I love Mr. Palahniuk's fiction; I think he's one of the most interesting authors writing in English today. I haven't read quite all his stuff yet, but...moreI love Mr. Palahniuk's fiction; I think he's one of the most interesting authors writing in English today. I haven't read quite all his stuff yet, but so far, this is his least interesting work. Its not terrible, but its not particularly good, and frankly rather easy to forget.
Like essentially all of Mr. Palahniuk's novels, this book is about American society, to which it holds a mirror, with devastating effect. 20something irony fetishists, who think this book is about "a gangbang" (and who imagine, depressingly, that such would be a particularly interesting topic upon which to have written), are (as is rather par for the course with Mr. Palahniuk's efforts) viciously skewered by simple virtue of the fact they have no idea how not-in-on-the-joke they are (its on them). Irony can be very ironic at times, I suppose. Yet if it weren't for all the "hipster" douche ignoramuses who like Mr. Palahniuk's work, due to the fact he talks about bodily secretions and genitalia with an explicity that would have been very unusual 30 years ago, then his fiction simply wouldn't be profitable, from a market-based perspective. I suppose that's true of nearly any contemporary American author; if you don't give the vulgar dumbass majority something to titter & giggle about, you aren't likely to be marketable. So I suppose I should be thankful that the sycophantic nitwits who gave this book five stars, are out there buying (and not understanding) Mr. Palahniuk's books. I'm not thankful at all, but I recognize that as a failing on my part, alas.(less)
**spoiler alert** Well, this was an odd little book.
The premise was great (whereas Mr. Palahniuk's realization of that premise is somewhat flawed, yet...more**spoiler alert** Well, this was an odd little book.
The premise was great (whereas Mr. Palahniuk's realization of that premise is somewhat flawed, yet never-the-less worth reading); some kid of probably either Communist Chinese or North Korean descent, who was taken from his parents at a young age (after being subjected to intensive aptitude testing), is raised for a single purpose: To inflict Operation Havoc upon the morally degenerate, Capitalist oppressor class which infests the USA (by which I mean, everyone who lives here). He's been raised & trained to be a genocidal terrorist his entire life, and his training has made him potentially quite effective and dangerous. He would be a Heck of a lot MORE effective, however, if he didn't have such a skewed and wildly inaccurate (although at times, still oddly insightful) view of much of what occurs within American society. Cue the wacky hijinx music.
A LOT (most?) of the people who read this novel, seem to share a complaint in common ie., they don't care for the manner in which the protagonist "talks" (I use quotes, because all the dialogue of this novel occurs within a series of status reports he sends to his overseas superiors). And I don't blame them. It bothered me a lot my own darn self, and I was less than ten pages into it, before I thought to myself, "I don't think I'm going to be able to finish this thing." Well, it took a while (half the book), but I eventually got used to it (and even started thinking like the protagonist myself, referring to yours truly as "Operative Kevin," although technically it should have been "Operative me"). Anyhoo, a lot of people think this method of speech/writing is very stupid, because the protagonist would have had better knowledge of English and/or he would simply file his reports in his native tongue. I have a theory about that, however:
The protagonist does not use his idiosyncratic idiom because of a lack of fluency in English, but rather due to the way he was raised ie., his whole life is about being-an-operative. Communication is something he uses almost exclusively for A) deception, and B) making reports to his superiors. He has simply never learned to speak in a casual manner (other than when engaged in a conscious deception, which presumably requires some effort in order to effect properly). I have yet to come across anyone who shares this opinion of mine, but I strongly suspect it to be the correct interpretation (I'd really like to ask Mr. Palahniiuk if I've deduced it correctly). If my interpretation is correct, then that is the way the protagonist speaks when he's at home, and presumably speaking Chinese, Korean, or whatever.(less)
It seems like Mr. Palahniuk's career as a novelist comes in two phases, the really excellent phase (1996-2003), and the kinda mediocre phase (2005-pre...moreIt seems like Mr. Palahniuk's career as a novelist comes in two phases, the really excellent phase (1996-2003), and the kinda mediocre phase (2005-present). Lullaby came out in 2002, and it was the last one for me to read from the "really excellent phase" (except for this, and "Diary," I read the others immediately after seeing the "Fight Club" movie in 2000, or as soon as they were published).
Anyhoo, I'm kinda glad I saved this one for last, as its really outstanding. Some would say its a meditation on Lord Acton's old maxim ie., "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," and to an extent I suppose it is, but I don't particularly see this novel as "about" anything; its just a really enjoyable piece of fiction with an amazing plot about an African death (or "culling") spell, one that is inadvertently (?) published on page 27 of "Poems & Rhymes From Around the World."
Like all of Mr. Palahniuk novels, it skewers some of the low-hanging fruit of contemporary America's laughably degenerate culture, and manages to combine extensive humour with a very dark and ostensibly horrifying tale of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, sorcery, ad hoc methods of dealing with Earth's over-population issues, and the quest for world domination (none of which play out in any of the obvious ways you're probably guessing right now, and I frankly haven't given away anything, or at least very little, that you wouldn't be able to deduce from reading the back cover blurbs).
I think that "Fight Club" will always been seen as Mr. Palahniuk's magnum opus, but "Lullaby" is perhaps his second greatest novel (but I need to re-read "Survivor" and "Invisible Monsters" before I make a definitive judgment in that regard).
1987's "Angel Heart" is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I've been meaning to read this novel (which I saw mentioned in the credits the first ti...more1987's "Angel Heart" is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I've been meaning to read this novel (which I saw mentioned in the credits the first time I saw it, when it first came out on VHS) since probably 1988, or '89 at the very latest. And now I have finally gotten around to doing so.
