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Lullaby Paperback – July 29, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

The consequences of media saturation are the basis for an urban nightmare in Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk's darkly comic and often dazzling thriller. Assigned to write a series of feature articles investigating SIDS, troubled newspaper reporter Carl Streator begins to notice a pattern among the cases he encounters: each child was read the same poem prior to his or her death. His research and a tip from a necrophilic paramedic lead him to Helen Hoover Boyle, a real estate agent who sells "distressed" (demonized) homes, assured of their instant turnover. Boyle and Streator have both lost children to "crib death," and she confirms Streator's suspicions: the poem is an ancient lullaby or "culling song" that is lethal if spoken--or even thought--in a victim's direction. The misanthropic Streator, now armed with a deadly and uncontrollably catchy tune, goes on a minor killing spree until he recognizes his crimes and the song's devastating potential. Lullaby then turns into something of a road trip narrative, with Streator, Boyle, her empty-headed Wiccan secretary Mona, and Mona's vigilante boyfriend Oyster setting out across the U.S. to track down and destroy all copies of the poem.

In his previous works, including the cult favorite Fight Club, Palahniuk has demonstrated a fondness for making statements about the condition of humanity, and he uses Lullaby like a blunt object to repeatedly overstate his generally dim view. Such dogmatic venom undermines the persuasiveness of his thesis about mass communication and free will, but thankfully, Palahniuk offers some respite here by allowing for sympathy and love, as well as through his razor-sharp humor, such as his mock listings for Helen's possessed properties: "six bedrooms, four baths, pine-paneled entryway, and blood running down the kitchen walls...." At such moments, Lullaby casts a powerful spell. --Ross Doll --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"I need to rebel against myself. It's the opposite of following your bliss. I need to do what I most fear." Beleaguered reporter Carl Streator is stuck writing about SIDS and grieving for his dead wife and child; he copes by building perfect model homes and smashing them with a bare foot. But things only get worse: Carl accidentally memorizes an ancient African "culling song" that kills anyone he focuses on while mentally reciting it, until killing "gets to be a bad habit." His only friend, Nash, a creepy necrophiliac coroner, amuses himself with Carl's victims. Salvation of a sort comes in the form of Helen Hoover Boyle, a witch making a tidy living as a real estate broker selling-and quickly reselling-haunted houses. She, too, knows the culling song and finances her diamond addiction by freelancing as a telepathic assassin. Carl and Helen hit the road with Helen's Wiccan assistant, Mona, and her blackmailing boyfriend, Oyster, on a search-and-destroy mission for all outstanding copies of the culling song, as well as an all-powerful master tome of spells, a grimoire. Hilarious satire, both supernatural and scatological, ensues, the subtext of which seems to be Palahniuk's conviction that information has become a weapon ("Imagine a plague you catch through your ears"), and the bizarre love affair between Helen and Carl offers the lone linear thread in a field of narrative flak bursts. But the chief significance of this novel is Palahniuk's decision to commit himself to a genre, and this horror tale of both magic and mundane modernity plants him firmly in a category where previously he existed as a genre of one.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385722192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385722193
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (387 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chuck Palahniuk's novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Diary, Lullaby, Survivor, Haunted, and Invisible Monsters. Portions of Choke have appeared in Playboy, and Palahniuk's nonfiction work has been published by Gear, Black Book, The Stranger, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tribe on September 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Chuck Palahniuk has a knack for capturing the pressures of modern life, and the resulting angst and alienation of the people who inhabit it. To that extent, Lullaby is no different from Choke or Fight Club. This really isn't a twist on the horror story as some of the media reviews have made it out to be.
There's the emotionally scarred main protagonist with a dark past secret waiting to be dredged up who surrounds him or herself with a surrogate family. There's the rants against modernity and consumerism and their resulting compulsions. There's the quest on which the main characters embark that culminates in an anarchic free for all. There's the identity switches between characters. And, of course, there's Palahniuk's wisecracks, smart-[aleck] asides, and spare, almost hard-boiled writing style.
Palahniuk does all this so well, so uniquely, that his fans are not going to be disappointed with Lullaby.
What makes Lullaby different from what has come before, and what makes Lullaby his best novel, is that he seems to tackle his usual themes a bit more thoroughly and directly than he has before. And for the first time, Palahniuk introduces the notion of modern access to information as something to really worry about, rather than accept as something that will liberate society. The device he uses here is an ancient African culling spell. A magical spell that poses as a deadly information virus.
If there is anything that is unsatisfying it's the ending, which in typical Palahniuk fashion, resolves the fate in an anarchic free for all of outlandishness. It seems like Palahniuk plots his novels into dead ends, leaving him no way out to end his novels, and he has to resort to, well, what happens in Lullaby.
But that doesn't make Lullaby an unsatisfying novel.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Emerick Rogul on February 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Lullaby" tells the story of Carl Streator, a newspaper reporter investigating SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) for an upcoming article. As Carl delves into his investigation, a peculiar pattern begins to emerge: a fairytale book, "Poems and Songs from Around the World," is always nearby when a baby dies from SIDS. Carl eventually discovers that the book contains a "culling song," an ancient African song capable of killing anyone who hears it -- instantly. Armed with the culling song's power, Carl soon becomes an unwitting murderer; even *thinking* the culling song in someone's direction is enough to kill that person. Along the way, Carl meets up with Helen Hoover Boyle, a real estate agent who deals in haunted houses, her Wiccan secretary Mona, and Mona's boyfriend, Oyster. Forming an "anti-nuclear family", they set out on a cross-country road trip to destroy all known copies of the song book, before the "virus" is able to spread any further.

Palahniuk's premise is certainly intriguing (albeit difficult to swallow at times), but he stumbles with the execution. The culling song presents the kernel of an interesting idea, but the book feels padded even at a slim 260 pages -- simply put, this is an idea that would have worked much better as a short story. Palahniuk is clumsy in communicating his major themes, taking a heavy-handed approach that simply involves bludgeoning the reader into submission through sheer repetition.

But there is an even larger problem here, one beyond the scope of just this book: Palahniuk is becoming repetitive. He has an incredibly unique voice, but it hasn't expanded much since
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robby Nichols on September 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Lullaby finds Chuck Palahniuk in a transitional phase. Chances are the Portland author won't be competing with the likes of Stephen King any time soon. And his fans should be thankful.
As a horror novel, Lullaby is anything but a traditional entry in the heavily commercialized genre. Palahniuk's sinister sense of humor prevents the author's fourth novel from achieving a significant scare factor. Or at least the typical horror type of fright.
Our hero is Helen Hoover Boyle. She is a real estate agent with an eye for "distressed" property. The kind of homes where the only permanent residents are not exactly of this world. Helen Hoover Boyle sells haunted houses. She sells them to normal families who seem happy enough, until blood starts running down the walls. After that, the buyers will scramble out of there before they even start unpacking their boxes. Easy money for a realtor who knows where to look. And with the help of a police scanner and a practitioner slash secretary named Mona, Helen Hoover Boyle is very good at what she does.
Our narrator is Carl Streator. A newspaper reporter who, while doing a story on sudden infant death syndrome, comes across a book of poems. More like a can of worms actually.
If words could kill.
The discovery of the infamous "culling song" lights the fuse of Lullaby's plot which eventually intersects the lives of our hero and our narrator, spiraling the book into a constantly building power struggle all the way until the bitter ending. With plenty of Palahniuk's signature quirks, Lullaby will surely satisfy Chuck's rapidly growing fan base.
It is the story just below the surface, however, that will get the wheels turning. Lullaby was inspired by the tragic killing of Palahniuk's own father.
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