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Lullaby [Paperback]

Chuck Palahniuk
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 2003
Ever heard of a culling song? It’s a lullaby sung in Africa to give a painless death to the old or infirm. The lyrics of a culling song kill, whether spoken or even just thought. You can find one on page 27 of Poems and Rhymes from Around the World, an anthology that is sitting on the shelves of libraries across the country, waiting to be picked up by unsuspecting readers.

Reporter Carl Streator discovers the song’s lethal nature while researching Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and before he knows it, he’s reciting the poem to anyone who bothers him. As the body count rises, Streator glimpses the potential catastrophe if someone truly malicious finds out about the song. The only answer is to find and destroy every copy of the book in the country. Accompanied by a shady real-estate agent, her Wiccan assistant, and the assistant’s truly annoying ecoterrorist boyfriend, Streator begins a desperate cross-country quest to put the culling song to rest.

Written with a style and imagination that could only come from Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby is the latest outrage from one of our most exciting writers at work today.

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Product Description

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 --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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars observer of the absurd June 22 2004
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
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Lullaby May 19 2004
"Lullaby" is a story about a reporter (Carl Streader) who is working on a story for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS.) Through his research for the story, he makes a startling discovery -- a poem that is printed in a children's book, called the "Culling Song," causes death to its listeners. The story follows Carl in his quest to destroy all of the copies of the Culling Song, and he gets mixed up with other characters who share his secret of the poem's power, if not his desire to destroy it.
I was drawn to this book because I really enjoyed the movie "Fight Club," and "Lullaby" possesses alot of the same angry undertones that made Fight Club entertaining. The book started out very strong. Palahniuk seems to have a gift for creating intelligent, edgy, and angry characters who go on rants that feel like they were borne from blast furnaces. Another thing I notice in the book that you can't detect in the movie is his unique way of describing things. Green is not good enough, he describes green as the reflection off of the yellow ball on the pool table rather than the red one. I like that.
This story does bog down a little bit. He spends much too much time on a road trip scene, and he tries to develop a love interest for Carl that feels like a movie where the two love interests are just plain miscast, (i.e., Keanu Reeves and anybody...just kidding.) These parts of the book are slower, but they do not undo all the good that Palahniuk created in the beginning of his story.
This story, though probably one of the author's weaker ones, was very entertaining to a first time reader, and I am excited to read more of his works.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not Tight April 8 2004
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 crew of odd companions on a nationwide quest.
I can't say I really liked Lullaby, but I can't say I didn't either. It was entertaining, and it moved at a good, fast clip. I was always interested. But then there were a few things that just didn't sit well with me. There were times when the characters failed to act in ways we had been taught to expect them to act. Then events start lining up "Hollywood" style; things happen because, well, that's what needs to happen next. It was all too convenient.
Regarding the magic, Palahniuk falls into the ancient trap of letting his magic go unrestricted. All fantasy readers know magic needs to be controlled or it will ruin a good story, so Palahniuk casts his spells then waves his hands to keep us from asking too many questions, which, if he were pressed to answer, would force him to rewrite some chapters and come up with a new ending.
Entertaining, but not very tight.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
Amazing book. I need not say more, Chuck P. never ceases to captivate me. This book starts out leading you to believe it will remain a tragic story about a family and the hardships... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Justin Ward
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Sing me to sleep
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. Read more
Published on March 23 2007 by Bammo Sambuco
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 9 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
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
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