Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cannonball Read 2 #1: Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

Diary is the tale of Misty Wilmot, a middle-aged woman living on a Nantucket-esque island called Waytansea with her pre-teen daughter and strange mother-in-law. Her husband Peter attempted suicide, and lies in a vegetative state. Diary is Misty's way of communicating with Peter, explaining what has happened since he became comatose in case he ever wakes up. As the story goes on, Misty makes several unpleasant discoveries; she finds that before his coma, Peter had developed a very disturbing habit of making rooms in houses he was remodeling disappear, her mother-in-law has some plans for her she may not be able to resist, and the history of Waytansea Island and its native inhabitants is considerably more upsetting than poor Misty would have guessed.

I love Chuck Palahniuk's work, though I understand it's not for everyone. His short, choppy, repetitive style strikes a chord with me--there's something very visceral about it. I like his odd little gimmicks--in Fight Club it was the Jack thing--"I am Jack's smirking revenge" while in Diary it's weather updates: "Just for the record, the weather today is bitter with occasional fits of jealous rage" for example. Some people think that's cheap or lazy. I think it's awfully tough to come up with so many of those. I guess the thing is that I think Palahniuk--though dark, grotesque, and disturbing--is utterly hilarious. Yes, it's like having to dig through one of those ball pits--ball, ball, eegh! Brightly painted dead rat! Ball, ball, twenty-dollar bill! Dead rat! Ball! Pan of lasagna? Dead hooker! 14 carat diamond! You think you know what you're getting, but the further you go, the less sensible things are outside of their context. Inside the context, though, they come together and make a weird kind of sense.

On the whole, I'd recommend this book, but only to people who already like his style. It's not probably not going to change any minds, but for those who know they'll enjoy the ride, it's a pretty great one.

2 comments:

Spender said...

I am a huge fan of his work though I've yet to read 'Diary'. Excellent review and I will be grabbing this book on the next trip to B & N.

Hipster Mongoose said...

Cannonball Read Lagwagons holler!
Thanks for the support Siege. I am aiming to do the same.

Re: Palahniuk, I've read Fight Club and Choke but am not a huge fan of his style. Of course, reading your review, I feel like I need to give the man another chance. Especially because I was in high school when I read those books.