Hauntedby Chuck Palahniuk
Haunted is a novel made up of twenty-three horrifying, hilarious, and stomach-churning stories. They’re told by people who have answered an ad for a writer’s retreat and unwittingly joined a “Survivor”-like scenario where the host withholds heat, power, and food. As the storytellers grow more desperate, their tales become more/i>… See more details below
Haunted is a novel made up of twenty-three horrifying, hilarious, and stomach-churning stories. They’re told by people who have answered an ad for a writer’s retreat and unwittingly joined a “Survivor”-like scenario where the host withholds heat, power, and food. As the storytellers grow more desperate, their tales become more extreme, and they ruthlessly plot to make themselves the hero of the reality show that will surely be made from their plight. This is one of the most disturbing and outrageous books you’ll ever read, one that could only come from the mind of Chuck Palahniuk.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Random House
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Read an Excerpt
This was supposed to be a writers' retreat. It was supposed to be safe.
An isolated writers' colony, where we could work,
run by an old, old, dying man named Whittier,
until it wasn't.
And we were supposed to write poetry. Pretty poetry.
This crowd of us, his gifted students,
locked away from the ordinary world for three months.
And we called each other the "Matchmaker." And the "Missing Link."
Or "Mother Nature." Silly labels. Free-association names.
The same way--when you were little--you invented names for the plants and animals in your world. You called peonies--sticky with nectar and crawling with ants--the "ant flower." You called collies: Lassie Dogs.
But even now, the same way you still call someone "that man with one leg."
Or, "you know, the black girl . . ."
We called each other:
The "Earl of Slander."
Or "Sister Vigilante."
The names we earned, based on our stories. The names we gave each other,
based on our life instead of our family:
Names based on our sins instead of our jobs:
And the "Duke of Vandals."
Based on our faults and crimes. The opposite of superhero names.
Silly names for real people. As if you cut open a rag doll and found inside:
Real intestines, real lungs, a beating heart, blood. A lot of hot, sticky blood.
And we were supposed to write short stories. Funny short stories.
Too many of us, locked away from the world for one whole spring, summer, winter, autumn--one whole season of that year.
It doesn't matter who we were as people, not to old Mr. Whittier.
But he didn't say this at first.
To Mr. Whittier, we were lab animals. An experiment.
But we didn't know.
No, this was only a writers' retreat until it was too late for us to be anything,
except his victims.
When the bus pulls to the corner where Comrade Snarky had agreed to wait, she stands there in an army-surplus flak jacket--dark olive-green--and baggy camouflage pants, the cuffs rolled up to show infantry boots. A suitcase on either side of her. With a black beret pulled down tight on her head, she could be anyone.
"The rule was . . . ," Saint Gut-Free says into the microphone that hangs above his steering wheel.
And Comrade Snarky says, "Fine." She leans down to unbuckle a luggage tag off one suitcase. Comrade Snarky tucks the luggage tag in her olive-green pocket, then lifts the second suitcase and steps up into the bus. With one suitcase still on the curb, abandoned, orphaned, alone, Comrade Snarky sits down and says, "Okay."
She says, "Drive."
We were all leaving notes, that morning. Before dawn. Sneaking out on tiptoe with our suitcase down dark stairs, then along dark streets with only garbage trucks for company. We never did see the sun come up.
Sitting next to Comrade Snarky, the Earl of Slander was writing something in a pocket notepad, his eyes flicking between her and his pen.
And, leaning over sideways to look, Comrade Snarky says, "My eyes are green, not brown, and my hair is naturally this color auburn." She watches as he writes green, then says, "And I have a little red rose tattooed on my butt cheek." Her eyes settle on the silver tape recorder peeking out of his shirt pocket, the little-mesh microphone of it, and she says, "Don't write dyed hair. Women either lift or tint the color of their hair."
Near them sits Mr. Whittier, where his spotted, trembling hands can grip the folded chrome frame of his wheelchair. Beside him sits Mrs. Clark, her breasts so big they almost rest in her lap.
Eyeing them, Comrade Snarky leans into the gray flannel sleeve of the Earl of Slander. She says, "Purely ornamental, I assume. And of no nutritive value . . ."
