Diary, A novel is a challenge. Perhaps not so much for the ?twisted? mind of the Author (and I mean this as a compliment, read on!), as Chuck Palahniuk has gotten us used to fantastically complicated plots (Fight Club or Lullaby), but certainly for the reader, who inevitably gets involved and entangled in the spirally developing story of Misty Marie Kleinman, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, artist and hotel maid in Waytansea Island.
The reader?s challenge is that of not becoming hypnotised by Palahniuk?s captivating style, by his intellectual digressions and by what?s happening to our heroine to the extent to put one?s life on hold, like I did when I commenced reading this page-turner.
Misty Marie is, by her own definition, a ?poor white trash kid?, comes from a broken family and spends her childhood and adolescence drawing imaginary houses and landscapes in a caravan, awaiting her hippie single mother to finish her shifts at the local café® Misty?s destiny is in a way already marked by her origins and talent; and her frequenting an art school does nothing but give Fate an opportunity to be accomplished. There, dreamy Misty Marie meets eccentric Peter Wilmot, her husband-to-be and there stops what you would call the series of coincidences that make up the life of each of us. In fact, Misty?s life, from there onward, becomes carefully planned.
The book however is not so linear ? oh no ? and we come to know and understand Misty Marie?s past life in the form of flashbacks while her current life develops. The diary of the title is kept by Misty herself and starts shortly after her husband?s failed suicide attempt. Misty Marie is by then a 41 year old maid at the Waytansea Hotel; she lives on the island, in the Wilmots? residence, her husband?s family home, which she shares with her mother-in-law and her own daughter Tabbi. She never made it big with her paintings, and lost her inspiration and abilities soon after meeting Peter and becoming pregnant with Tabbi; she has not forgotten though her training in art school and her dreams, and becomes more and more frustrated over the years with her maid job. The frustration has a steep escalation after Peter tries to kill himself: the Wilmot family?s money is long gone, Peter lies in a hospital bed in an irreversible coma, his former clients (he never made it as an artist either and was a self-employed refurbisher of rich people?s holiday homes, with the peculiar habit of sealing off one of the rooms after scrawling on its walls with threats and obscenities) are suing and Misty Marie?s salary is the only and scarce income source.
The Wilmots are not the only previously well off family struggling on the island. The former grandeur is gone and the islanders are now employed in summer jobs where they have to serve and oblige the new rich, the tourist attracted by Waytansea Island?s quaint atmosphere, ?the summer people?. It is to escape this destiny that everybody on the island has a plan, and it is a common plan, where ever islander has a role and shares the stakes, everyone but Misty Marie, it would seem.
As mentioned, and easily guessable from the title, the book is in the form of a diary, with two-three pages long entries, each of which acts as a mosaic tassel to enable the reconstruction, via her emotions and memories, of Misty Marie?s past and of the facts that will bring on the grand finale of the book. With the patience of a saint and the intelligence of a Macchiavelli, Chuck Palahniuk carries us through anatomy lessons, human body physiology, psychological analysis, arts and artists, philosophy and carpentry, life and death. Without ever becoming boring or pedantic or ?disconnected?.
His language is actually quite down to earth and he implements literary devices ? such as switching from first to third person account or using the same expressions to introduce different concepts ? to keep the reader?s attention focused and his/her mind entertained.
I don?t want to give away too much of the plot or the style, not being the reviewer?s job to ruin for others the pleasure of reading an excellent work, such as Diary, A novel. Nor have I had the time or the inclination to check the veridicity of the facts told by the Author. One of the beauties of reading the book is that ?what you don?t understand, you can make mean anything?, meaning, in this particular instance, that in an intelligent novel there is also space for personal speculations and interpretations.
The one fault I?ll never forgive Palahniuk for is that reading one of his novels makes it harder and harder to pick up the next book to read for fear of disappointment!
Tags: chuck palahniuk