Monday, January 7, 2008

The power of books

So this morning I was finishing a book I have been reading since I went on vacation a few months ago. It is a book of short stories and poems by Chuck Palahniuk called "Haunted". At the end he wrote an after word that talked about one of the stories called "Guts" and how the first time he read it no one fainted.

When I read the story I remember laughing, laughing some more, yelling, reading some of it out loud to my wife, cringing and then a sigh of relief that it was over. I didn't faint though. I was on a plane on the way back from Hawaii. I remember thinking that this is one of the most disturbing books I have ever read.

It was horror, but not like any book of horror I had ever read before. It was more like the horror of reality TV. Like it is real, sort of. I don't like reality TV, I try not to watch the shows, but sometimes nothing else is on. The way that people become faux-real to me is horror. The stories of this book are linked by the idea that writers are together in a game to win money and the stories in the book are from all the contestants. So like the real(?) reality TV shows it has the twisted type of horror I am trying to describe.

The first season of "Survivor", which I never saw, but I remember people talking about the contestants eating rats. I used to be afraid of rats. One job I had, the impetus for my departure among other reasons was an encounter with a rat on the job. I was working a trash compactor, loading dumpsters onto a fork and dumping them into a compactor then compacting the trash and repeating. The compactor broke and I have to open up the hydraulic unit. A rat brushed by my hand when I stuck it into the dark hole and all my childhood nightmares of rats ran through my head at the same time. Even now I can feel it, see the dark hair dashing into the darkness under the compactor. When I listened to people talking about the contestants eating rats it didn't bother me, but I could see the fear and disgust on their faces and I knew that horror. It was real.

I write this not trying to keep people from reading "Haunted", I thought it was a great book. I didn't read it in one sitting, I kept it by the side of my bed and read little bits. I never read books of short stories all at once most of the time. I read them in little spurts. I think this book was meant to be read from start to finish, but I just didn't get the flow.

I won't ruin it by telling any more. It didn't make me faint, but you might want to read it at home sitting down.

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