That was the day we missed our last sunrise.
At the next dark street corner, where Sister Vigilante stands waiting, she holds up her thick black wristwatch, saying, "We agreed on four-thirty-five." She taps the watch face with her other hand, saying, "It is now four-thirty-nine . . ."
Sister Vigilante, she brought a fake-leather case with a strap handle, a flap that closed with a snap to protect the Bible inside. A purse handmade to lug around the Word of God.
All over the city, we waited for the bus. At street corners or bus-stop benches, until Saint Gut-Free drove up. Mr. Whittier sitting near the front with Mrs. Clark. The Earl of Slander. Comrade Snarky and Sister Vigilante.
Saint Gut-Free pulls the lever to fold open the door, and standing on the curb is little Miss Sneezy. The sleeves of her sweater lumpy with dirty tissues stuffed inside. She lifts her suitcase and it rattles loud as popcorn in a microwave oven. With every step up the stairs into the bus, the suitcase rattles loud as far-off machine-gun fire, and Miss Sneezy looks at us and says, "My pills." She gives the suitcase a loud shake and says, "A whole three months' supply . . ."
That's why the rule about only so much luggage. So we would all fit.
The only rule was one bag per person, but Mr. Whittier didn't say how big or what kind.
When Lady Baglady climbed on board, she wore a diamond ring the size of a popcorn kernel, her hand holding a leash, the leash dragging a leather suitcase on little wheels.
Waving her fingers to make her ring sparkle, Lady Baglady says, "It's my late husband, cremated and made into a three-carat diamond . . ."
At that, Comrade Snarky leans over the notepad where the Earl of Slander is writing, and she says, "Facelift is one word."
A few blocks later, after a couple traffic lights and around some corners waits Chef Assassin, carrying a molded aluminum suitcase with, inside, all his white elastic underpants and T-shirts and socks folded down to squares tight as origami. Plus a matched set of chef's knives. Under that, his aluminum suitcase is solid-packed with banded stacks of money, all of it hundred-dollar bills. All of it so heavy he used both hands to lift it into the bus.
Down another street, under a bridge and around the far side of a park, the bus pulled to the curb where no one seemed to wait. There the man we called the "Missing Link" stepped out of the bushes near the curb. Balled in his arms, he carried a black garbage bag, torn and leaking plaid flannel shirts.
Looking at the Missing Link, but talking sideways to the Earl of Slander, Comrade Snarky said, "His beard looks like something Hemingway might've shot . . ."
The dreaming world, they'd think we were crazy. Those people still in bed, they'd be asleep another hour, then washing their faces, under their arms, and between their legs, before going to the same work they did every day. Living that same life, every day.
Those people would cry to find us gone, but they would cry, too, if we were boarding a ship to start a new life across some ocean. Emigrating. Pioneers.
This morning, we were astronauts. Explorers. Awake while they slept.
These people would cry, but then they would go back to waiting tables, painting houses, programming computers.
At our next stop, Saint Gut-Free swung open the doors, and a cat ran up the steps and down the aisle between the seats of the bus. Behind the cat came Director Denial, saying, "His name is Cora." The cat's name was Cora Reynolds. "I didn't name him," said Director Denial, the tweed blazer and skirt she wore frosted with cat hair. One lapel swollen out from her chest.
"A shoulder holster," says Comrade Snarky, leaning close to tell the tape recorder in the Earl of Slander's shirt pocket.
All of this--whispering in the dark, leaving notes, keeping secret--it was our adventure.
If you were planning to be stranded on a desert island for three months, what would you bring along?
Let's say all your food and water would be provided, or so you think.
Let's say you can only bring along one suitcase because there will be a lot of you, and the bus taking you all to the desert island is only so big.
What would you pack in your suitcase?
Saint Gut-Free brought boxes of pork-rind snacks and dried cheese puffs, his fingers and chin orange with the salt dust. One bony hand gripping the steering wheel, he tilted each box to pour the snacks into his thin face.
Sister Vigilante brought a shopping bag of clothes with a satchel bag set in the top.
