Keeping with the theme as my last post.. I will now discuss another Chuck Palanhiuk novel I read this summer… Lullaby. I first want to state that I liked this one much better. Maybe it’s because I’m partial to a story structure that makes sense. Maybe it’s because I can relate to the narrator’s tragic past. Maybe it’s because it’s more fictional and it’s less likely this magic crap will happen than a person self-mutilating themselves in the same way Shannon did (I have little faith in humanity).
Whatever the reason, I liked it better.
This guy meets this girl and this girl gets him into trouble. End of story. A tale as old as time.. no, really.
Carl has suffered the fate of (apparently) many parents. He was a loving father who read a bedtime lullaby to his child.. and a wife within earshot. The next morning, both the child and the wife are dead. Upon further investigation, Carl discovers the pattern of this lullaby within all the cases he writes about in his newspaper. Later down the road he meets Helen, who has also discovered this poem… but she uses it to get what she wants… kill who she wants… and then turns Carl into the same person. For a little while anyway. He decides he wants to go around the country destroying these books that contain the lullaby. This lands him into a whole bunch of drama with Helen and three others: Nash, Mona, and Oyster (what kind of name is that?). etc. etc. You can read the plot on Wikipedia. I’m not here for that.
I want to talk about how Palanhiuk has, yet again, masterfully created this really fucked up character with such a complex past. We only learn just enough to put the pieces together. I want to know: what is wrong with Palanhiuk that he creates these kinds of characters? does he absolutely believe that there aren’t any good people in the world?
Yet.. he’s created people in this story such that they’re the result of one tragic event. Palanhiuk has shown that even the best of people become messed up.. maybe he believes that everyone is so weak that the death of a family will make people villians rather than the heroes like Batman is painted to be.
It’s sort of refreshing. The negative view of humans. So many stories have that moment where things turn out positively… and it can be frustrating because life doesn’t work out that way. It’s a nightmare. But, a Palanhiuk novel always (and by always I mean the 3 I’ve read and the 1 movie I’ve watched that was based on one of his novels) has a screwed up “positive” ending. For Carl, he succeeds in tracking down like 99% of the lullabies and destroying them. He also removes Nash (who is murdering women with the lullaby to have sex with their dead bodies)
from the equation. Carl also finds some sort of relationship with Helen, who seems not be murderous anymore once she’s in someone else’s body. This… is kind of positive, right?