Haunted

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"Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of them, to be precise. They are told by people who have answered an ad headlined "Writers' Retreat: Abandon Your Life for Three Months," and who are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of "real life" that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them. But "here" turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theater where they are utterly isolated from the outside world - and where heat and power and, most important, food are in
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Overview

"Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of them, to be precise. They are told by people who have answered an ad headlined "Writers' Retreat: Abandon Your Life for Three Months," and who are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of "real life" that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them. But "here" turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theater where they are utterly isolated from the outside world - and where heat and power and, most important, food are in increasingly short supply. And the more desperate the circumstances become, the more extreme the stories they tell - and the more devious their machinations become to make themselves the hero of the inevitable play/movie/nonfiction blockbuster that will surely be made from their plight." Haunted is on one level satire of reality television - The Real World meets Alive. It draws from a great literary tradition - The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron, the English storytellers in the Villa Diodati who produced, among other works, Frankenstein - to tell an utterly contemporary tale of people desperate that their story be told at any cost.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Make no mistake: Haunted is a haunting novel. Chuck Palahniuk's amalgam fiction begins with a Dantesque ad invitation: "Artists' Retreat: Abandon Your Life for Three Months." Then, like a macabre, twisted reality TV version of The Canterbury Tales or The Decameron, the tale spins out of control. In 23 stories, the willing participants in this increasingly diabolical communal experiment share sadistic particulars of their loathsome lives, as the author of Choke and Fight Club spices his gothic horror with trenchant social criticism.
Publishers Weekly
One of Palahniuk's more sweeping and macabre offerings, this is a collection of 23 short stories and poems generated at a fictional writer's retreat turned grotesque survival camp. The pieces range from the stomach-turning to the satirical or the absurd. The seven readers tackling the decidedly offbeat Palahniuk are, for the most part, refreshingly successful. Cashman is a standout, narrating the action at the retreat. His voice shuttles nimbly between the male and female writers, while maintaining the integrity of his own unnamed character. Morey's narration is disappointing on "Guts," the novel's most notorious and gruesome tale, which has reportedly caused some listeners to faint. Morey sounds too mature and polished for this series of wicked adolescent masturbatory nightmares. In general, the multivoiced narration is practiced and professional, with the trio of actresses turning in particularly strong performances. The other side of all that spit and polish is that Palahniuk's humor is occasionally stifled. Some listeners may wonder whether the author's prose is so singular that only he might be capable of delivering it. But overall, an engaging, albeit lengthy, listen. Simultaneous release with Doubleday hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 21). (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sixteen bizarre characters with appellations like Comrade Snarky, Chef Assassin, and Mother Nature voluntarily lock themselves away from the world in an abandoned theater to write, ostensibly amid no distractions. Their short stories and poems make up half of Palahniuk's latest novel (after Diary) and may or may not be their back stories; the rest of the tale centers on a cast of lunatics who sabotage their own environment and destroy their own food and life-support mechanisms until they are reduced to cannibalism in what self-consciously becomes a parody of reality television shows like Survivor. Palahniuk casts aside all constraints in this twisted saga of antagonists without a protagonist. The short stories would work if taken singly and at intervals, but strung together they become a catalog of atrocities. Palahniuk is a clever and inventive writer, but this book is recommended only for public library readers with strong stomachs and morbid dispositions. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/05.]-Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A writers' retreat turns out to be more hellish than its participants would have imagined. The willing participants all answered an ad for a three-month retreat that would allow them to cut off all contact with the outside world (they all leave in a bus before dawn, telling no one), only to find themselves locked in an old theater with no way out and a limited supply of food. Their sort-of host for the retreat, Mr. Whittier, wants them to use their isolation to create some sort of masterpiece, invoking the Villa Diodati, where Lord Byron, Shelley, among others, produced their classics of gothic horror. It's quickly obvious, however, that we're far from the land of Shelley with this band of losers, who seem more interested in heightening their own suffering in order to have a better sell for the movie or memoir rights they will assuredly be offered once rescued. Palahniuk (Diary, 2003, etc.) ensures that we have little sympathy for the characters-known for the most part by the sarcastic noms de plume they give each other, like Comrade Snarky, Miss Sneezy and Chef Assassin-by showing how they continually sabotage themselves. The characters' back-stories, which make up the bulk of the novel, also show them to be a uniformly selfish, grubby and, more often than not, murderous lot, so when the bloodletting starts, few tears will be shed. As usual, Palahniuk drops us right into a nasty, vile core of base desire where all good deeds are punished and nobody escapes unscathed (let's just say that cannibalism pops up about a third of the way in, and things get worse from there on). And while a number of the stories here are ingenious, in a devilish sort of way, the constant barrage of wicked sadismsoon palls. Stomach-churning horror that takes a bit too much joy in its diabolic machinations. Author tour
From the Publisher
“Reading a Palahniuk novel is like getting zipped inside a boxer’s heavy bag while the author goes to work on you, pounding you until there is nothing left but a big bag of bones and blood and pain.”
The Miami Herald

