It was a lazy Monday afternoon and I couldn’t help but turn the pages. I just wanted to finish it off. Chuck Palahniuk had lost me somewhere in the middle, possibly in one of the many rooms of the Waytansea Hotel. By the way, am I only one who got this reference though? Waytansea – ‘wait and see’- one has to admit the author has his charms. Palahniuk has been loosely associated with being the author who isn’t afraid of breaking the norms, making new ones up. Coming up with the wackiest characters in the middle of the most bizarre situations is what this American writer is famous for. Unlike most authors, he isn’t afraid of grabbing the second-person narrative by its collar and wringing out the tiniest, unimportant detail. While ‘Diary’ here hasn’t received awards like his other books (notably ‘Lullaby’ and the infamous ‘Fight Club’), there is no denying his style being present in loads from page one.
Published in 2003, the novel takes the form of a ‘coma diary’ telling the story of one Misty Marie Wilmot. Her husband, Peter the contractor – excuse the rhyme – lies senseless in a hospital after a suicide attempt and all she has to live for is her daughter Tabbi (short for Tabitha) and definitely not her mother-in-law, Grace, who she believes is turning eccentric by the day. She gets through the day by binge drinking and popping pills by the dozen. At the same time, she is being forced (by the entire town it seems) to carry on painting- something she’d never got the time to do after getting married and settling on the island. Most of the town is oblivious to her feelings and at times, even her as a person. This aptly reminded me of the movie Hot Fuzz that starred the brilliant Simon Pegg and was set in a town not unlike this one.
You fail to see when the high-point of the novel comes and goes. However, one can still find a few genius sentences in between the draggy narrative.
“Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is just a thousand thousand smears of paint. Michelangelo’s David is just a million hits with a hammer. We’re all of us a million bits put together the right way.”
Also, there is the excellently subtle bit in the starting where he compares the three layers of the skin to the three women in one’s life- wife, daughter and mother. As the story progresses, we see how Misty finds her talent returning through a series of compulsive paintings- most of which she is forced to do blindfolded. There is confusion in the themes that the author finally wants to portray – is it art, family feud, insurance scams or the conspiracies that repeat every four generations?
Want to know something that might just be more interesting than the novel itself? The names of the main characters have been taken from fans’ names selected at random in an official contest held by the author himself. Seems like Grace is not the only one cuckoo here. After reading almost every novel of his, it is safe to assume one has learnt the formula he uses for every one of them. Each and every character – in most of which he has mixed second and third-person narrative – is in some way propelled by desperation, by the fear of death- while simultaneously harming the culture of their state. Add bits and pieces of dark humor and the necessary dose of childhood trauma, and voila! You have got yourself a classic Palahniuk. ‘Diary’ however fails to be one by a long stretch.
If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: