Saturday, 7 November 2015

Lullaby - Chuck Palahniuk

Reporter Carl Streator has been assigned to investigating Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for his newspaper, and notices a pattern in all the scenes he's been called to see. At every single one of them, a poetry anthology is, or has been, open at page 27 on an old African culling song. To confirm this theory, he reads the poem to his editor, who fails to come in to work the following day. However, we discover that this is also a very personal quest for Streator – he accidentally caused the death of his own wife and child 20 years earlier by reading them the very same poem.

Occult real estate agent Helen Hoover Boyle (who specialises in selling haunted houses and profiting by the frequent sales commissions as clients are keen to get rid of them again very quickly), has come to the same conclusion as Streator through her own investigations. The pair, along with Helen's secretary Mona and Mona's hippie boyfriend Oyster, race to destroy the remaining 200 copies of a limited edition print, before the poem becomes public knowledge.

Lullaby is at once disturbing, gripping and surprisingly funny in a bizarre, cynical kind of way. Palahniuk explores the different temptations for people with an inhuman power, the power to kill anyone they want to, instantly, with no more than a thought or a few words. How it changes the characters and the ways they cope with it forms a fascinating part of the story.

The brusque, matter-of-fact narrative tone lends a poignancy to grief, and a sense of detachment to several rather gory scenes, and the characters are colourful and eccentric in a manner more usually found in comedic novels.

Lullaby is a fascinating, dark but sometimes very funny exploration of the power of language and of the corruption of power. Very much worth reading, and I can guarantee you'll never have read anything like it before.

Next up: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

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