Bookmarks Issue: 

A Novel of Stories

A-HauntedIt’s the writerly idyll: retreating to an isolated locale to work up a masterpiece. Think dappled light on a lakeshore, with only the chirping of birds and the snap of typewriter keys for a soundtrack. Palahniuk shatters this pastoral with a sledgehammer. Having answered a newspaper ad for a writer’s retreat, 23 would-be authors find themselves shut into an abandoned theater, guests—or captives—of the wheelchair bound Mr. Whittier. The scene devolves into a horrific counter-Decameron where the stomach-turning stories created in workshop are outstripped by the brutalities the writers enact on each other.
Doubleday. 416 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 0385509480

St. Petersburg Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Palahniuk is a master at taking us inside the heads of people with whom we would never expect to empathize. But whatever their outlandish exteriors, Palahniuk’s stories in Haunted all explore the same questions about the nature of story and storytellers, the seemingly unappeasable human hunger for narrative and what it teaches us about the human heart." Colette Bancroft

New York Times 2 of 5 Stars
"The trouble with Haunted is not conceptual; the book’s structure is viable, and some of its individual premises have their malevolent merits. … Too often … Mr. Palahniuk’s underlying thoughts are startlingly simple-minded." Janet Maslin

Portland Oregonian 2 of 5 Stars
"The basic story, even as hyperparody of reality TV, is flat and uninspired. Clichéd characters, contrived mock-horror, gratuitous gore—this is not the mesmerizing revulsion machine we expect from the author of Fight Club …" Vernon Peterson

Chicago Sun-Times 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Haunted is a book that’s a little too in love with its attitude, its snarky language, its concept, its willingness to establish new standards of grossness." Lloyd Sachs

Minneapolis Star Tribune 1.5 of 5 Stars
"… the final impression is that he’s really just interested in pushing as many buttons as hard as he can, and you’re left with the feeling—or perhaps it’s a hope—that he’s taken his shtick about as far as he can possibly take it."
Brad Zellar

San Francisco Chronicle 1.5 of 5 Stars
"… [The characters] are clichéd deviants, flat with absolutely no humanity … what is worse is that they are bad writers and storytellers doing what bad writers do, writing autobiography poorly veiled as fiction without any of that wonderful stickiness of intimacy that brings good writing to life; here, the only stickiness results from various bodily excretions." Buzz Poole

Critical Summary

It shouldn’t surprise that Chuck Palahniuk’s latest novel is a gross out. All of his books, including Fight Club, Choke, and Lullaby, have required various degrees of intestinal fortitude. Some critics note that he’s turned the corner with Haunted, a book that has "plenty of guts, but little glory" (Chicago Sun-Times). Though the Portland-based proponent of Dangerous Writing continues to deliver his imaginative stories in an appealing, deadpan prose, the flat characters, questions about his intent, and the overall gross-out factor diminish this "ad-hoc diet book" as just another workshop failure (New York Times).