“To Palahniuk’s credit, there is something here to appall almost every sensibility. The author has a singular knack for coming up with inventive new ways to shock and degrade.”
The New York Post

“Frequently entertaining [and] often appalling. . . . There are paragraphs here—entire pages, in fact—that are as disgusting as anything I’ve ever read. Truly vivid and harrowing (and often quite funny).”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Summer reading for people who like their lit doused in bodily fluids.. . . Haunted has an anarchic sensibility that hurdles over the top.”—Time Out New York

“Chuck Palahniuk is one of the most intriguing writers of our time. [Haunted ] is a blend of stories that are among the most horrifying, stomach-churning and mind-blowing tales ever encountered.” —Tucson Citizen

“Chuck Palahniuk’s rightful place is among literary giants. He combines the masculinity of Ernest Hemingway, the satirical bent of Juvenal and the attitude of Lenny Bruce.” —Greensboro News & Record

“To Palahniuk’s credit, there is something here to appall almost every sensibility. The author has a singular knack for coming up with inventive new ways to shock and degrade.” —New York Post

“Funny, always on the edge of reality and bloodied by the profound horror of narcissism.” —Playboy

“Place this bet in your time capsule: Chuck Palahniuk’s novels will be required reading in American literature classes 100 years from now.” —The Fort Myers News-Press

“Palahniuk is as unique and colorful as ever.” —The Onion

“Searing and honest. ...His nasty detail and unimaginably horrible scenarios will give some people nightmares. This creepy fiction masterpiece could be the definitive novel of our time for its genre.” —The Cincinnati News Record

“Chuck Palahniuk appears to be going around the bend. ...A satire of reality television–an effective one–but also an homage to horror stories and a meditation on pop culture.” —The Seattle Times

“The most original work of fiction this year.” —The Guardian (London)

“Chuck Palahniuk is up to his old tricks. ...His prose is, as always, gorgeous.” —Entertainment Weekly

“One part Canterbury Tales, one part Lord of the Flies, and 100 percent classic Palahniuk. ...[His] grisliest book yet.” —Broward—Palm Beach New Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739302866
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/10/2005
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Chuck Palahniuk’s six previous novels are Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, Choke, Lullaby, and Diary. He is also the author of a profile of Portland, Fugitives and Refugees, and the nonfiction collection Stranger Than Fiction. He lives in Washington State.

Biography

Readers of Chuck Palahniuk's novels must gird themselves for the bizarre, the violent, the macabre, and the just plain disturbing. Having done that, they can then just enjoy the ride.

The story goes that Palahniuk wrote Fight Club out of frustration. Believing that his first submission to publishers (an early version of Invisible Monsters) was being rejected as too risky, he decided to take the gloves off, so to speak, and wrote something he never expected to see the light of day. Ironically, Fight Club was accepted for publication, and its subsequent filming by directory David Fincher earned the author an obsessive cult following.

The apocalyptic, blackly humorous story of a loner's entanglement with a charismatic but dangerous underground leader, Fight Club was the first in a series of controversial fiction that would keep Palahniuk in the spotlight. Since then, he has crafted strange, disturbing tales around unlikely subjects: a disfigured model bent on revenge (the revised Invisible Monsters) ... the last surviving member of a death cult (Survivor) ... a sex addict who resorts to a bizarre restaurant scam to pay the bills (Choke) ... a lethal African nursery rhyme (Lullaby) ... and so the list continues.

Although Palahniuk makes occasional forays into nonfiction, (e.g., Fugitives and Refugees and Stranger than Fiction), it is his novels that generate the most buzz. His outré plots and jump-cut storytelling are definitely not for everyone—some have likened them to the horrible accident you can't tear your eyes away from—but even critics can't help but be impressed by his flair for language, his talent for satire, and his sheer originality. Newsday wrote, "Palahniuk is one of the freshest, most intriguing voices to appear in a long time. He rearranges Vonnegut's sly humor, DeLillo's mordant social analysis, and Pynchon's antic surrealism (or is it R. Crumb's?) into a gleaming puzzle palace all his own."

