Weekly Writer’s Workshop – Book Review

09 May
Thanks Mama Kat for the prompt. 
I love to read, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have my nose buried in a book.  Well, that is until my son was born.  I read every day to him, but only recently have I been able to dedicate more than 15 minutes per session to reading an adult book.  I had no idea how much I had missed  fully escaping into a story until last week.  
I went on a huge reading bender, and read three books, all in rapid succession over a 5 day period.  I read Twilight, another book that made so little an impression on me that I can’t remember the title, and Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk.  How can I afford to feed my enormous appetite for books in the current economic downturn, you ask?  I don’t buy, I rent.  I subscribe to Paperspine, which is like Netflix for books.  If you have an expensive book habit, I highly recommend Paperspine, for $14.95/month, you can have three books at a time- yipee!
Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have considered reading Haunted.   I generally read for pure entertainment and distraction, and my tastes run towards quick and easy, not heavy.  But cIII of Goat and Tater mentioned reading it, and he seems like a cool, well-read kinda dude, so I decided to stray from the norm.  I looked Haunted up on Wikipedia, realized that Chuck Palahniuk also wrote Fight Club, I liked the movie, and he was born in Pasco, WA.  I was born in Richland, which is part of the Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick) so we might as well be neighbors. Because of our close personal relationship (ha!), I felt compelled to Haunted to my Paperspine queue, and it seemed like an interesting read.
Interesting is a description that doesn’t quite do the book justice.  Growing up in Eastern Washinton can be lonely, and there isn’t much to keep a child entertained so, using your imagination is a necessary survival technique.  My imagination tended towards Little House on the Prairie; Chuck’s clearly took him down a more twisted  path.  Haunted is well written, witty, and sometimes, so grisly that I had to set it aside and go watch Winne the Pooh with James, just to de-compress.  The first chapter titled “Guts” enlightened me to possibilities that I have never before entertained.  I can safely say that James will be staying far away from the drain during bathtime, from NOW ON. 
I digress.  Haunted is a series of short horror stories, “written” from the perspective of a group of individuals who are attending a writer’s retreat.  Their host locks them in an abandoned theater, tells them that he will release them when they have each written one story, their opus, and gives them all the supplies that they need to stay comfortable for three months.  Suspicious stains on the carpet don’t bode well for them;  what they will experience, has already happened many times before.  The characters decide that documenting their suffering would make their stories far more interesting and lucrative once they are released, and have sold their stories to the media.  So they begin to destroy their supplies; their stay quickly degenerates into a self-inflicted struggle to survive.  The extremes that they go to, to prove how they are suffering, escalate and become flat out gross without ever seeming to venture out of the realm of possibility, which is what makes the story so compelling.  Contestants gladly ate cow intestines on Fear Factor, and subjected themselves to intense pain, all in the name of personal gain.  So, starving people trapped in an abandoned theater, lopping off body parts to secure a book deal, doesn’t seem that far-fetched.  If  you can get over feeling a little sick in parts, the book is a well-done stab (get it?) on humanity’s need to feed off of the suffering of others, and our willingingness to be the food.
Four out of five stars for Haunted.
P.S. I decided to review Haunted because I thought reviewing transgressional fiction was edgier than than the teen romance of Twilight.  Am I edgy, or just a poser? 
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Posted by on May 9, 2009 in Weekly Writer's Workshop


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