Chuck Palahniuk – Diary

Posted on | April 3, 2011 | 5 Comments

diaryI hadn’t read anything by Palahniuk until I read this little gem. I still recall purchasing this book at Waterstones: initially, the plan was to pick up Fight Club, as that’s the book I really wanted to read, but this book grabbed my eye, and on a whim, I picked it up instead. Anyway, point being, I really didn’t know what to expect, and while, at some level, I was prepared for the roller-coaster ride, it did still leave be flabbergasted at times.

Everything is a self-portrait. Everything is a diary.

Diary is the coma diary kept by Misty Wilmot née Kleinman, a once-aspiring artist, after her husband, Peter, attempts killing himself. Calling herself the queen of the f***ing slaves numerous times through the book, as she contemplates her life: white trash to living in a nouveau-riche island, working as a waitress, after she had promised herself she wouldn’t end up the same way as her mother. The checklist includes: big houses, church wedding, picnics on the beach. So, when Peter proposes, and takes her home to the incredibly picturesque Waytansea Island (should it be read wait-and-see?), she feels as though all her dreams have come true – this is the  America she has dreamed of, through the medium of her paintings. But now, here she is, fueling up on alcohol and painkillers, writing a coma diary, battling various things…

…and who is to blame for all of this? Of course, it’s Peter, her husband, who has abandoned her and her daughter with his suicide attempt. But that’s not the worst of it. Peter’s clients start calling up poor white trash Misty Marie, complaining that parts of their houses have gone a-missing: kitchens, linen closets, the like. Peter has walled them off, and when they bring the walls down, they find cryptic horrifying messages scrolled on the walls, under the tables.

“…set foot on the island and you will die…” the words said. “…run as fast as you can from this place. They will kill all of God’s children if it means saving their own…”

And to make it worse, there are messages which disparages Misty, the woman he had promised to make a successful rich artist in this pretentious island:

“…now I see my wife working at the Waytansea Hotel, cleaning rooms and turning into a fat f***ing slob in a pink plastic uniform…”

“…She comes home and her hands smell like the latex gloves she has to wear to pick up your used rubbers… her blonde hair’s gone grey and smells like the shit she uses to scrub out your toilets when she crawls into bed next to me…”

All in plain sight – for everyone to see, for everyone to judge.

But things get even worse for Misty, as suddenly, her mother-in-law and daughter push her to re-discover the artist inside her, which will bring back the Wilmot fortune. And Misty bitterly philosophises on that as well, remembering her forgotten dreams.

Anytime some well-meaning person forces you to demonstrate you have no talent and rubs your nose in the fact you’re a failure at the only dream you ever had, take another drink. That’s the Misty Wilmot drinking game.

However, there is something depraved about this push to re-discover her art, the rationale behind which becomes clearer as the story (the diary, if you will) progresses. There will be many-a-twist along the way, and it really is difficult to stop reading for even a second, simply because it just keeps the reader guessing as to what is going on – and why.

The book is funny in parts, as well as philosophical, and while initially, I thought Misty was the master of her ill-fated destiny, as the book carried on, it was hard not to feel sorry for her, and the things she had to go through. The forthright way in which she writes her diary, with a tinge of self-deprecation as well as self-pity obviously helps. I also thought the weather forecast in almost each entry was a clever touch.

The weather today is increasing concern followed by full-blown dread.

The weather today is an increasing trend towards denial.

Just for the record, the weather today is calm and sunny, but the air is full of bullshit.

Just for the record, the weather today is bitter with occasional fits of jealous rage.

Just for the record, the weather today is partly suspicious with chances of betrayal.

The weather today is increasing concern followed by fullblown dread.

This is my first foray into the world of Palahniuk, but I definitely do want to read more of his works, and I guess Fight Club is the obvious next choice? Have you read anything by him? Is Fight Club the best one to read?


5 Responses to “Chuck Palahniuk – Diary”

  1. Charlene
    April 3rd, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

    I’ve read this one and love your review of it! I’ve also read Rant which I enjoyed. I’m looking forward to checking out more by Chuck Palahniuk. He could fast become one of my favourite authors.

  2. She
    April 4th, 2011 @ 12:08 am

    I haven’t read them recently, but I remember really liking Palahniuk’s Survivor as well as his Invisible Monsters. I’ve never read Fight Club, so I can’t say anything about it other than what I’ve seen in the movie. I know a lot of my friends LOVED Lullaby, but it wasn’t a favorite of mine. Neither was Haunted. Good luck!

  3. Sarah
    April 4th, 2011 @ 10:10 am

    Walling off bits of houses sounds delghtfully surreal. Is surrealism a major feature of the novel?

    Haven’t read any Palahniuk at all but, like you, had always intended to snap up a copy of Fight Club if I ever saw one. Now, having read your review, I would try any Palahniuk that comes my way :)

  4. charley
    April 4th, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

    Not having any expectations when you go into books is a great thing. I liked Fight Club well enough, but I could have just left it at watching the movie, which I felt kept quite true to the book in both style and dialogue. The only other Palahniuk I’ve read is Lullaby, and while I’ve forgotten much of the details of the book, there’s this one scene that I think will forever be etched into my memory. It makes me shudder every time I think of it.

  5. anothercookiecrumbles
    April 9th, 2011 @ 9:25 am

    @Charlene : I think so too (i.e. becoming a favourite author). Think I need to read much more of his works before I decide on that though, specially some of his more famous works, specifically Fight Club!

    @She : Thanks! That’s almost all too encouraging (and confusing) as there are too many options to choose from on the “what next” thing.

    @Sarah : Yup, it is surreal, and just totally totally bizarre. I think you’ll like it, simply because… well…. it’s just different to anything else I’ve ever read. The ending is a bit… off… but, other than that……… looking forward to your thoughts on Palahniuk!

    @charley : Thanks! I haven’t seen the movie (yup, there’s a good chance I’ve been living in an underground cave for the last twenty-two years), which makes me all the more curious to read the book. I think it’s definitely got to be the next one, albeit I am now curious about that scene from Lullaby.

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