Chuck Palahniuk is up to his old tricks, going to vast lengths to shock and appall. But when a book kicks off with a teenager getting his intestine sucked out by an intake valve as he’s masturbating at the bottom of a swimming pool. . .well, there’s really nowhere to go from there, ya know? Linked under the umbrella of a hellish writers’ retreat (19 aspiring scribes, the narrator included, are locked inside a movie palace for three weeks with a decreasing and sabotaged supply of food, water, heat, and plumbing), this story collection ends up lulling the reader into a desensitized nap — despite the introduction of severed genitalia and cannibalized newborns. The only thing saving Haunted from disaster is Palahniuk’s prose, which is, as always, gorgeous (on smelling newborn-baby soup: ”The teeth inside our mouths, waiting. Our tongues, swimming in drool”), even when his subject matter really, really isn’t.