Palahniuk has said that he has heard a lot from readers who were never readers before they saw his books, from boys in schools where his books are banned. This might be the best evidence that Palahniuk is a writer for a new age, introducing a (mostly male) audience to worlds on the page that usually only exist in technicolor nightmares.

Good To Know

Palahniuk (pronounced paul-a-nik) worked as a diesel mechanic for a trucking company before he became an author, jotting story notes for The Fight Club under trucks he was supposed to be working on.

Palahniuk's family has had a sad history of violence: His grandfather killed his grandmother and then committed suicide; later in life, his divorced father was murdered in 1999 by a girlfriend's ex-husband. The killer was convicted and sentenced to death in October, 2001. Palahniuk's book, Choke, was driven by an attempt to look at how sexual compulsion can destroy (see essay below for more).

When not working on his novels, Palahniuk has written features for Gear magazine, through which he befriended shock rocker Marilyn Manson; and is reportedly working on a script of the Katie Arnoldi novel Chemical Pink for Fight Club director David Fincher.

While writing, Palahniuk has said he listens to Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Radiohead.

To a reader who asked in a Barnes & Noble.com chat why the novel Invisible Monsters was not released in hardcover, Palahniuk responded: "My original request was not to have any of my books released as hardcovers b/c I felt guilty asking for over $20 for anything I had done. With Invisible Monsters I finally got my way."

Invisible Monsters was inspired by fashion magazines Palahniuk was reading at his laundromat, according to an interview with The Village Voice. "I love the language of fashion magazines. Eighteen adjectives and you find the word sweater at the end. 'Ethereal. Sacred.' I thought, Wouldn't it be fun to write a novel in this fashion magazine language, so packed with hyperbole?"

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    1. Also Known As:
      Charles M. Palahniuk
    2. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 21, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pasco, Washington
    1. Education:
      B.A. in journalism, University of Oregon, 1986
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Slumming A Story by Lady Baglady

After you give up television and newspapers, the mornings are the worst part: that first cup of coffee. It's true, that first hour awake, you want to catch up with the rest of the world. But her new rule is: No radio. No television. No newspaper. Cold turkey.

Show her a copy of Vogue magazine, and Mrs. Keyes still gets choked up.

The newspaper comes, and she just recycles it. She doesn't even take off the rubber band. You never know when the headline will be:

"Killer Continues to Stalk the Homeless"

Or: "Bag Lady Found Butchered"

Most mornings over breakfast, Mrs. Keyes reads catalogues. You order just one single miracle shoe-tree over the telephone, and every week, for the rest of your life, you'll get a stack of catalogues. Items for your home. Your garden. Time-saving. Space-saving gadgets. Tools and new inventions.

Where the television used to be, there on the kitchen counter, she put an aquarium with the kind of lizard that changes color to match your decor. An aquarium, you flip the switch for the heat lamp and it's not going to tell you another transient wino was shot to death, his body dropped in the river, the fifteenth victim in a killing spree targeting the city's homeless, their bodies found stabbed and shot and set on fire with lighter fluid, the street people panicked and fighting their way into the shelters at night, despite the new tuberculosis. The outbound boxcars packed full. The social advocates claiming the city has put out a hit on panhandlers.

You get all this just glancing at a newsstand. Or getting into a cab with the radio turned up loud. You get a glass tank, put it where the TV used to be, and all you get is a lizard-something so stupid that every time the maid moves a rock the lizard thinks it's been relocated miles away.

It's called Cocooning, when your home becomes your whole world.

Mr. and Mrs. Keyes-Packer and Evelyn-they didn't use to be this way. It used to be not a dolphin died in a tuna net without them rushing out to write a check. To throw a party. They hosted a banquet for people blown apart by land mines. They threw a dinner dance for massive head trauma. Fibromyalgia. Bulimia. A cocktail party and silent auction for irritable bowel syndrome.

Every night had its theme:

"Universal Peace for All Peoples."

Or: "Hope for Our Unborn Future."

