ve been watching TV or gone shopping lately, you know that the blockbuster movie this year probably will be the next Star Wars installment. I often wonder what kind of imagination it took to come up with stories like those.So what kind of story would you tell, if you could? In “Haunted” by Chuck Palahniuk (c.2005, Doubleday), a group of strangers is forced together to create a masterpiece of horror and reality.The ads were seen about town for about a week, tacked on bulletin boards, in coffee houses, and stuck in windows. “Writer’s Retreat”, the ads said. “Abandon Your Life For Three Months. Just disappear.” Eighteen people decide that three months is the perfect length of time to vanish. Three months is just long enough to run from the things they’re fleeing.They call one another by pseudonyms, and there’s mistrust among them from the moment they’re picked up by bus, taken to a long-abandoned theatre, and locked in, shut off from the rest of the world. Old Mr. Whittier, the wheelchair-bound director of the retreat assures everyone that there’s food and water to last the duration; he and Mrs. Clark, his assistant, have seen to that. Everyone has come to work, he says. Oh, and there’s a key, but only Whittier knows its whereabouts.Eighteen people, strangers, all there to create a blockbuster film or a best-selling novel or Movie-of-the-Week. Each one wants to be the hero in the screenplay. Each will do whatever it takes to be sure that royalties will be split among as few survivors as possible. Each of the eighteen has a story to tell, an entertaining tale, explaining why anyone would want to disappear for three months. As the food runs out and the ghosts descend on their imaginations, they begin to do whatever it takes to survive.Reading a Chuck Palahniuk novel is like eavesdropping at a cocktail party. You get snippets of thoughts, sometimes 15 different ideas, and your mind runs rampant because you’re not really sure to which conversation to listen closest. Then, when you catch a voice that’s saying something shocking and scandalous, you almost want to follow its owner around so you hear the rest of the story.”Haunted” is definitely not you’re your mother’s murder mystery. Be aware that there is not one thing “PC” in this book, and parts may make you squirm. Some chapters ooze with creepiness, some will make you laugh, and some will definitely make you say “eeeeeuuuuwwww”. Also be aware, if you’ve never read a Palahniuk novel, that nothing makes sense until you let the ending sink into your brain. Once you “get it”, though, you’ll be astounded at the plot of the entire book and how it pulled you in and didn’t let you loose.Palahniuk fans are not going to be disappointed with this book and new readers will become fans by the end of the first chapter. Pick up a copy of “Haunted” and let your imagination go. VT
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