Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Brilliant. That’s the word, the only word, that came to mind as I started reading Palahniuk’s Lullaby. I struggled to keep reading, as I was too impressed with the prose. As a writer, reading Palahniuk made me feel like a dancing monkey in comparison.
By the time I hit the halfway mark, I struggled to keep reading for an altogether different reason. It had become too fragmented, repetitive, and just plain boring.
At the beginning, this passage stopped me. Full stop. Absolute. No going further out of awe:
“Helen, she’s wearing a white suit and shoes, but not Snow White. It’s more the white of downhill skiing in Banff with a private car and driver on call, fourteen pieces of matched luggage, and a suite at the Hotel Lake Louise.”
By the time I had reached page 116, about halfway through, I’ve read about twenty passages stylistically the same.
This color. But not color like this, more like this extended metaphor.
First time, brilliant. First few times, brilliant.
Okay. I might be exaggerating with the twenty mark. I didn’t count, but it’s repetitive enough to make it annoying. Unlike his other “choruses,” like “I know this because Tyler knows this” or “these noise-aholics, these peace-aphobics” (and all the variations on that theme) or the counting to remain calm, it doesn’t tie anything together. It doesn’t do a thing past a look-at-how-well-I-can-write. Over and over, which defeats its own purpose. It’s like those movie scenes so overdone they’re obviously this-is-my-Oscar-winning-performance-scene.
Again with the ads Oyster, one of the many despicable characters in this novel, takes out to blackmail corporations. Really. Really. Old. I get it. I don’t have to be beaten over the head with it.
**spoilers** — **trigger warnings**
Then, on page 177 (Ch 29), after I skipped dozens of pages of the same-ol’, same-ol’ repetition, where no new character development is revealed nor is the plot projected forward, I came to the part where Streater remembers orally and vaginally raping his dead wife. Of course, he only thought she was unconscious, so it was just rape, not necrophilia. “It’s not rape if they’re dead.”
This is where I stopped reading.
Not sure which was more disturbing, the fact that Streater calls it “the best he had” since before his child was born or that he didn’t even bother to check on her after he got off with her unconscious, unresponsive form.
I’m utterly disgusted by Palahniuk, and I’m not sure I’ll be reading anymore. Darkness is one thing. Disturbing is one thing, and I like things very dark, but something about this is beyond revolting. Thankfully, the protagonist and everyone, really, are all horrific people, so at least the rape isn’t brushed off as something acceptable. That’s the only thing that might get me to try another book.
This is the first Palahniuk book in which I’d gotten this far. I’m partially into Fight Club at the moment, the second time I’ve tried to read it. The first I found difficult to keep going for the same reason at the beginning: blown away by the prose. That, coupled with the movie playing in my head, made it hard for me to read. I’m trying again, and I hope to get through it this time.
Two stars, only because of the brilliant prose. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.