Imagine going to your senior prom every night for the rest of your life. Every night, another stage set made of South American cut flowers and zillions of white twinkle lights. An ice sculpture and a champagne fountain and a band in white dinner jackets playing some Cole Porter tune. Every stage set built to parade Arab royalty and Internet boy wonders. Too many people made rich fast by venture capital. Those people who never linger on any landmass longer than it takes to service their jet. These people with no imagination, they just flop open Town & Country and say:

I want that.

At every benefit for child abuse, everyone walked around on two legs and ate crème brûlée with a mouth, their lips plumped with the same derma fillers. Looking at the same Cartier watch, the same time surrounded with the same diamonds. The same Harry Winston necklace around a neck sculpted long and thin with hatha yoga.

Everyone climbed in or out different colors of the same Lexus sedan.

No one was impressed. Every night was a complete and utter social stalemate.

Mrs. Keyes's best friend, Elizabeth Ethbridge Fulton Whelps, "Inky," used to say there's only one "best" of anything. One night, Inky said, "When everyone can afford the best, the truth is, it does look a little-common."

All the Old Society had gone missing. The more newly minted media barons showed up at any event, the fewer old-money railroad or ocean-liner crowd would.

Inky always said being absent is the new being present.

It's after some cocktail reception for victims of gun violence that the Keyeses walk out to the street. Packer and Evelyn are coming down the art-museum steps, and there's the usual long line of nobodies waiting in fur coats for the parking valets. This is right on the sidewalk, near a bus-stop bench. Sitting on the bench are a wino and a bag lady everyone's trying not to see.

Or smell.

These two, they're not young, dressed in clothes you might find in the trash. Bits of thread showing at every seam, the fabric stiff and blotchy with stains. The bag lady has on tennis shoes flopping open with no laces. Her hair shows through, matted and crushed inside the webbing of a wig, the fake plastic hair as rough and gray as steel wool.

The wino has a knitted brown stocking cap pulled down on his head. He's pawing the bag lady, shoving one hand down the front of her stretch-polyester pants and crawling his other hand up under her sweatshirt. The bag lady, she's twisting inside her clothes, moaning, her tongue rolling around her open lips.

The bag lady, where her sweatshirt is pulled up, her stomach looks flat and tight, her skin massaged pink.

The wino, his baggy sweatpants are tented in front with an erection. The peak of his tent shows a dark spot of wet leaked through.

Packer and Evelyn, they must be the only ones watching these two grope each other. The parking valets run between here and the parking garage down the block. The mob of new money looks at the sweep-second hand go around and around on their diamond watches.

The wino pulls the bag lady's face against the outline in his pants. The bag lady's lips, they crawl around on the dark stain growing there.

The bag lady's lips, Evelyn tells Packer, she knows those lips.

You hear a little sound, the kind of shrill ring that makes everyone waiting for a valet reach into a fur-coat pocket for their cell phone.

Oh my God, Mrs. Keyes says. She tells Packer, That bag lady getting pawed by the wino, that could almost be Inky. Elizabeth Ethbridge Fulton Whelps.

The shrill little ring sounds again, and the bag lady reaches down. She pulls up the bottom of one pant leg, unhemmed and unraveling beige polyester, to show her leg wrapped thick with a dirty elastic bandage. Her lips still on the wino's crotch, from between layers of bandages her fingers take a little black handful.

The shrill ring comes again.

The last Evelyn heard, Inky ran a magazine. Maybe Vogue magazine. She spent half of each year in France, deciding the hemline for next season. She sat ringside at the shows in Milan, and taped a fashion commentary that ran on some cable news network. She stood on red carpets and talked about who wore what to the Academy Awards.

This bag lady on the bus-stop bench, she holds the black object to the side of her gray plastic wig. She fingers it and says, "Hello?" She takes her mouth off the wet bulge in the wino's pants, and she says, "Are you writing this down?" She says, "Lime is the new pink."

The bag lady's voice, Mrs. Keyes tells her husband, she knows that voice.

She says, "Inky?"

The bag lady slips the little phone back between the bandages around her leg.

"That stinky wino," Packer says, "that's the president of Global Airlines."

It's then the bag lady looks up and says, "Muffy? Packer?" The wino's hand still feeling around deep in the front of her stretch pants, she pats the bench beside her and says, "What a nice surprise."

The bum pulls back his fingers, shiny wet in the streetlight, and he says, "Packer! Come say hello."

And of course Packer is always right.

Poverty, Inky says, is the new wealth. Anonymity is the new fame.

"Social divers," Inky says, "are the new social climbers."