Leaning over her own huge breasts, holding them like a child in her arms, Mrs. Clark asked, did Sister Vigilante bring along a human head?
And Sister Vigilante opened the satchel far enough to show the three holes of a black bowling ball, saying, "My hobby . . ."
Comrade Snarky looks from the Earl of Slander scribbling into his notepad, then looks at Sister Vigilante's braided-tight black hair, not one strand pulling loose from its pins.
"That," Comrade Snarky says, "is tinted hair."
At our next stop, Agent Tattletale stood with a video camera held to one eye, filming the bus as it pulled to the curb. He brought a stack of business cards he passed out to prove he was a private detective. With his video camera held as a mask covering half his face, he filmed us, walking down the aisle to an empty seat at the back, blinding everyone with his spotlight.
A city block later, the Matchmaker climbed on board, tracking horse shit on his cowboy boots. A straw cowboy hat in his hands and a duffel bag hung over one shoulder, he sat and peeled back his window and spit brown tobacco juice down the brushed-steel side of the bus.
This is what we brought along for three months outside of the world. Agent Tattletale, his video camera. Sister Vigilante, her bowling ball. Lady Baglady, her diamond ring. This is what we'd need to write our stories. Miss Sneezy, her pills and tissues. Saint Gut-Free, his snack food. The Earl of Slander, his notebook and tape recorder.
Chef Assassin, his knives.
In the dim light of the bus, we all spied on Mr. Whittier, the workshop organizer. Our teacher. You could see the spotted shiny dome of his scalp under the few gray hairs combed across. The button-down collar of his shirt stood up, a starched white fence around his thin, spotted neck.
"The people you're sneaking away from," Mr. Whittier would say, "they don't want you enlightened. They want to know what to expect."
Mr. Whittier would tell you, "You cannot be the person they know and the great, glorious person you want to become. Not at the same time."
The people who really, actually loved us, Mr. Whittier said they'd beg us to go. To fulfill our dream. Practice our craft. And they would love us when we all came back.
In three months.
The little bit of life we'd each gamble.
This much time, we'd bet on our own ability to create some masterpiece. A short story or poem or screenplay or memoir that would make sense of our life. A masterpiece that would buy our way out of slavery to a husband or a parent or a corporation. That would earn our freedom.
All of us, driving along the empty streets in the dark. Miss Sneezy fishes a damp tissue out of her sweater sleeve and blows her nose. She sniffs and says, "Sneaking out this way, I was so afraid of getting caught." Tucking the tissue back inside her cuff, she says, "I feel just like . . . Anne Frank."
Comrade Snarky digs the luggage tag out of her jacket pocket, the remains of her abandoned suitcase. Her abandoned life. And, turning the tag over and over in her hand, still looking at it, Comrade Snarky says, "The way I see it . . ." She says, "Anne Frank had life pretty good."
And Saint Gut-Free, his mouth full of corn chips, watching us all in the rearview mirror, chewing salt and fat, he says, "How's that?"
Director Denial pets her cat. Mrs. Clark pets her breasts. Mr. Whittier, his chrome wheelchair.
Under a streetlight, on a corner up ahead, the dark outline of another would-be writer waits.
"At least Anne Frank," Comrade Snarky said, "never had to tour with her book . . ."
And Saint Gut-Free hits the air brakes and cranks the steering wheel to pull over.
A Poem About Saint Gut-Free
"Here's the job I left to come here," the Saint says. "And the life I gave up."
He used to drive a tour bus.
Saint Gut-Free onstage, his arms folded across his chest--
so skinny his hands can touch in the middle of his back
There stands Saint Gut-Free, with a single coat of skin painted on his skeleton.
His collarbones loop out from his chest, big as grab handles.
His ribs show through his white T-shirt, and his belt--
instead of his butt--keeps up his blue jeans.
Onstage, instead of a spotlight, a movie fragment:
the colors of houses and sidewalks, street signs and parked cars,
wipe sideways across his face. A mask of heavy traffic.
Vans and trucks.
He says, "That job, driving tour bus . . ."
