Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk was on my radar long before it came out.
When I saw that he was releasing a collection of short stories–and horror stories at that!–I was beyond excited. I was even more intrigued by the press surrounding the book. Chuck was reading a story called Guts at the public events, which was apparently so gruesome or graphic or disturbing that people were fainting.
True or not–I didn’t do any investigating because I knew I’d buy the book no matter what–this was intriguing. Chuck has a gift for the gross, and Haunted is exceptional in that regard, raising, (or perhaps lowering, depending on who you ask), the bar he had set with other books.
It’s not just the short stories however, although in some ways I wish it was. The framing device for the stories comes in the form of a group of people who visit a writer’s retreat–only to find that they are actually trapped there. In between the stories they tell each other, we return to the narrative of the writing retreat, where the writers are enacting a sort of reality show gone made, each picturing how they’ll be able to milk their ordeal for fame after they’re finally found.
I won’t get into much detail about their situation, but they go to great lengths to sabotage each other and make their situation worse. An interesting idea that raises some interesting questions, but for me it was pretty thin compared to the short stories themselves, which are hideous gems.
I’ll give you a snapshot of a couple of my favorites:
Guts: a story about probably the worst thing that can happen to you in a swimming pool.
Post-production: A naive couple decides to strike it rich by filming their own adult film. The results are…disappointing
Exodus: Some men who have been misusing anatomically correct dolls at the police station get some pretty serious comeuppance
The Nightmare Box: Don’t look in the box. Resist the temptation no matter what. Or else…Maybe my favorite story in the book.
There are many more, and they’re all pretty revolting to me. If you don’t think that sounds like something for you, steer clear and go in peace.
But as for me, I read them all, enjoyed almost every single one, and wish Chuck would do another book that was just short stories.
Oh, and my copy is signed. One of the best things on my bookshelf.