The Jet Set are the original homeless people, Inky says. We may have a dozen homes-each in a different city-but we still live out of a suitcase.

This makes sense, if only because Packer and Evelyn are never on the cutting edge of anything. This whole social season, they've been going to horse shows, gallery openings, and auctions, telling each other all the Old Guard socialites were in detox or having cosmetic surgery.

Inky says, "Whether you do it with a shopping cart or a Gulfstream G550, it's the same instinct. To always be on the move. To not be tied down."

Anymore, she says, all you need is cash money, and you're sitting on the Opera Steering Committee. You make a hefty donation, and you get a place on the Museum Foundation Board.

You write a check, and that makes you a celebrity.

You get stabbed to death in a hit movie, and you're famous.

In other words: tied down.

Inky says, "Nobodies are the new celebrity."

The Global Airlines wino, he has a bottle of wine, wrapped in a brown paper bag. The wine, he says, is mixed with equal parts of mouthwash, cough syrup, and Old Spice cologne, and after one drink the four of them go strolling through the dark, through the park, where you'd never go at night.

What you have to love about drinking is, every swallow is an irrevocable decision. You charging ahead, in control of the game. It's the same with pills, sedatives and painkillers, every swallow is a definite first step down some road.

Inky says, "Public is the new private." She says, if you check into even the most boutique hotel-one of those white-robe places with orchids trembling next to the bidet in a white marble bathroom-even then, chances are a tiny camera is wired to watch you. She says the only place left to have sex is out in the open. The sidewalk. The subway. People only want to watch if they think they can't.

Besides, she says, the entire champagne-and-caviar lifestyle had lost its zap. Taking the Lear jet from here to Rome in six hours, it's made escaping too easy. The world feels so small and played out. Globe-trotting is just the chance to feel bored more places, faster. A boring breakfast in Bali. A predictable lunch in Paris. A tedious dinner in New York, and falling asleep, drunk, during just another blow job in L.A.

Too many peak experiences, too close together. "Like the Getty Museum," Inky says.

"Lather, rinse, and repeat," says the Global Airlines wino.

In the boring new world of everyone in the upper-middle class, Inky says nothing helps you enjoy your bidet like peeing in the street for a few hours. Give up bathing until you stink, and just a hot shower feels as good as a trip to Sonoma for a detoxifying mud enema.

"Think of it," Inky says, "as a kind of poverty sorbet."

A nice little window of misery that helps you enjoy your real life.

"Join us," Inky says. The sticky green stain of cough syrup smeared around her mouth, strands of her plastic wig hair sticking to it, she says, "This next Friday night."

Looking bad, she says, is the new looking good.

She says all the right people will be there. The Old Guard. The best parts of the Social Register. Ten in the evening, under the Westside ramps to the bridge.

They can't, Evelyn says. Packer and her, Wednesday night they're committed to attend the Waltz to End Hunger in Latin America. Thursday is the Aboriginals in Need Banquet. Friday is a silent auction for runaway teen sex workers. These events, with all the polished acrylic awards they hand out, it makes you long for the day when the number-one fear of Americans was public speaking.

"Just go to the midtown Sheraton," Inky says. "Check into a room."

Evelyn must make a pug-dog face, because then Inky tells her, "Relax."

She says, "Of course we don't stay there. Not at a Sheraton. It's only a place to change clothes."

Anytime after ten on Friday night, she says, under the ramps of the bridge.

Packer and Evelyn Keyes, their first problem is always what to wear. For a man, it looks easy. All he has to do is put on his dinner jacket and his trousers inside out. Put your shoes on the wrong feet. Voilà-you look crippled and crazy.

"Insanity," Inky would say, "is the new sanity."

Wednesday, after the hunger waltz, Packer and Evelyn come out of the hotel ballroom and you can hear someone on the street singing "Oh Amherst, Brave Amherst." In the street, Frances "Frizzi" Dunlop Colgate Nelson is drinking oversized cans of malt liquor with Schuster "Shoe" Frasier and Weaver "Bones" Pullman, the three of them sitting with their dirty pants rolled up and their bare feet in a fountain. Frizzi is wearing her bra on the outside.

Dressing down, Inky says, is the new dressing up.

At home, Evelyn tries on a dozen garbage bags, green and black plastic bags big enough for yard debris, but they all make her look fat. To look good, she settles on a narrow white bag made for upright kitchen trash. It looks elegant, even, snug as a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, belted with a melted old electrical cord, a dash of bright safety orange, with the loose wires and plug hanging loose down one side.