It was all Japanese, Germans, Koreans, all with English as a second language, with phrase books clutched in one hand, nodding and smiling at whatever he told the microphone as he steered the bus around corners, down streets, past the houses of movie stars or extra-bloody murders, apartments where rock stars had overdosed.
Every day the same tour, the same mantra of murder,
movie stars, accidents. Places where peace treaties got signed. Where presidents had slept.
Until that day Saint Gut-Free stops in front of a picket-fence ranch house, just a detour to see if his parents' four-door Buick is there, if this is still where they live,
where pacing the front yard is a man, pushing a lawn mower.
There, into his microphone, the Saint tells his air-
"You're looking at Saint Mel."
And, his father squinting at the wall of tinted bus windows,
"The Patron Saint of Shame and Rage," says Gut-Free.
After that, every day, the tour includes "The Shrine of Saint
Mel and Saint Betty."
Saint Betty being the Patron Saint of Public Humiliation.
Parked in front of his sister's condo highrise, Saint Gut-Free points to some high-up floor. Up there, the shrine of Saint Wendy.
"The Patron Saint of Therapeutic Abortion."
Parked in front of his own apartment,
he tells the bus, "There's the shrine of Saint Gut-Free,"
the Saint himself, his pigeon shoulders, rubber-band lips,
and baggy shirt,
reflected even smaller in the rearview mirror.
"The Patron Saint of Masturbation."
While each seat in his bus, nodding heads, craning their necks, they look to see something divine.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This was my first Palahniuk. I had heard that this book was incredibly disturbing and was, of course, intrigued. The book was disturbing, I suppose, but I would not add the modifier "incredibly." The book is, however, graphic and detailed and delves into the more deranged parts of the human mind. Although I had not read Palahniuk before, I have of course seen Fight Club, and I understand that Palahniuk takes extreme situations and explores human interactions and reactions within those situations. Haunted does this and takes it just one step beyond "the line." The way I think of the book is as a warped reality tv show gone wrong. Imagine a group of people, psychologically messed up because of the realities inflicted upon them and because of the choices they have made. Lock them together in a building with no escape for three months and see what happens. It's like The Cube meets Saw. Palahniuk's characters are actually believable in their extreme behavior and those with weaker stomachs should refrain. The format the book takes is relatively unique. The characters in the book are identified by nicknames that somehow represent how the author is warped. Each "chapter" includes a narrative, a poem, and a story. The narrative is told from the perspective of one of the individuals locked in the building -- though we are never quite sure which aspiring author is speaking. The narrative is followed by a poem "about" the aspiring author, which hints at something the author has experienced and sheds a little light on the nickname the author has received. The poem is then followed by a story written by the character that has been discussed in the preceding poem. The story explains the primary traumatic incident (or portion of that incident) that resulted in the author's warped personality and nickname. I liked the format of the book and appreciated Palahniuk's timing. Some of the most intriguing (to me) characters' personalities and nicknames were revealed at the end of the book, which certainly kept me attached to the book -- even though it almost read more like a series of non-related short stories than a novel. In addition, although it was not immediate, I was eventually drawn into the narrative of the authors trapped in the building and felt invested in how it would all play out. The writing was great, too. I suppose the reason I'm still rambling about this, somewhat incoherently, is because I recognize the good qualities of the book, cannot think of any particularly bad ones, but still was not blown away by the book. I expected to be more disturbed, more intrigued, more saddened, more anything... but mostly I was just reading without much emotion at all. It was certainly good enough to continue reading and good enough to casually recommend, but it made no strong lasting impressions on me. Recommended for someone who likes gore and exploring the deranged ways in which humans can behave in extreme situations. THREE AND A HALF out of five stars.
Good book, amazing characters. Very, very disturbing stories. I loved it! I have my favorites of course and so will you, each character tells his/her story, with a few characters telling more then one story a piece. Saint Gut-Free "Guts" - hilarious and probably the most digusting story you'll ever read Director Denial "Exodus" - brilliant, brilliant writing Chef Assassin "Product Placement" - love this one Tess Clark "Post-Production", "The Nightmare Box" - this story still haunts me If you like, gruesome, graphic and sexually charged disturbing literature, you just found it!
