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zaterdag 25 april 2009

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

An engrossing masterpiece

When 17 would-be writers answer the invitation of Mr. Whittier to travel to a secluded place and stay there for three months in order to write their masterpiece, they have no clue of what kind of strange experience this retreat will result in. This writer's workshop is inspired on what happened when Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and others had similar experiences at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in Switzerland in the nineteenth century, resulting in the creation of the story of Frankenstein and ultimately also Dracula. During their three months of seclusion all participants relate strange and sometimes horrific stories that reveal their deepest and darkest secrets, but more importantly they create in the meantime their own myth that will bring them their much desired piece of fame. At least that is what they all hope will happen.

Haunted is quite a remarkable book and that can be taken as a serious understatement. It is actually a collection of 23 short stories, according the author all loosely based on real events, woven together by the story of a writer's workshop that goes horribly wrong. The stories cover a wide spectrum, but are all showcases of some weird escapade that is sometimes shocking, funny or simply gross. By far the most engrossing story is Guts. It explains how a guy is finding some erotic relief in his own outdoor swimming pool by using the suction power of the water intake. Of course this goes not as planned and has some life threatening consequences. In less capable hands this would turn into a funny anecdote, but in the hands of Chuck Palahniuk this becomes a masterpiece of nauseating and perverse fiction. While reading this 9-page story I really had to take a break because I was indeed beginning to feel a little bit queasy, something that almost never happens to me. I loved it. Clearly not intended for the feeble hearted reader, but for those who can stomach this kind of visual prose Haunted may turn out to be a masterpiece indeed.

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