This season, Inky says everyone is wearing their wigs backward. Mismatched shoes. Cut a hole in the center of a soiled blanket, she says, wear it as a poncho, and you're ready for a night of fun on the street.

To be safe, the evening they check into the midtown Sheraton, Evelyn takes three suitcases full of army surplus. Yellowed, stretched-out bras. Sweaters thick with balls of lint. She takes a jar of clay facial mask to dirty them up. They sneak down the hotel fire stairs, fourteen flights to a door that opens on a back alley, and they're free. They're nobody. Anonymous. Without the responsibility to run anything.

No one's looking at them, asking for money, trying to sell them something.

Walking to the bridge, they're invisible. Safe in their poverty.

Packer starts to limp a little, from his shoes being on the wrong feet. Evelyn lets her mouth hang open. Then she spits. Yes, the girl taught to never even scratch an itch in public, she spits in the street. Packer sways, bumping against her, and she clutches his arm. He swings her around, and they kiss, reduced to just two wet mouths while the city around them, it disappears.

That first night on the street, Inky comes over with something reeking inside a black patent-leather purse webbed with cracks. It's the smell of low tide on a hot day at the shore. The smell, "It's the new anti-status symbol," she says. Inside the purse is a cardboard takeout box from Chez Héloise. Inside the box is a fist-sized lump of orange roughy. "Four days old," Inky says. "Swing it around. The smell beats a bodyguard for keeping people away."

Stink for privacy, the new way to protect personal space. Intimidation by odor.

You can get used to any smell, she says, no matter how bad. Inky says, "You got used to Calvin Klein's Eternity...?"

The two of them, Inky and Evelyn, walk around the block, getting a little chill time away from the party. Up ahead, the entourage of some miniskirt statue is piling out of a limousine, thin people with headsets wired between their mouth and ear, each person holding a conversation with someone far away. As the two waddle past, Inky stumbles, brushing the purse full of rotten fish, pressing it against the sleeves of leather and fur coats. The bodyguards in dark suits. Personal assistants in tailored black.

The entourage crowds together, pulling away, all of them moaning and pressing a manicured hand over their nose and mouth.

Inky, she keeps on walking. She says, "I love doing that."

In the face of this new money, Inky says it's time to change the rules. She says, "Poverty is the new nobility."

Up ahead is a herd of Internet millionaires and Arab oil sheikhs, all of them smoking outside an art gallery, and Inky says, "Let's go pester them for pocket change..."

This is their vacation from being Packer and Muffy Keyes, the textile CEO and the tobacco-products heiress. Their little weekend retreat into the social safety net.

The Global Airlines wino happens to be Webster "Scout" Banners. Him, Inky, and Muffy, they meet up with Skinny and Frizzi. Then Packer and Boater come join them. Then Shoe and Bones. They're all drunk and playing charades, and at one point Packer shouts out, "Is there anyone under this bridge not worth at least forty million dollars?"

And, of course, you only hear the traffic passing by above.

Later, they're pushing shopping carts someplace industrial. Inky and Muffy pushing one cart, Packer and Scout walking a ways behind. And Inky says, "You know, I used to think the only thing worse than losing at love was winning..." She says, "I used to be so in love with Scout, ever since school, but you know how events...disappoint us."

Inky and Muffy, their hands wearing those gloves without fingers so they can sort old cans better, Inky says, "I used to think the secret to a happy ending was to bring down the curtain at the exact right time. A moment after happiness, then everything's all wrong, again."

Those social climbers who think they have it tough-their fear of using the wrong fork, or panicking when the fingerbowls are passed-the homeless have so much more to fret about. There's botulism. There's frostbite. A flash of capped tooth could expose you. A whiff of Chanel No. 5.

Any of a million little details could give you away.

They've become what Inky calls the "Commuting Homeless."

She says, "Now? Now I love Scout. I love him as if I'd never married him." On the streets like this, it feels like they're pioneers starting a new life in some wilderness. But instead of bears or wolves to worry about, they have-Inky shrugs and says-drug dealers and drive-by shootings.

"This is still the best part of my life," she says, "but I know it can't last forever..."

