There have been very few books that I’ve read that have gotten a physical response for me. Some books have had me rolling on the ground laughing and ready to shamelessly pee my pants just so I didn’t have to put the book down. I’ve read a couple books that have had me feeling a little tense and shivery. However, out of the 2000-odd books that I’ve read in this world, only one has gotten a lasting physical response from me that left me feeling like I was on the verge of either puking my guts out or passing out. And it left me feeling that way for several hours and unable to even think about what I just read without gagging and feeling dizzy enough to faint.
It’s not the entire book, but just one chapter in particular that made me feel this way. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the book is amazing too, but this one chapter is one of the finest examples of writing that I’ve ever come across. That’s even with taking enough English courses to have read a ton of classical literature from Beowulf all the way up to Ulysses by James Joyce. I’m basing that off the fact that when I read this one chapter I was on a city bus on my way to a date and I missed the date because I missed my stop. Then after I missed my stop, I went home and curled up in bed to get over how incredibly dizzy I felt every single time I recalled what I’d read on the bus.
Now I’m sure people will demand to know why I’m putting just this one single chapter on par with the Shakespeare and friends and I have a really good answer for that. I’ve never read anything that has left such a huge lasting impression on me. I mean I was sitting on bus with my nose in a book innocently reading a book that had started off a little slow and then I was getting sucked into this story. I was reading, cringing and I had no idea where this story was going to go. I had no idea where Palahniuk was taking me with this story and I was starting to wonder what the punchline was going to be. Keep in mind this was the first novel I’d read by Palahniuk and I was hooked.
Now believe me, I wanted to stop reading because I had already started to feel my tummy start to stir and get upset. I already felt a little lightheaded and then it all hit me. The imagery, the description, the precise wording all left my overactive imagination running into overdrive and…I crashed. I had to close the book, close my eyes and force myself to breathe so that I didn’t pass out on the bus. Or puke.
I’m happy to report that I can read that particular part of Haunted with only slight cringes. However, I happen to thing this part of the book was so great that I read it over and over and over again. I’ve made people read it over and over again. I’ve read it to people over and over and over again. After repeated exposure to the trauma in the name of figuring out exactly what makes this story so freaking amazing, I’m ok with it. It’s genius, it’s horrifying and I love it. You should try it too!