Book Review: Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk

Title: Lullaby (Here)

Author: Chuck Palahniuk

Publication Date: 2002
Genre: Literary Fiction with Fantasy themes

Page Count: 260

Summary: Carl Streator, journalist, pursues every copy of a culling song after writing a story on sudden infant death syndrome. He finds others who know about it: a real estate agent that’s secretly a governmental assassin-through-thought, her secretary that’s Wiccan and nudist and peace-love-puppies, and the secretary’s boyfriend that is an anarchist and wants to destroy society (“infect the dying system with the next generation’s poison”). Dysfunctional race across the United States ensues.

Review in 5 words or less: Not what I expected. Bad.
Personal Rating: _1___ of 5.
(Caution: Spoilers) Beginning of the book: Meandering. Middle of the book: Boring. Climax: Intense.

Characters: inconsistent, distant.

Plot: strong yet uninteresting.

Setting: other than the scenes with antique furniture, nearly nonexistent.

Theme: brilliant.

Flow: strong, consistent.

This is my first read of any of Palahniuk’s work (except for an essay about death-through-masturbation), and I found it, overall, boring. He began with an idea—that magic somehow exists through ancient spells—and ran with it to a fault. Halfway through the book, he introduced an entirely different element of anarchy—possibly an idea he’s always had—and decided to intertwine the two. I found it lackluster.

The conclusion was perfect, complicated, twisted—although I can’t imagine someone so shallow as the cheerleader real estate agent to want to remain in a nasty old man’s body. If the whole of the story had things like this happening, I’d’ve been over the moon for it.

It didn’t.

It’s clear Palahniuk’s writing strengths are in his social dynamics, and he writes his story to make a point. His characters are little more than cut-outs representing aspects of society. Plot elements are clearly used to create an image. I was inspired by some of the scenery (previously mentioned forest of antiques).

I believe Palahniuk used to have something to say, and this book is little more than a poorly-thought idea executed in the most simple of ways and on the ghost of that previous thought. He’s a great writer; he is a professional with structure, the meaning of a story, and keeping it moving forward. I feel it. But he truly didn’t seem to care about these characters.

I loved the idea. It’s why I bought it in the first place: a spell one can use to kill someone else simply by thinking it toward them? Let’s see what happens! The themes were great: Big Brother filling your head with nonsense so you stay complacent, the parallels between ancient Romans thinking Apollo sent an order down from heaven to kill people being just as bad as Walmart advertising mashed potatoes, and the idea of antique furniture being cockroaches is brilliant.

He isn’t without sparks of insight. In fact, I might go so far as to say he writes through an astral quality: he dreams of images and fits his dolls to act the scene out.

Yet in spite of this, I found no inspiration to this book. I found little enjoyment of an anarchist talking to a wiccan talking to a power-hungry cheerleader talking to a psychopathic journalist (who, by the way, suddenly decides not to kill anyone anymore after meeting the anarchist. Why? Unexplained. Suddenly his fundamental personality changes). I was on board with the ramifications of a killing spree at the beginning of the book. I was on board with this complex mindset of a man in denial suddenly getting a lot of power. But then when the “family” dynamic was introduced to the story, all those thoughts I had about the previous story dissipated.

The “family” didn’t even make much sense. It was a tag, a stocking-stuffer, filler. I feel as if he had an idea, didn’t know where to go with it, and instead tossed in a gnarled “Scooby-Doo” gang to make things make sense.

If I were to submit something this unfinished and unfocused to an editor, agent, or publisher, it would immediately be discarded.

I hope I didn’t make any enemies by writing this.



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