I must say, I significantly prefer the storyline from the novel. I like the way the entire story takes place in New York City (instead of a totally unnecessary jaunt to New Orleans, as per the cinematic adaptation), and I like the very similar (yet modified in one very significant detail) way the novel ended. I also liked that the "Louis Cyphre" character gets a lot more focus (which is not unrelated to my previous point). And the "Evangeline Proudfoot" character is a lot more appealing in the book. In the film, she's this vulgar, slinky strumpet who makes you feel somewhat ashamed to be sexually aroused by her. In the novel, she has a certain ladylike dignity that is much more appealing than the way Lisa Bonet played the character...which was basically as a low-class whore who also happened to be a voodoo priestess (I think even practicioners of voodoo likely have some standards, and would be disinclined to select such a person to be one of their priestesses).
Anyhoo, the novel is a rather disturbing (yet thoroughly entertaining, for horror fans) look at a (fictional) milieu of voodoo & Satan worship within both elite and working class communities in 1959 New York City. I got a kick out of it.(less)
I just finished this book within the last hour or so...and I'm so flabbergasted, I barely know what to say about it. I mean, WOW! I'm not going to say...moreI just finished this book within the last hour or so...and I'm so flabbergasted, I barely know what to say about it. I mean, WOW! I'm not going to say this is one of the very best novels I've ever read in my life...but I'm not sure it isn't. I really can't describe what its about, without doing anyone who reads this review a potentially tremendous disservice (which is to say, you should really read this thing yourself), but allow me to share my experiences in a way that is almost humiliatingly honest: I was about fifteen pages from the end of the book, and all of a sudden, I wasn't sure I was reading fiction anymore. I suddenly wondered if I wasn't holding in my hand, the most powerful book ever written, an ultra-esoteric tome of fabulous arcana that could be used to literally transform myself into a deity-like being who would dwell forever in splendour & glory!?!...and then, seven or eight seconds later, I stepped back from the precipice of Stephen-King-shot-John-Lennon mental degeneracy, kinda giggled at my own foolish credulity, and recalled that its just a really freakin' good novel, and not some quasi-religious, cosmological treatise.
Say what you will, but any novel that is able to blur the distinction between fiction and a cryptic key to a sublimely higher level of reality, if only for a handful of seconds (leaving one feeling embarrased and silly in the aftermath of one's mental swooning), well, I don't know what else one calls that, but its clearly also DANG FINE WRITING! Bravo, Mr. Palahniuk! Bra-freakin'-vo. The only other author I can compare this work to, is the fictional milieu of H.P. Lovecraft,* and coming from yours truly, there is virtually no higher praise.
*That might sound like an eccentric comparison, and indeed, this book is very, VERY different from anything Lovecraft ever wrote, but in some sense, that's the point: This isn't some Lovecraft pastiche, but like H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, its an extremely original and powerful piece of work.(less)
I burned through this thing in less than 24 hours (its very short ie., about 165 pages). It was really quite enjoyable, being both interesting and inf...moreI burned through this thing in less than 24 hours (its very short ie., about 165 pages). It was really quite enjoyable, being both interesting and informative about numerous, often-strange aspects of life in Portland, Oregon...as well as containing some sheer hilarity (the anecdote about the "laser Floyd" show in 1980, may be the single funniest thing I've read since finishing John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces," nearly two years ago).
Having been published in 2003, its doubtless out-of-date in any number of respects, never-the-less, I simply can not imagine visiting Portland without a copy of this volume in my possession, and using it in order to try visiting the museums, gardens, and historic houses it cites (as well as Elk Rock Island, and all manner of interesting and scenic-sounding, hidden/obscure locales).
I've never gotten closer than within 25 miles or so of the Oregon state line (from the Del Norte County, California side), but I have to say, this book makes me want to visit Portland. A lot. Maybe I'll manage to do so one day, and maybe I will not, but either way, I'm thankful Mr. Palahniuk authored this trippy little tome for our amusement and edification.(less)
I'm still at the library (having just checked this book out), and only thus far having read Chapter Three ("Devil Names and Fortean Places"), plus som...moreI'm still at the library (having just checked this book out), and only thus far having read Chapter Three ("Devil Names and Fortean Places"), plus some of the appendices (my favorite being "Erratic Crocodilians and Teleporting 'Gators"), and yet I am quite confident in assigning this outstanding volume a five-star rating. I anticipate burning through its contents with great enthusiasm & rapidity (as well as employing it for various evidentiary citations at Wikipedia), despite the various other books I am already engaged in reading.
Many (most?) books on cryptozoology, and Forteana generally, tend to leave a good deal to be desired. This is not going to be an issue here, I feel well and truly assured. This is more than a rehash of the same tired, old double handful of 1970s Bigfoot & Loch Ness Monster tales, and is well written, and thus far quite fascinating. I made a great choice when I decided to obtain my local library's copy of this book, and if the subject matter is one which you find of interest, then you too shall be making a good choice, if and when you decide to peruse this intriguing tome.
...And now that I've actually read the book in quesion, let me reiterate my initial impressions, as well as note that in addition to Chapter Three, there are some other particularly intriguing chapters which really stand out as being unusually interesting, such as Chapter 4 "Things That Go Bump in the Bay State," Chapter 5 "A Case Study: The Dover Demon," Chapter 16 "The North American Ape," and especially Chapter 21, "The Phantom Clowns." That last chapter is a real powerhouse, one that delves into the legend of "The Pied Piper" (and his contemporary analogs), and which puts this book head & shoulders above most others of its ilk, in terms of its discernment of the nature of Fortean events.