Book: Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Lullaby’ – “Am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?”

When I was younger I really liked the chaos and perceived social commentary provided by Chuck Palahniuk’s work.

‘Haunted’ rather put me off reading anything more by him, but I still had the older books left. Some of these have wandered off over the past couple of years to the point where I’m left with a handful – including ‘Lullaby’.

A newspaper reporter, Carl, is assigned to produce a series of articles on sudden infant death syndrome. He discover a common link between the deaths he is covering and the deaths of his own wife & child – the link is page 27 of the book ‘Poems and Rhymes Around the World’ and the African culling song.

The culling song kills anyone it is spoken to, or in Carl’s case anyone he thinks the poem at – Carl has a lot of pent up annoyance and kills rather a lot of people semi-unintentionally.


Carl links up with Helen, Helen’s assistance Mona and Mona’s boyfriend – a radical hippy named Oyster, in the attempt to track down all copies of the poem and destroy them.

Rereading it the story seems even odder than I remember, there is social commentary and chaos, but more telling there is the increasingly prominent sub-plot around the fluid nature of gender and sexuality.

It’s an interesting book but I’m not sure it was necessarily enjoyable enough to want to read again; the extreme plot twists were memorable even though I hadn’t read it for a good couple of years and ultimately there is no real ending – things happen, events unfold but the main plot is unresolved having fallen by the wayside and been left behind as the crazy train charged forwards.

Ultimately I think Chuck Palahniuk’s earlier work appealed to the more primitive form of the person I am today; the chaos-loving hippy child with a seemingly endless anger at society’s rampaging capitalist thirst, distaste for the consumer addiction to own the latest toys regardless of the old toys still working, with a the deep-seated desire to stand up and scream until I found a like-minded individual to take refuge with.

Now that I’ve found my other half we make our own chaos – whilst having a steady job, a mortgage and various other trappings of capitalism that transpire to be rather necessary to enjoy modern comforts – like good internet, a garden to call my own and hot water on tap.

I don’t miss my short-sighted chaos-yarning younger version and in the same way I won’t miss ‘Lullaby’ when it goes to the charity shop.

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