"Being a journalist is about telling. This could be the end of mass media," muses Carl Streator, the narrator of Lullaby, a book that goes about with savage poise and double espresso urgency. Chuck Palahniuk's latest creation of pop-nihilist genius brandishes the threat of the fatality of the spoken word.
Carl Streator is a middle-aged reporter who has created himself a new life after the tragic, unexplainable deaths of his wife and young child more than two decades ago. Finding work at a large newspaper he is assigned to publish a series of articles on SID's, sudden infant death syndrome, as a human interest story to attract readers. The narrator notes that doctors can only take shots in the dark and try to piece together patterns in SID's cases. Streator himself stumbles upon one. His recurring discovery of a certain "African culling song" a.k.a lullaby, at each of the deaths leads him to believe that it's not crib death responsible for the fatalities. It is the same poem he had read to his wife and child the night before they died. With this discovery, unintentional memorization of the eight line poem (Palahniuk never reveals the exact words of the rhyme to us, but he says "It's about animals going to sleep,") turns Streator from a bored journalist to a reluctant serial killer, in one humorously macabre scene accidentally killing five people within a half an hour period. Trying to redeem himself for the deaths he inadvertently causes, Streator decides to destroy all of the remaining books. He sees it as his duty to prevent the poem from getting into the wrong hands. With the poem, someone could easily end the human race. Enter Helen Hoover Boyle. A former trailer park welfare mother who, like our protagonist, killed those who she loved by reading the accursed rhyme. She rose from her state by turning into an assassin for the government (her weapon of choice being the culling song), and using the profits to start a profitable real estate agency, specializing in none other than haunted houses.