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Thursday, February 17, 2005
Mining the depths of nihilism
Apparently, Doubleday has hometown literary hero Chuck Palahniuk on a book a year schedule. His next, Haunted, is due out in May. Based on the info that's been leaked online, it could be his most macabre yarn yet.
Haunted is a collection of 24 short horror stories all weaved together into a larger narrative. The premise goes a little something like this: a group of strangers turn out for a writer's retreat. Instead of bonding and inspiring one another, in typical Palahniuk fashion, they slowly turn into murderous sociopaths. Locked in a dilapidated theater with little food and no access to the outside world, each character rolls out their story ala the Canterbury Tales. As their situations grows worse, they heighten their own suffering in order to have a better sell for the memoir rights they'll be offered once they're rescued.
The biggest criticism tossed at Palahniuk, aside from all the blood and sacks of body fat, is that the "voice" of his characters remain the same in each of his works. If he can't pull off an original narrative for a novel, how's he going to manage 24 characters telling 24 separate tales?
Three of these tales have already been released. "Guts," a staple of Palahniuk's public readings until audience members began to faint, was published in Playboy last year. The other, "Punch Drunk" just hit stands in the March issue. Last summer, Palahniuk read "Exodus" during stops on a book tour to promote Stranger Than Fiction.
I caught the author when he swung through Portland last June. No one fainted during "Exodus" but it certainly made everyone squirm in their seats. As Palahniuk further delves into the realm of pitch black humor at some point he's going to have to hit the bottom. Given the incredibly grim material lined up for Haunted, this could be it. Where can he go from here? One prediction: children's literature.
An early review of the collection was posted on Ain't It Cool News earlier this week. It can found here.