Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Read this. It makes people faint."

I have never read anything by Chuck Palahniuk. Yesterday I came across this link in Bookslut's blog. Evidently when Palahniuk gives readings of the story "Guts" from his book Haunted, at least one person always passes out.

How bad can it be, you might wonder? (As I did.) I have read a lot of graphic horror fiction, and some of it has disgusted me, some of it has utterly creeped me out, but nothing has ever brought me anywhere near fainting. I was definitely curious, so I checked the book out of the library today.

I just finished reading the story. And no, I came nowhere near fainting. Yes, it depicted some truly awful things, and it is definitely one of the more horrifically graphic things I've read. The sensory images he creates are striking and vivid. But passing out over this? I don't think so. I'm not sure why it didn't strike me the way it obviously has many other people, but I've thought of two possible reasons.

One is that I read the story with the expectation that it was going to be horrific, and so I wasn't all that surprised by what happened. Much of it actually struck me as pretty funny. I mean, not funny in a nonfictional sense, so that you'd laugh if it actually happened to someone. But funny in an over-the-top, how-fun-it-is-to-make-up-something-to-really-make-people-squirm kind of way.

Which brings me to the second reason. I think that we all have our buttons, the things that make our knees go weak. So I can definitely imagine that someone with deep-seated fears about the kinds of things in this story would be completely freaked out by it. Fainting still seems a stretch to me, but there you go.

There is also the fact that listening to a story being read out loud makes it impossible to skim over or rush through portions of the text that are disturbing. I experienced that when I listened to the audio version of Stephen King's The Green Mile - it was just awful to listen to parts of that. (But not fainting-ly so.)

It must be fun to read something out loud that you have written and have someone pass out every time! Talk about the power of the written word...


  1. I found your link through Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit.

    I knew nothing about this book before I picked it up. I assumed (and as my mother always says you know what assume starts with) that it was just about a writer's retreat and maybe some supernatural stuff thrown in. I was not expecting the graphic stories. They were interesting, but they actually made me nauseous. I really do think it has to do with whether you have an inkling about what to expect or not. It also makes me wonder what goes through this author's head to think of some of the things he did.

  2. Hi, Anna - thanks for stopping by! I picked up the book after reading something about it, so I kind of knew what to expect. But just going unsuspecting into that book? You must have felt blindsided. It is odd what must go through some people's heads, as you say, isn't it?


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