Friday, April 9, 2010
I couldn't put down Chuck Palahniuk's Diary today. I finished it all in one day. Palahniuk is a writer that fascinates me. He comes up with these insane, twisted, and intellectual stories with plots that no one else could ever come up with, and you become entransed in this insane alternate universe. He creates some bizarre plots, but we should add this one to the list, for sure.
One of the novel's greatest questions is posted subliminally on the cover, and more overtly inside the novel: WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?
Interesting question. Must be an interesting book then...
Diary follows Misty Mae Kleinman (soon Wilmot), an artist in college who is forced to move with her boyfriend, Peter, to his tourist-ridden town after he impregnantes her. Misty slowly deteriorates in the town after her daughter Tabbi is born. She works as as a waitress in the resort's restaurant facility, and she begins drinking heavily. She hasn't painted in years due to the destitute state of her new life.
The novel begins where Peter is discovered in his car, attempting to kill himself. Since he was not successful, he is now in a coma. Before he tried to kill himself, however, Peter went to the homes that he was working on (since he was a contractor) and wrote absolutely obsene messages on the walls. People begin suing Peter left and right, even though he's in a coma. Misty has to deal with this mess as Peter is obviously indesposed.
Misty visits the houses Peter destroyed to read these horrific messages. Misty is met by a friend, Angel, who helps her try to understand the messages as well. He is interested in graphology (the study of handwriting and what it tells about the writer) and they discuss Peter's writing.
Now, here is the twist (so don't read if you want to read the novel): Misty is involved in an age-old superstition/conspiracy that occurs every four generations in Peter's town. The belief is that every four generations, a young man brings back a wonderful artist to the island. The cycle persists that, once brought to the island, the artist reproduces, then the husband is killed, the children die, and the wife goes insane. From this insanity, the woman paints masterpieces that make the town rich. Once the woman has created a gallery's worth, a gallery is opened, and all of the townspeople are brought to see it. When the town is awed by these masterpieces, the gallery lights on fire, killing all of the viwers. The town then collects its insurance claim which will keep the island's financial state alive for four more generations. Then the cycle should repeat itself.
Misty is caught in the middle of this conspiracy. She is told Peter's father was dead, but it turns out that he was alive the whole time. He is the one who tries to murder his son and make it look like a suicide (to fulfill the conspiracy) and fakes Tabbi's death to make Misty go crazy. Angel tries to tell Misty what is going on (while also revealing that he was Peter's lover) and is murdered by Peter's father to silence him. Misty, understanding what's going on, fulfills her part but escapes with her daughter after the burning down of the gallery.
( Here is the interior of the novel: )
The end of the novel is from a little bit of time into the future where Misty writes a fictional letter to Chuck Palahniuk, offering that he write about her horrors to make others aware so that this conspiracy does not happen again, four generations from now. This is a book that could be read again, because then you can go back and piece together all of the clues. Apparently Peter was trying to warn Misty through his writing, so going back will be interesting to see what his cryptic messages were.
End of spoiler. The writing was a little hard to follow, a little disjointed. The narrator would go back and forth from seeing Misty's perspective to accusing and talking about Peter, using second person to assume that the narrator was YOU. That was different from most narrations.
Palaniuk did a solid job on making the reader feel as crazy as Misty felt as she was being manipulated and twisted to be this carbon-copied person. This crazy life led her to become insane, to the point where she counts out her drinks, her pills, and makes comments that make you question her sanity.
The repetition Palahniuk uses is here yet again. It's the single characteristic that I love the most about his writing. It can be found in each of his novels (as I have commented in earlier posts on his novels), and they are all extremely effective. Words/phrases/ideas that are constantly repeated throughout the novel: "You." "Take another drink/pill" following events that occur. Peter's wall writings. Angel's insights on graphology interspersed between plot events. "Everything is a self portrait. Everything is a diary." Connections to Maura Kincaid and Constance Burton.
Not only am I really interested in graphology now, but I want to try out Carl Jung's theory of how one sees the self, as presented in the nove. I want to ask these questions to people to see what they say about themselves. Here is how Palahniuk's narrator describes it: Ask these four questions. After each question, the person needs to give three adjectives that describe the answer they give. Write these three adjectives down each time. These questions stand for the (information placed inside parenthesis next to it).
Name a color (How one sees the self)
Name an animal (How one views others)
Name a body of water (How one views his sexual life/being)
Name an all-white room (How one views death)
Analyze the three adjectives given to see how this personal currently sees himself or herself. Palahniuk is bound to have cool little things like this interspersed through his writing.
I like how Palahniuk explored the tortured/suffering artist. The one who is really insane is really brilliant. He references many artists who were a little nutty who ended up producing some fabulous work. Where does inspiration come from? Do we really only create when we suffer? I hope never to answer this someday.
This was quite a bizarre book, but I really enjoyed it in the end. It took me a little while to get the flow and plot of the book, but once I got it, the book kept flowing until I finished. Palahniuk has yet to let me down with his writing.
And, hopefully this will become a motion picture soon as it was picked up as a potential Sundance film. I'll cross my fingers until then.
So what do you think about Diary?