July 15, 2006

Leisure Reading: Wicked, Sick & Twisted

Several months ago I played a little game with myself to see how many of the books I've read from some "best of" lists. I realized that many of the books I had read from the lists, I hadn't read very recently. Now I prefer some good brain candy to so I can get a fix. I also prefer some edgier stuff that is very well written, quite thought-provoking, yet not usually on any mainstream lists you'll see.

This week I read Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted. I've heard of Palahniuk, but his best known book, Fight Club, is not something I had wanted to read. I didn't know what I was getting into when I read it, but turns out the book is seriously sick and twisted. It's about writings who go to a writer's retreat that turns into a sort of Survivor-like scenario. Sounds suspensionful, aye? Yea like how Rob Zombie might do suspense without the hillbilly element.

You've got to have strong nerves, a stomach of steel, and an open mind to tackle this one.

There's the main story of the participants, but also woven in are poems about each and the stories they tell. I felt detached from the characters in the present day "retreat" situation, yet I was totally sucked into the largely autobiographical stories each told. It was more like morbidly fascination in some cases. The first story is Palahniuk's "Guts," which I found out after reading this book, is well known and easily found on the Web. (I'd link it, but then I'd be corrupting you, too. It will create an image in your head about actual guts that you'll always wish you didn't have. It's all on you if you want to seek it out.) The storyline of "Guts" sounded vaguely familiar, like an urban folk legend. I should have known from that story that might only get worse. Some stories were disturbing (bloody, gross, sexually bizarre), while others were just lonely.

My favorite story is a milder story about desensitized socialites who make living as homeless people the next hip thing. I've always wondered what it would be like to have a fortunate, charmed life. No worries, plenty of money, charity work, and a busy social life with plenty of cocktails. Sounds kind of fun to me. However, the narrator this story tells how it all becomes so common and dull, so she and her husband join other the bored andwealthy as they "hide" from the world publically posing as homeless people. Strange how suddenly they actually start to feel alive again. Liberated. Ah, but it's a dangerous life. Tragedy strikes, and then narrator finds herself living a lonely life of a recluse. That makes her more like the rest of the human race more than anything else. In fact, I think her life is sadder than that of a down-and-out vagrant.

What's the point in reading disturbing stories? Extreme tales scream the pain and hurt--the baggage-- we all carry in life. Everyone has a story. Everyone has issues. Everyone wants attention. We all crave for a peace that seems unattainable. These are such common themes that writers and artists have to keep coming up with new ways to express themselves to our culture. Palahniuk might be considered a "shock" author, but how else might he get our attention? The deep horrors of our minds, baby!

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