Discussion 6/05: Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
Pre-reading thoughs and ideas from your Discussion Leader, Parkaboy:
[QUOTE]While the blurb/synopsis likens Haunted to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chuck himself says his main inspiration was A Chorus Line and The Masque of Red Death (all inspired by The Decameron). Keep them in mind and the way the books make use of a situation in which people are trapped. For example: the pilgrims have a long journey together, the writers cannot leave the theater, and the nobles remain in their estates. How does this crucible of place and togetherness tighten the tension and the story?
Chuck constantly references the now famous gathering at the Chapuis in Geneva, Switzerland. During this extended house party Mary Shelly conceived Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. More than a horror novel, Frankenstein was a comment on the society of her age and the beginnings of the industrial revolution. Think about the ways in which Chuck uses the horrors of Haunted to expose failings/dangers in modern society, specifically with the way modern society and modern technology collide--i.e. the tape recorder, the camera, the desire for fame and the destruction of modern conveniences by the writers.
Is Chuck attempting, in your opinion, to comment on the relentless pursuit of attention through more and more shocking means and, if so, by using such shocking means himself, does the artist in anyway become part of the very thing he sets out to critique?
What motivates us and the characters to turn the worst aspects of ourselves into some sort of proxy validation from a public venue? What are the consequences of this in micro society (the writers) or a macro society (contemporary America)? If validation by the public is a surrogate fix, what does it replace?
How does Chuck make use of the seven deadly sins (Pride, Avarice, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth) through the short back stories of the writers and the connective metastory between them? Which character or event do you think might represent each sin?
Haunted puts forth the thesis that by telling your story, by expiating it publicly, one can move beyond the pains of their past. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?
In what ways can Haunted be seen as a deconstruction of the modern novel?
What do you think was in The Nightmare Box?
Chuck frequently addresses the idea of objectification and inanimateness (The Exodus, Speaking Bitter, etc.) what is he suggesting by these corollaries between people and things? What other authors use this theme and how is it relevant to modern life?
How important do you think the shock factor is in capturing the modern reader’s attention in an age of so much background noise? Could this be why the writers themselves go to such desperate lengths? Do you find the use of the shock value effective?
The narrative is written in a sort of first-person plural form--"WE." Who do you think ultimately was the narrator of the book?
Think about the ending, particularly the last "story," how does this effect the rest of the book in reflection and what do you think Chuck is saying here?
Several times in the novel, our world is likened to a rock tumbler, preparing us for the next step. What do you think Chuck is exploring here? The individual past of a person, history, or the possibility of an afterlife?[/QUOTE]
PLEASE NOTE: This is the June Selection for both the Cult Classics and Literati sections of the OCBC. The thread will remain in the Literati section, but can be accessed from the Cult Classics section.