30 August 2005

Haunted When The Minutes Drag


Not so much read as smelt, Haunted is a cloacal trail through the degradation of Day Time and Reality TV. As Jonathan Meades once said: "Please Wash Your Hands After Reading This Book". Everyone you meet will tell you that Chuck has backed himself into a corner and this is the book where there's literally nowhere to go, forcing the issues out into the open via buckets of bodily fluid, strings of cannibal sausages and viscera, strung up like redneck tinsel.

My new E-Mail SPAM trend is questions that centre around my ability to drench the love of my life in spermwhales of semen; after reading Exodus I may start sending the cheques.

Yeah, you could be Chuck. You could read a few nasty pamphlets, spend a few hours research time catching up on the degradation of tissue samples or burn victim peeling; you could brush up on your Latin by looking up the swearwords and medical texts. You could blur the humanity of your characters to the point of incomprehensibility, render their flat dull prose flatly and dully. You could ditch finally all pretense of a storyline and just make everyone suffer and then you could document this suffering with autistic, almost medical, clarity; never allowing yourself too many lines, never letting the words destroy the page...

But, but... you'd be missing the point.

This book is not successful because it's author is an artist, any more than those Austrian Aktionist Fun Boys who cut up the cows were artists. It's not a Francis Bacon thing about the ballet of violence and not a mirror on society either, at least not one free of willful distortion.

No. This is a book about hope.

This book is a page-turner even though you don't care about any of the characters or even remember too much about where the plot's going. This book is a car-crash, a wounded badger stapled to the wall of the pavilion, a flipped out Down's kid singing on stage... it dares you to keep looking, just in case there's a light somewhere, a faint spark of humanity to cling onto.

It's books like this that make Riddley Walker go walking. The idea that maybe there's something beyond.

You keep reading because you keep hoping. Maybe, maybe. Hope seems to play an understressed role in all of Palahniuk's fictions; these people are sending out rays so faint they're almost entirely blanked out by the everyday horrors of existence. And even if these horrors are comically amplified to sound like blood rushing around your ears, you can sense they might really be just around the corner, a deathly prosaic, waiting to drag you down.

The Nightmare Box is a central story. You look in and you see, you see.... well, you'll see.

Haunted serves pretty much the same function as Dogville - using it's very blankness as a way of highlighting how difficult it is not to turn away without wondering how much you could change.

There might be a slight creeping, seeping nihilism curling the edges of this book but it's central message seems to be telling you not to wash your hands just yet...

1 comment:

ilya said...

Yup, hope plays a huge role in Palahniuk's books. I keep reading hoping that it will turn good and may be the whole experience will become worthwhile...nope. Never happens. But one can hope, eh?

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