Already her new social calendar was filling up. All this social diving. Doing anything on Tuesday is out of the question, because she plans to go rag-picking with Dinky and Cheetah. After that, Packer and Scout are meeting to sort aluminum cans. After that, everyone's stopping by the free clinic to have our feet looked at by some young, dark-eyed doctor with a vampire accent.

Packer says the aluminum can is the Krugerrand of the street. Standing at the top of a ramp, where cars come off the freeway, Inky says, "Think high concept. Pretend you're doing a single-line movie pitch to network television."

On a sheet of brown cardboard, using a black felt-tipped marker, Inky writes: Single Mom. Ten Kids. Breast Cancer.

"You do this-right?-" she says, "and people just give you money..."

Muffy writes: Crippled War Vet. Starving. Need to get home.

And Inky says, "Perfect." She says, "You just pitched Cold Mountain."

This is their little urban campout.

This hiding out in the open. This hiding in plain sight.

No one's easier to ignore than the homeless. You could be Jane Fonda or Robert Redford, but if you're pushing a shopping cart down the avenue at high noon, wearing three layers of soiled clothing and muttering cusswords under your breath-nobody's going to notice you.

They could do this for the rest of their lives. Scout and Inky, they plan to get on a list for a low-income apartment. They want to sit in waiting rooms and get free dental care from attractive young medical students. They'll apply for free methadone, then work their way up to heroin. Adult vocational training. Fry hamburgers. Learn to drive and do laundry, then work their way up into the lower-middle class.

At night, when Packer and Evelyn hold each other, under some bridge or on cardboard laid across a steaming, warm manhole cover, his hands inside her clothing, bringing her to climax as strangers walk past, the two have never been so in love.

But Inky's right. It can't last forever. The end comes so fast, no one's sure what happened until it's in the newspaper the next day.

They're asleep in the doorway of some warehouse, feeling more at home than they ever have in Banff or Hong Kong. By now their blankets smell like each other. Their clothes-their bodies-feel like a house. Just Packer's arms around his wife could be a duplex on Park Avenue. A villa in Crete.

It's that night a black town car hits the curb, brakes squealing and one tire bumping up onto the sidewalk. The headlights, two circles of bright high-beams, shine right on Mr. and Mrs. Keyes, waking them up. The back door falls open and screams spill out from the back seat. Headfirst, her hands and arms flying, a girl falls out onto the sidewalk. Her long dark hair hiding her face, she's naked and scrambling on hands and knees away from the car.

Packer and Evelyn, buried in their house of old rags and damp blankets, the naked girl is scrambling toward them.

Behind her, a man's black shoe steps out of the car's open door. A dark pant leg follows. A man wearing black leather gloves climbs out of the car's back seat while the girl gets to her feet, screaming. Screaming, Please. Screaming for help. So close you can see one, two, three gold hoops pierced through one of her ears. Her other ear is gone.

What looks like a long braid of dark hair is really blood running down the side of her neck. Where the ear was, you see just a jagged ridge of flesh.

The girl gets to the Keyeses, just their eyes showing from under the blankets.

As the man grabs her by the hair, the girl grabs at their rags. As the man lifts her, kicking and weeping, into the car, the girl tugs the blankets, showing them here, still half asleep, blinking in the car's bright headlights.

The man has to see them. Anyone driving the car must see.

The girl screams, "Please." She screams, "The license plate...," and she's pulled back inside. The car door slams shut and the tires squeal, leaving just the girl's blood and skidmarks of black rubber. In the gutter with the fast-food paper cups, dropped or knocked out in the struggle, a torn, pale ear sparkles with two gold hoop earrings still looped through it.

It's over breakfast, a room-service omelet of greasy mushrooms, English muffins, lukewarm coffee, and cold bacon in their suite at the Sheraton, it's there they see the newspaper. In local news, a Brazilian oil heiress was kidnapped. The picture of her is the naked girl with long dark hair from the night before, but smiling and holding a trophy with a little gold tennis player on top.

According to the newspaper, the police haven't a single witness.

Of course, the Keyeses could send a note, but they really didn't see anyone's face. They didn't see the license plate. All they saw was the girl. The blood. Packer and Evelyn, they can't offer any real help. Going to the police, all they could do is humiliate themselves. Already, you could imagine the headlines:

"Society Couple Goes Slumming for Kicks"

Or: "Billionaires Playing Poor"

God forbid if they told about Inky and Scout, Skinny and Shoe and Bones.

Packer and Evelyn putting themselves up for public ridicule was not going to save this poor girl. Their suffering wouldn't lessen a moment of hers.

