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A Lullaby will make things better...
on 21 May 2006
'The-guy-who-wrote-Fight-Club's fifth novel starts off intriguingly, based on the premise that words - specifically, a children's poem - have the power to kill. The story quickly mutates into a road trip/crusade, in which the central character and narrator, Carl Streator, attempts to destroy every copy of the poem, at the same time seeking redemption for his own wrongdoings. Aiding him in this quest is his new 'family': Helen - a ruthless real-estate agent who accidentally killed her own son Patrick with the same deadly poem some years prior - Helen's secretary, Mona, and Mona's eco-warrior boyfriend, Oyster. Streator is another one of Palahniuk's great antiheroes, in as far as he succumbs to the temptation of using the 'lullaby' for his own purposes; that is, to kill anyone who pisses him off. Palahniuk's genius lies in his ability to make this seem both scarily natural and blackly hilarious.
As with all his novels, Palahniuk succeeds in creating well-rounded characters that are both despicable and heart-breakingly human, at the same time delivering an unflinching narrative and a series of stark but thought-provoking observations on American society and the world at large. Though his observations and predictions are invariably bleak, they are wrapped in warped notions of love, romance and hope for the future, giving Lullaby a unique, refreshing twist.
Occasionally, Palahniuk does seem to be labouring the point with regards to the idea that words and music have become a disease of the mind. It is also worth noting that Lullaby is one of Chuck's more far-fetched novels, as he delves into the worlds of witch-craft and occupation spells, but, with a healthy suspension of disbelief, the reader should reach the final page of this strange and beautiful novel completely convinced of Palahniuk's fortitude as a master story-teller.