Chuck Palahniuk's got an incredibly creative mind. That's why I love reading his work. He comes up with stories that titilate the mind while churning the stomach. Unfortunately, this latest 'novel' should have remained just a collection of intriguing -- yet disturbing -- short stories. In 'Haunted,' Palahniuk tries to weave them all together by creating a storyline between each short story that features the characters in each of the short stories. Unfortunately, it's this ongoing storyline that is the weakest part of the book, as it lost this reader's interest. In addition to this ongoing storyline, there are poems about each of the characters that I could have done without before each of the short stories. While the ongoing storyline of characters 'trapped' inside a house had a couple of interesting moments, it's the short stories that truly make this book worth having in your collection.
Haunted is an amazing book. It hooked me from the start, I just had to know how the book was going to end. This book is disturbing, shocking and appalling. But the fact that this book is so deranged is exactly what makes it enjoyable. Chuck Palahniuk has some serious talent for writing, I love reading his work to find out what is going on in his mind. Haunted is not for everyone, light headed/weak stomach people need to keep away from Haunted. If you enjoy reading novels outside of the 'norm,' then this is the book for you. Overall, Haunted gets an A+ grade from me.
One of the most disgusting books i've ever read. It was Great!!! The detail this man uses when describing the scenes is second to none. A must read for the sick and twisted. Again, great work!
This book was suggested to me by a friend who told me it was 'one of the most disturbing, profound, and peculiar' things he had ever read. Upon completing the book yesterday, I would have to agree. I am no expert on Mr. Palahniuk's novels, so I have very little to compare it to, as others have. I am an avid reader, however, which is probably why the book only earned four stars, not five, from me. While the plot was easy enough to follow, the stories overwhelmed the underlying plot line to such an extent that it came off as flimsy and under-developed. No where was this more evident than in the ending, where the flow of the novel is interrupted for a hasty attempt at a twist conclusion that left much to be desired. Oh - but the stories they were fantastic. I read each one experiencing the feeling you get during an intense thriller flick, knowing something horrible was about to happen, and knowing it was going to be worse than anything you could think up. Containing the type of descriptions that hit home and left you queasy without being overly verbose like other gory tales, the feeling generated by this book is beyond words. The psychological element was greater in these short little stories than in any other novel I've read in recent memory. I will say, on that note, that this book is not for those offended by books that are perverse, violent, or bleak, because Haunted is all three and then some. From its doomsdaying commentary on human nature, to its graphic descriptions of violence, to its sheer bluntess about fetishes and sexual perversion, it is bound to offend someone.
I have read this book several times and it NEVER gets old!
Let's cut right to the chase: Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk is a highly disturbing book. By the end of the book, if your brain hasn't figuratively been taken out of your head and thrown into an industrial fan, you must be hard as steel. This book will make most people want to run to the bathroom and vomit up three days worth of meals. And that is EXACTLY why I loved it. Haunted is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it isn't supposed to be. The whole point of the book is to disgust, pervert, and to push the boundaries of what is acceptable way off of a cliff. Palahniuk knows exactly what he is doing by writing this book by pushing the boundaries way past what society may deem as acceptable and appropriate, and sends a clear message on the evils of censorship. One might see it as a sort-of modern-day version of The Canterbury Tales, with one sick thing happening after another. Some people may not understand the message behind this book, which is why they give it such a low rating. If you're not into gratuitous violence, if you turn away from car wrecks on television and prefer romantic comedy movies to Japanese horror films, this is certainly not the book for you. If, however, you're not afraid of sick and twisted Palahniuk-style, this book is definitely one to read. By the way, definitely read the Afterword. Puts it all into perspective.
creative. poignant. unique. just wow.
This book started off really interesting and different and I was very excited to read it. In the middle, it fizzled out and I found myself only wanting to read the short stories, not the original story. If you like Chuck's work, you might enjoy this, but I was disappointed.
More than a novel, this book is a collection of short stories strung together by a single storyline revolving around 20 or so characters and a very messed up situation. If you have read any of Chuck Palahniuk¿s work, then you know that the man has an uncanny ability to find something really twisted and make it funny or take something funny and make it all screwed up. Either way you look at it, you get plenty of both in here.
