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Lullaby: A Novel [Hardcover]

Chuck Palahniuk
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 17 2002
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Choke and the cult classic Fight Club, a cunningly plotted novel about the ultimate verbal weapon, one that reinvents the apocalyptic thriller for our times.

Carl Streator is a solitary widower and a fortyish newspaper reporter who is assigned to do a series of articles on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In the course of this investigation he discovers an ominous thread: the presence at the death scenes of the anthology Poems and Rhymes Around the World, all opened to the page where there appears an African chant, or “culling song.” This song turns out to be lethal when spoken or even thought in anyone's direction–and once it lodges in Streator's brain he finds himself becoming an involuntary serial killer. So he teams up with a real estate broker, one Helen Hoover Boyle–who specializes in selling haunted (or “distressed”) houses (wonderfully high turnover), and who lost a child to the culling song years before–for a cross-country odyssey to remove all copies of the book from libraries, lest this deadly verbal virus spread and wipe out human life. Accompanying them on this road trip are Helen's assistant, Mona Sabbat, an exquisitely earnest Wiccan, and her sardonic ecoterrorist boyfriend Oyster, who is running a scam involving fake liability claims and business blackmail. Welcome to the new nuclear family.

On one level, Lullaby is a chillingly pertinent parable about the dangers of psychic infection and control in an era of wildly overproliferated information: “Imagine a plague you catch through your ears . . . imagine an idea that occupies your mind like a city.” But it is also a tightly wound thriller with an intriguing premise and a suspenseful plot full of surprising twists and turns. Finally, because it is a Chuck Palahniuk novel, it is a blackly comic tour de force that reinforces his stature as our funniest nihilist and a contemporary seer.

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From Amazon

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

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Sing me to sleep March 23 2007
Format:Paperback
Who would have thought that Palahniuk's LULLABY would be such a knock-out book? The power of words has no equal. They can inform, inspire, motivate, pacify and entertain. Words can also hurt, deceive, and kill. Kill? You know that words have inspired others to kill, but what if words themselves could kill? In LULLABY, the new novel by Chuck Palahniuk, words have exactly that power. I'm not going to give anything away, because I want you to read it with no preconceptions or knowledge of the subject matter. If you've already read a review. Too late, but you'll still enjoy it. Chuck has taken his ablilities in a slightly new (The book is still 100% vintage Palahniuk) with wonderful results. Highly recommended, along with another great Amazon by Jackson T. McCrae titled "Katzenjammer."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lullabies and Culling Jan. 11 2003
Format:Hardcover
The only other exposure I have had to the work of this writer, Chuck Palahniuk, was the cinema version of his work, "Fight Club". If you have seen the film you already know how original a thinker he is, and while I don't know how much the story changed from book to screen, I had no trouble recognizing, "Lullaby", as the work of the same writer. I even found myself placing the same actors in the primary roles in this book that appeared in the previous film.
"Lullaby", is thought provoking at a minimum, and will take you to areas of conduct that are still among some subjects that virtually all will consider taboo. An example is Necrophilia which I think will make most people feel they are reading material that will cause varying degrees of discomfort. The entire book is meant to press the darkest buttons inside of readers, Mr. Palahniuk will venture wherever he decides his story needs to go, he offers no respite, no safe haven. Whether you like this style or not I think it is refreshing to find an author that will go in to the darkest areas of human nature, not to be puerile or exploitative, rather to utilize material that is a valid piece of his tale. He is not afraid of offending, or perhaps he is just completely honest, he writes what he needs to write, if some are put off and he sells less books, so be it. The man is not commercial.
Placing topic aside for a moment and turning to style, I find this writer's work to be original in how he presents detail. Colors play a large part in this book, so when he needs to use green it becomes much more than simply green. He describes the green that appears on the felt of a pool table, but only when the red number 3 ball is upon the felt, as opposed to the yellow number 1.
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3.0 out of 5 stars observer of the absurd June 22 2004
Format:Paperback
What first fascinated me was the "culling song" plot element. Really the only part of the synopsis you need to know is "The consequences of media saturation are the basis for an urban nightmare in Lullaby. 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..."