In the newspaper the next week, the kidnapped heiress was found dead.

Still, Inky wasn't worried. Poor, dirty people have nothing to worry about on the street. The girl who got killed was young. She looked clean and pretty and rich. "Having nothing to lose," Inky said, "is the new wealth."

And Packer said, "Lather, rinse, and repeat."

No, Inky wasn't about to give up her happiness and go back to being rich and famous. And more and more, those nights, Packer went with her. To protect her, he said.

One of those nights, Evelyn's at the Charity Dinner Dance Against Colon Cancer when her cell phone rings. It's Inky, and in the background a man is shouting. Packer's voice. In the phone, Inky is breathing hard, saying, "Muffy, please. Muffy, please, we're lost and someone is chasing us." She says, "We've tried the police, but..." And the call cuts off.

As if she's run into a tunnel. Under an overpass.

The headline in the next day's newspaper says:

"Publisher and Textile CEO Found Stabbed to Death"

Now, almost every morning, there's a new headline to avoid:

"Bag Lady Found Butchered"

Or: "Killer Continues to Stalk the Homeless"

Somewhere, every night, that black town car is looking for Mrs. Keyes, the only witness to a crime. Someone is killing anyone on the street who might be her. Anyone dressed in rags and asleep under a pile of blankets.

It's after that Evelyn goes cold turkey. She cancels the newspaper. To replace the television, she buys the glass tank with a lizard that changes color to match any paint scheme.

Nowadays, Mrs. Keyes, she's the opposite of homeless. She has too much home. She's burdened with home. Buried in home. She reads her catalogues. Looking at the glossy pictures of garden ornaments. Diamond jewelry made from the cremains of your dead loved ones.

Of course, she still misses her friends. Her husband. But it's like Inky would say: Being absent is the new being present.

And she still buys tickets for the charity events. The silent auctions and dance recitals. It's important to know she's doing something to make the world a little bit better. Next, she'd like to go swimming with endangered gray whales.

Sleep in the canopy of some dwindling rain forest.

Photograph some vanishing zebras. Eco-slumming.

It's important to be aware. She still wants to make a difference.

Excerpted from Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk Copyright (c) 2005 by Chuck Palahniuk. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 306 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 308 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Cube meets Saw. Gory, interesting, but not spectacular

    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.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    My 1st Palaniuk....

    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!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    WOW!

    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!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2008

    Taunting 'Haunted'

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Vile, Intriguing, Disgusting, Addicting.....

    I have to honestly say that I cannot recommend this book to anyone. I just finished it, and I don't know how I feel about it other than it is graphically disgusting. The only reason I mentioned "Addicting" in the title of this review is because the author kept you wanting to know more about the characters... what made them who they were... I do know this - these folks aren't people I ever EVER would want to meet. Actually, I've decided how I feel. At the end of the book, I came away empty, no satisfaction - ended up feeling right now that this book was written for shock value only. Again - not recommended especially to those faint of heart.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2006

    Disturbing, But Well Worth Reading

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2006

    Tried to give it a chance but gave up.

    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.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2012

    Love this book!

    I have read this book several times and it NEVER gets old!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    Sickest book I have ever read, in a good way.

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2011

    wowwwwwww

    creative. poignant. unique. just wow.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting story but....

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Haunted

    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.<BR/><BR/>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.<BR/><BR/>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.<BR/><BR/>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.<BR/><BR/>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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2007

    Chuck Fan. Not so much a Haunted Fan

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    wow

    just horrible.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Crap

    A thinly veiled rip off of the Marquis De sade's 120 Days of Sodom. A group of people locked away who tell gradually more and more disturbing stories as their real life starts to reflect the stories. I suppose if you have never read 120 Days of Sodom (which appears to be the case with all the other people who reviewed this book) then this book could be considered shocking or disturbing, but if you have read De Sade, this book comes across as incredibly lame. I was very disappointed.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2006

    One of the worst books I have ever read as well!

    I love horror stories and this was nothing but gore. I finished the book trying to be fair and hoping to find something worth reading somewhere in the book. Disturbing? Yes. Worth reading? Don't waste your time.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2005

    Don't waste your time

    I had a hard time getting through this book. The plot was so disjointed. I felt like it was just thrown together. The short stories were interesting enough, although some were a little too disturbing for my taste. I definately wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2005

    a Chuck fan

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2005

    what happened?

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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