Monday, August 10, 2009


By Chuck Palahniuk

My interest in "Last Orders" has been increasingly waning (oxymoron. ha!). Yesterday I wandered around the library (when it was slow!) looking for something else, anything else to read. After perusing the new shelves, the "donated in the name of" table, and fiction shelves A-P, I settled on Chuck Palahniuk's "Diary."

I have a friend who is a big Palahniuk fan. He's probably read close to all his novels, if not all of them. I, however, am not a fan. I hated the movie "Fight Club." I liked that the main character was schizophrenic. Good twist. But as soon as the movie became about forming an army to blow up a credit card company, or something, that is where I cried, 'Too Far.' I couldn't follow him on that. But I decided to give Palahniuk a second chance. After all, I only saw the movie "Fight Club."

I had no desire to read the book "Fight Club" (and coincidentally, the library does not own it), so that was out. I know a little about "Snuff" and "Choke", neither of which I wanted to read either. "Diary" was the next book of his I came across, (Now that I think about it, his novels clearly aren't in alphabetical order on the shelf and I'll have to fix that.) and thought I'd give it a try.

Just for the record, "Diary" is immediately intriguing. It is impossible not to get sucked into the personal mesmerizing coma that is Waytansea Island. I didn't know quite what I was reading when I began, but I was decidedly hooked, and had to keep reading.

"Diary" is dark and dirty and raw, and it's great. Such a compelling story. Struggling with demons and a fate she can't control, Misty is an tortured character. I felt myself rooting for her, wanting her to discover what it is that could make her want to really live.

Granted, the novel gets weird, but it unfolds like a mystery, which propels the reader forward. The parts of the story - the writing on the walls, the clues left around the island - they all come together like pieces to a puzzle.

My question, having only read one of his novels, is does Chuck Palahniuk write formulaicly? Do all his novels end with some catastrophic disaster? He almost lost me at the end, with the fire at the hotel, but I was willing to overlook that and go along with the end of the plot. That was the one plot stretch I did not care for. It felt almost like a deus ex machina. Don't know what to do with all these secondary and fringe characters who could ruin your nice neat ending? Kill them off!

Regardless, I really enjoyed this book. I even liked the repetitive lines: "What you don't understand, you can make mean anything."

Side-note: When Misty comments on the weather saying "Just for the record, the weather today is"... reminds me of the Panic at the Disco song with the line "just for the record, the weather today is slightly sarcastic with a good chance of A) indifference and B) disinterest in what the critics say." The book probably came before the song, but that line put the song into my head.

"Diary" is a very cool book with plenty of unexpected turns. It requires a suspension of belief, but doesn't become overly unbelievable. I do believe in the old adage that creative brilliance requires suffering. I'd like to say I don't believe that's true, but I do. This novel addresses that concept to a disturbing degree.

It could be argued that the book begins to get preachy towards the end. Quoting Plato about how life is remembering what you've already learned from past lives, about being stuck in the pattern of past lives, about how everyone is lost in their own personal coma, but it didn't feel preachy to me. It did feel like something I've heard before, but I think Palahniuk addresses these cliches in a way that makes them feel new. I think "Diary" is a great, unique novel.

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