I had expected the style of “Lullaby” to be similar to the movie “Fight Club.” For better or for worse, I wasn’t much surprised. The premise of “Lullaby” is very different from that of “Fight Club,” but the style is similar. Palahniuk’s work is dark, disturbing and thought-provoking, but consistently humorous. One suspects that he’s laughing at the world. The plot and themes are quite upsetting, but Palahniuk writes with such humor and matter-of-fact-ness that I find myself somewhat desensitized.
For anyone who’s seen the movie “Fight Club,” it should come as no surprise that his characters can’t quite seem to fit into the real world. Mona explains at one point that “with every crime, you’re more and more alienated from the world.” The list of the team’s victims is long, and I find that they are indeed separated from the world; it is difficult to completely relate. However, like any good cast of characters, they demand sympathy. I find myself puzzled and often repulsed by their weird habits, but it is not impossible to understand some of what they feel. Carl, in particular, is rather likeable. Peculiar as he is, he comes across as interesting and generally agreeable. His sentiments are familiar enough that I found myself thinking that I’d make the same decisions if I were in his situation.
One of the few bad aspects of “Lullaby” is its arrogance. Palahniuk, apparently, is not one for subtlety. He displays his talent for description by constantly illustrating colors, scenes, people and so on. Recurring themes are clear as day. At some points, I felt that he was just showing off his skills as a writer. A bit more delicacy and sensitivity would have been appreciated.
Palahniuk is a meticulous writer. Each aspect of the novel is reflected in another. Carl has a lot he doesn’t want to remember and believes that “the trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close-up.” Naturally, he recalls scenes with utmost attention to detail. Colors aren’t just “green” to him, they’re “green the way a pool table with green felt looks under the yellow 1 ball, not the way it looks under the red 3.” Carl also uses the same phrases to describe similar situations and feelings. People in the book die, only to be replaced by other living people, and Carl says again and again: “The more people die, the more things stay the same.”
Overall, “Lullaby” is a carefully written novel. Some may complain that it’s too much like his other novels. And granted, Pulitzer Prize winner it’s not; but it is a suspenseful, fascinating and well-written book, and it is worth the time it takes to read it.