October 2008:

Book picture
by Chuck Palahniuk

[Barnes & Noble Book Page]


(From Barnes & Noble)

Despite the soothing title, readers know better than to anticipate a kinder, gentler novel from the author of Fight Club. On its surface, Lullaby is a fable of supernatural horror, one that concerns a newspaper reporter researching sudden infant death syndrome who discovers a fatal poem in a children's anthology, a verse that kills the listener whenever someone recites (or even thinks) its lines. While trying to destroy every copy of the anthology, he succumbs to the temptation to inflict the poem's evil power on those who annoy him (which, in Palahniuk's universe, means plenty of casualties). Such a plot outline barely hints at the range of the author's thematic obsessions, which here include consumerism, necrophilia, radical environmentalism, class-action suits, identity and free will, sensory overload ("Imagine a plague you catch through your ears") and the never-ending horrors of real estate. Characteristic for Palahniuk, the novel's setup is more subversively engaging than the follow-through, though his writing remains so deliriously rich in ideas and entertaining in its stream-of-conscious riffing that conventions of character, plot and plausibility seem like comparatively empty anachronisms.

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Choke and the cult classic Fight Club, a cunningly plotted novel about the ultimate verbal weapon, one that reinvents the apocalyptic thriller for our times.

About the author:

(From Barnes & Noble)

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.