You don't need to read more as it will give away some plot points that are nice to discover rather than having them exposed on the dust jacket.
The culling spell leads to even more old world spells which when used in modern day have some interesting applications... so of course I suggest it because it has magic and as one review put it "it's chock full of eco-hippie rhetoric and nihilistic tendencies".
But I also found some beautiful paragraphs about color - yes it was the artist in me that drooled over these - and moments of startling profundity that awaken the reader to the absurdity of modern culture and make you wonder whose world is crazier - his or ours. This is a modern day Film Noir pulp detective story - complete with haggard-life-weary detective. It's got a lot of dark and dry humor and is a little gritty.
Half way through it get even more surreal and though I finished it I thought there were two books under one binding... I was not as enthralled with the second half. In Fight Club I identified with Marla (yeah say what you will) in this one I'm just an observer of the absurd.

Give it a peek and see what you think. But if you did not like or see moments of profundity of the counter culture statements in Fight Club you won't like this.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Palahniuk Starter June 10 2004
Format:Paperback
In a Guardian Online interview, Chuck claimed that this book would be the best book for a Palahniuk novice to enter his world of eco-hippe rhetoric and nihilistic tendencies. Having only read two of his books(This and Fight Club), I enjoyed the socially conscious message that Chuck sends through both the Protagonist and Antagonist of the story. The plot can best be described as surreal. The absurdity of the wiccan lovers and the necrophiliac co-worker and succesful real estate agent all mingling to obtain the source of the culling lullaby is laughable(in a good way). Overall the most powerful impression this book leaves is the affect that we have on the environment, how we willingly rape the land of its natural resources and habitat and slaughter animals for our own self-interests pushed me in the direction of vegetarianism or at least incited me to accept the validity of the vegan lifestyle.
Fun book that Chuck sprinkles with statements of profundity that will take your mind off the crazy store and apply much of what happens to your own life.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Waste Your Time
Probably the most overrated author ever. He's only ever developed two characters, and he throws them all over the place. His style is predictable and pseudo-clever. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2007 by Benjamin Anderson
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Enough
I bought this on a whim since i had read most of Fight Club and loved that book. I have to say I was pretty disappointed with this book. Read more
Published on June 10 2004 by Amanda
5.0 out of 5 stars Infanticide and all the things that go with it
Few authors will tackle the subjects that Palahniuk does, and even fewer would be able to carry them off as a novel once undertaken, but with a master storyteller like Mr. Read more
Published on June 2 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars it is still Chuck Palahniuk, but its not his best
It's an excellent book, but
It's not as
hilarious as Choke
big as Survivor
outrageous as Invisible Monsters
or fun as Fight Club
With that said, it is... Read more
Published on May 21 2004 by SergeNYC
2.0 out of 5 stars This book sucks
Being a fan of Chuck Palahniuk's previous works I was looking forward to reading this. The problem with this novel is that it is way too farfetched. Read more
Published on May 19 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Lullaby
"Lullaby" is a story about a reporter (Carl Streader) who is working on a story for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS. Read more
Published on May 19 2004 by Josh Daniels
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating
In very much the classic Chuck Palahniuk style, Lullaby focuses on many human frailties. Carl Streaton, an investigative reporter, is assigned to write a five-part series on Sudden... Read more
Published on May 19 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars You gotta love this guy . . .
Few authors will tackle the subjects that Palahniuk does, and even fewer would be able to carry them off as a novel once undertaken, but with a master storyteller like Mr. Read more
Published on May 11 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not Tight
A journalist researching a story on "crib-death" makes some scary connections between a series of infant deaths and a book of poems from around the world, leading him and a small... Read more
Published on April 8 2004 by Silas Traitor
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read, but the underlying message comes out garbled
Lullaby is one of the best books I've read in a while. Does it have a deep, important point to make that I should ponder for a very, very long time? In a word, yes. Read more
Published on March 27 2004 by Eva
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