Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Lullaby US cover Lullaby (2002)

Anchor Books US trade paperback
cover art by Judy Lanfredi
260 pages (left)

Jonathan Cape UK paperback
272 pages (right)
Lullaby UK cover

From the inside cover of the paperback
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 on the shelves of libraries across the country.  When reporter Carl Streator discovers that unsuspecting readers are reciting the poem and accidentally killing their children, he begins a desperate cross-country quest to put the culling song to rest and save the nation from certain disaster....

Read for group discussion on October 8, 2003

Aaron's book review of Lullaby on Fantastic Reviews
Amy's summary  Chuck Palahniuk - Lullaby
(Warning! Some spoilers)

Lullaby is a dark, twisted, disturbing tale about death, power, anger, and maybe love.

Mr. Streator is a newspaper journalist writing a feature on sudden infant death syndrome.  He wears a blue tie with a brown suit.  He notices the book Poems and Rhymes from Around the World at homes where a child has died.  Around twenty years ago, Streator read a lullaby to his wife and baby daughter, and the next morning they were dead.  The poem, or lullaby, is eight lines long and is on page 27 of Poems and Rhymes from Around the World.  It's an old African poem about animals going to sleep; it's a culling song.  These words not only hurt, they kill!  Lethal verbiage.

Helen Hoover Boyle is a real estate agent.  She has pink hair and wears jewels to match her tailored outfits.  She's selling a number of houses over and over, gaining commission each time, houses no one can live in because they are haunted.  Of course she doesn't warn potential buyers.  When upset new homeowners complain of a phantom baby crying or blood running down walls, she tells them to keep quiet or the bad publicity will make the house impossible to resell.

Streator learns that Helen had a baby son who died around 20 years ago, and her husband died a year later without cause.  Recently a couple that infuriated Helen by saying they wanted to demolish the haunted mansion Helen sold them instead of letting Helen resell it died suddenly.  Helen knows of and utilizes the culling song.

Streator knows the culling song too.  He killed his editor testing it.  He can barely keep the culling song from running through his mind.  He has killed numerous people unintentionally.  Streator seeks Helen for help.  Helen's young secretary Mona Sabbat, who has red and black dreadlocks, invites Streator to come to a Wiccan practitioners' ritual to learn to control the culling song.  Mona is a witch, but a soft-spoken one.  At Mona's coven party, Helen and Streator meet Oyster, Mona's hippie asshole boyfriend, who has an axe to grind with modern society.

Unfortunately a paramedic named Nash learned of the existence of the culling song from Streator.  Nash found a copy, and is using it so he can have post mortem sex with beautiful models.

Streator wants to destroy every copy of the culling song.  Helen knows that Poems and Rhymes from Around the World had a printing of 500 copies, and between them they have already eliminated over 300 copies.  Helen, Streator, Mona, and Oyster, travel around the country looking for the remaining copies of the book.  Meanwhile the police are looking for Streator for questioning.  They also search for the original source of the culling song, a grimoire, a witch's Book of Shadows, which contains more spells.  Helen hopes to resurrect her cryogenically frozen son.  Mona hopes to find a flying spell.  Once they discover and translate the grimoire, they each have conflicting plans.  With, among other things, an occupation spell, weirdness ensues.

summary written by

How we each rated this book
Dan 9 Amy 5 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 6 Barb 4
Aaron 9 Cynthia 9
Jackie 7 Ron 9
Christine 7 Mitch 6

Chuck Palahniuk (1961-    ) is a US writer.

Chuck Palahniuk caused a major sensation with his first novel, Fight Club (1996), in which disillusioned young men take their frustrations out on each other and on society.  Fight Club quickly became a cult classic, especially after release of the film version starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Palahniuk published three other novels after Fight Club and before Lullaby Survivor (1999) is the life story of a disaffected celebrity, dictated into the flight recorder of an airplane about to crash.  Invisible Monsters (1999) follows a fashion model left disfigured and mute by a drive-by shooting.  In Choke (2001), a med school dropout finds a unique method for supporting himself and his mother – he goes into restaurants and pretends to choke, so the good Samaritans who think they have saved him will then feel responsible for him.

Palahniuk's most recent novel, his first since Lullaby, is Diary (2003), currently on the New York Times bestseller list.  Diary is the coma diary kept by the aspiring artist wife of a contractor who attempted suicide, apparently bored with his hobby of building surprises into the homes he remodeled.

In addition to his six novels, Palahniuk has published Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon (2003), an affectionate non-fiction guide to Palahniuk's hometown.

Thanks to Aaron for providing this Chuck Palahniuk bibliography

Aaron's book review of Lullaby on Fantastic Reviews
The Cult - official Chuck Palahniuk site
Powell's Books - Review-a-Day - Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk - Review Palahniuk's 'Lullaby' a dark melody
Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk - an infinity plus review
Bookslut - review of Lullaby

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