The overall story is almost a reality show of sort¿but not really. Twenty aspiring writers are recruited to go into a ¿writer¿s retreat¿ where they are to stay for three months, separated from the world and from society, able to entirely focused on their writing. They all come in with made up names, names that reflect something about their life (more often their flaws or mistakes rather than their strengths). Mr. Whittier, the man that organized this retreat has it all set up, picking them up in a bus while the city still sleeps. Though soon enough it becomes clear that Mr. Whittier did not really have a retreat in mind, but rather, he has selfishly set this up as an experiment for his own amusement.
Every character here has a story, and as the three months go by, each of them begin to tell their stories through the course of the three months. Stories that are sometimes touching, some times depressing and more often than not, really screwed up. And as this stories unfold within the main story, a very sick game also begins to be played, in which the victims promise to be worse than the captor that put them in the situation that they are in.
If you enjoy Chuck¿s work, then this is going to be no different, though it does lack a bit of depth when in comparison to his more established novels, when looked upon as a collection of short stories with the bonus of an all encompassing narration that ties them all together, this book is a great read.
Be warned, however that there are some pretty horrific stories told here. Some are humorous, some are cool, some are sad and as I said, most of them have moments that will make you wince. But if you have the stomach for it¿then I am sure you will enjoy this.
After reading Chuck Palahniuk¿s novel, Haunted, I wasn¿t sure how I felt until I went back and read his Afterword, the ¿Guts¿ Affect. Very few other books needed an explanation for why they¿re written, and in my opinion, it would be somewhat pretentious if the author did explain him or herself. But, as far as Haunted goes, it was completely acceptable and almost necessary. Haunted isn¿t written as a philosophical outlook on the big questions in life, rather, a sadistic mockery of censorship that plagues entertainment in today¿s society. His honest explanation of why he wrote what he did made this book worth reading. Until I got to the afterword, I thought the book was a pure vehicle of shock value. And it is, but for different reasons. It¿s a ¿f-you¿ to the constraints that our culture puts on entertainment with substance. Instead of watching a television program that is cut and edited down to thirty digestible, manageable, corporate approved minutes, we can read a book that let¿s us explore any depth of a subject that we please. So yes, Haunted is a shock value book but, it¿s shock with a reason. Shock with depth. As much as I¿m praising this book, it¿s only because of the author. The book is definitely hard to read. The only reason I kept the pages turning is because I am a fan of gore. The story plot is somewhat disconnected, like he was trying to find a way to fit together a collection of short stories that had no relationship besides being gross. He should have just published the book as a ¿collection of short stories,¿ type of thing and left it at that. I will keep reading Chuck Palahniuk because Fight Club and Choke are two of my favorite books. But, this one isn¿t anywhere near my top 10 favorite books.
I stopped reading it at the 200th page. I got over reading it really fast. I truely tried and hoped it would get better and some how catch my attention but it did not. The stories in between the main storie were not half bad but all together it was confusing, boring and not worth reading. When you cannot get to like any of the characters theres a problem. This is the first and only books i have never finished, that says something since i have read hundreds of books.
I was so disappointed with this book. It never was able to capture my full attention and I found myself anxious for the end. I read a lot of Chuck books and I usually love his offbeat style, but I got the impression that this was a collection of short stories he's written over time and he needed a way to bring them all together and sell them as one book. Highly lacking.
it seems as if the new novel is trying way too hard to be lots of things at once. i tried four different times to really get lost in the story and couldnt. what i want from chuck is the tense story line and direct prose of books past.
Was looking forward to this book after all the positive things I've heard. Was greatly disappointed with it. Some of the stories within the book were good but most were not. The overall plot is interesting but became very predictable and boring. Don't waste your time.
Holy Moly! Great Book!
Mind blowing. I love this authors mind. This book is great if you like psychology of the mind. What makes people do what they do and why they do it . The man in the book kind of forces then to tell there story. I don't know i just love the book and was fascinated by it.
Worst book ever!! This book didn't make any sense, I am not sure I have ever read a book I hated more