A handful of aspiring writers see the same advertisement: that promises, if one chooses to engage in a "retreat," the facilities to work on the stories that these writers have been waiting to finish, but for whatever reason haven't. The different writers are simultaneously wildly diverse and incredibly mysterious; however, the mystery does not last long.
These writers are brought by bus to an old theatre and locked inside by an elderly man in a wheelchair, a writer himself who gives no apparent motivation. The writers soon realize that this is not the comfortable retreat they all expected. Instead, they are to live in this theatre, sleeping between aisles and eating pre-packaged rations in a place without heat or consistent lighting. The authors begin their writing nevertheless, and each takes the stage of the theatre to share their stories in succession. These are stories that reveal their true natures, and stories that may or may not reveal their deepest secrets.
Even among the storywriting and sharing, Palahniuk reveals his own hypothesis for what might happen in such a situation: each writer also tries to make the situation slightly more uncomfortable to make their struggle--when they emerge--that much more marketable. In sharing the short stories as well as dissecting claustrophobic human interaction, Palahniuk creates a social commentary that also happens to house short stories that graphically describe murder, abuse, and a particularly harrowing tale involving a teenage male biting through his own intestine.
This report prepared by Christine