New novel from ‘Fight Club’ author is a cult classic

By on February 6, 2003

Forty-something newspaper reporter Carl Streator has a mixed fortitude of angst and grief, and loathes his place in life. A widower stuck as a beat reporter covering Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Streator looks cynically at his city and its inhabitants.

The premise for cult author Chuck Palahniuk’s latest novel

“Lullaby” only gets more maniacal and contorted with the writer’s witty unchained story-telling full of the cynicism and nihilism seen in David Fincher’s film adaptation to the author’s best-selling “Fight Club.”

With such a basic story that would fall somewhere along the course of a Hitchcock thriller, Palahniuk has the cult status of a younger Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Perversely nihilistic, the author of “Fight Club” and “Choke” denounces the material lifestyle and especially the suburban middle class customs of the last decade or two.

Investigating infant deaths, Streator notices that each victim’s parent had taken out or purchased a children’s book called “Poems and Rhymes Around the World.” Uttering a lullaby from this one page brings sudden death, of course.

Oddly enough that a reporter figures this out in his own private sleuthing, all the copies of the book are scattered about the country, with few instances of acquisition and reading over the course of a matter of years. Enter Helen Hoover Boyle and we have Palahniuk’s quirky new nuclear family.

Boyle lost a child to the ‘culling song’ years ago and sells real estate in the form of haunted houses, as she calls them, “distressed houses with a high turnover rate.” She has managed to never or rarely think or utter the song in the presence of anyone.

Streator, on the utter hand, is responsible for the sudden deaths of innumerable pedestrians and neighbors in his city, who bother him for one or another reasons. Fancifully his newspaper and other media outlets tag on a fake cause of death for each victim.

Teaching himself some self-control, Streator humorously restrains the urge to slay nuisances by consciously counting to himself, each time someone bothers him. This tact becomes useful when he meets Oyster, the mocking vegan boyfriend of Mona Sabbatt, Boyle’s young assistant.

The new family starts a quest to apprehend

and destroy each remaining copy of “Poems and Rhymes” so no more infants are needlessly killed, and that nobody reads the culling song or any other from the book to anyone.

To pass his time, Oyster places newspaper ads of fake liability claims of businesses they come across on their cross-country trip. His cell phone number is the contact of his phony ‘Attorneys-at-Law’ answering, each time with a different chain of names.

Oyster puts passing franchises out of business through blackmail, Mona is basically apathetic and narrow-minded and Helen answers phone call queries about haunting occurrences from tenants at her houses. Streator reminds us that everyone’s computer password is, of course, ‘password.’

Reinforcing his Vegan ideology, Streator tries to ignore Oyster’s commentary on the drive-through egg sandwich or the chicken sandwich loaded with shredded lettuce and mayonnaise. Comically within the whole story, Streator cops out with “an egg is just an egg,” “an animal is just that,” and “eating it his right as a human being.”

Attesting to his tone that all modern man-made conventions can turn into a human plague overnight, Palahniuk trails the story in a whirlwind, much like the epilogue of “Fight Club,” realizing that the reality is far from the true and occurring; who can really tell what is real and fake, and where is the boundary between love and longing, dreams and reality. “Lullaby” is a fantastic and easy reading and should be taken to Hollywood any day now.


About Mike Schoeck