Book · Book Review

Book Review: Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

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What you don’t understand you can make mean anything

I first read a Chuck Palahniuk book two years ago. It was Fight Club. It was awesome. I enjoyed every page of that book. From then on, I promised myself I’d read every Palahniuk book I laid hands on. Though Diary is a true-blue Palahniuk work of art, I can’t say it out-shined Fight Club.

Diary is written in a first-person point of view and the story is in a form of diary entries of a middle-aged woman named Misty Wilmot whose husband is in a coma brought about by his failed suicide attempt. To support their family, Misty had to wait tables at their local hotel. She had to support her daughter Tabbi and mother-in-law Grace who always encourages her to paint again. Misty went to art school but didn’t pursue further studies when she got pregnant. Now weird events have taken place where Grace, Tabbi and almost everyone Misty meets push her to start painting again. These led her to eventually painting images, with perfect circles and lines – all these because of the gel capsules prescribed to her by the town’s physician which eases her headache but leaves her weak and shaky almost all the time.

Misty soon paints for days on end and couldn’t stop doing so as her mother in-law, Tabbi and the doctor (who gave her the gel capsules) wouldn’t let her. She paints until her work reached a hundred finished paintings and until she’s turned into a living skeleton. A concerned friend found about what’s happening and tells her the mystery behind all these creepy stuffs that are happening to her. Misty learned about how Waytansea Island values this certain ritual which they have to complete every four generations. It involves a young artist being lured to the island by old pieces of jewels worn by a Waytansea boy, gets pregnant by him and settles at Waytansea Island where she is believed to repeat the same events her past self did in the previous life.

People at Waytansea Island believes that Misty is the reincarnation of the other two young artists that have saved the Island by painting images that would make the whole Island wealthy again. All these stuffs people from Waytansea knew already as they have in possession the diary of the first young artist that made the island wealthy. It is in this diary they based all their actions and which the present young artist (this time Misty) have been repeating.

The book ends with Misty and her daughter Tabbi being the only survivor of the fire in the Hotel where all Waytansea people are believed to have been burned to death due to their being captivated by Misty’s paintings – which were being exhibited that night. The point of all these is to get a big amount of insurance claim that could support the lives of the next generations of Waytansea Island where a new young artist will come and repeat the cycle.

In the end, Misty and Tabbi decide to change their names and moved to Tecumseh Lake (where Misty grew up) and start a new life. Them being the only people from Waytansea Island to survive the fire, it was understood that nothing will happen for the next years similar to that of what happened to Misty.

I’d rate this book 3 out of 5 stars. I think it’s a good enough novel but not good enough for a 5-stars. I love Palahniuk, don’t get me wrong, I love him and his style of writing but this one didn’t quite get to me. Though I liked how it was written and how events are arranged and narrated from past to present and back again, I still think the whole story is just another sick story. The book is written in a very “fucked-up-I’m-tired-of-this-shit” tone and the setting just about adds to that mood. In spite of it all, I think this would make a good movie, given that the story line and setting is so “big screen-worthy”, I think people will dig this in cinemas.

As a great deal amount of this book’s content is about art and famous artists and paintings, I recommend this to art students, art enthusiasts and just about anyone who enjoys art.

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