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Diary: A Novel


Diary: A Novel

Chuck Palahniuk writes novels with exoskeletons so visible they're
hard to ignore. You can see the bones of every paragraph, every
sentence; they stick out so much you can barely find the substance
of the story hidden within the structure. In his recent bestseller
LULLABY, for example, there are so many parallel lines in
mirror-patterned paragraphs that every page creates the sensation
of deja vu; reading it feels like an epileptic seizure of nervous
tics and twitches, a written version of Chinese water torture. The
bones of the novel obscure any scrap of genuine appeal in the
characters along with much interest in whatever the writer is
actually trying to say.

Palahniuk's new novel, DIARY, has most of the author's signature
verbal tics, such as his habit of starting every other sentence
with "And" or his aggravating reliance on casual (or lazy,
depending on your view) sentence structures like "Peter and Misty,
they'd go to art museums and galleries." But the characters in
DIARY refuse to be obscured by any mere stylistic distractions.
They pop out of the word-cages Palahniuk writes around them in a
way that seems almost in spite of their creator. (He doesn't, after
all, tend to invent particularly nice, meek little people.) And
they drive the oddly enthralling story along toward ever- creepier

Misty Kleinman was your average homely loser in art school when she
met Peter Wilmot. She knew of him before, of course. Everyone knew
of him --- he was the campus weirdo. He came from Waytansea Island,
a former rich-family hideaway turned tourist trap, and he wore
gross baggy sweaters with pieces of tacky old costume jewelry. He
courts Misty with a bizarre combination of aggression,
encouragement and hostility that only makes sense much later ---
when it's far too late. By that time, Misty is married to Peter,
living on the island and working as a waitress/maid at the historic
Waytansea Hotel. They have a young daughter and are also looking
after Peter's mother. Or rather, Misty is. Peter is in a coma after
a suicide attempt, and this novel is Misty's diary, which she is
writing in case he ever wakes up. But that's only the beginning of
the story.

Things start getting weird when homeowners around the coast begin
to call Misty, outraged that rooms in their recently remodeled
houses are missing. Peter, before he went comatose, had a habit of
scrawling violent, deranged messages on the walls of rooms in
houses he was remodeling, then blocking off the doorway and
plastering over the room. Vacationing homeowners would turn up at
their summer places to discover their closets and breakfast nooks
missing; eventually they'd find the room, see the messages, call
Misty and threaten to sue.

One such homeowner is Angel Delaporte, who starts visiting the
houses along with Misty on the pretense of analyzing Peter's wild
handwriting. Meanwhile, Misty's imperious mother-in-law keeps
demanding that she get back to painting; when Misty finally does
pick up her sketchpad again, in a fever of hallucination brought on
by Grandma's picnic lunch, she paints so frenziedly and so
compulsively that she stops eating, stops leaving her room, stops
speaking to her kid, and stops showing up for work. It's clear
she's headed for something seriously catastrophic --- but whatever
you might think is going to happen, the truth turns out to be

If you like Chuck Palahniuk generally, you'll love this novel. If
you usually find him annoying, give this one a chance. Misty's
hypnotic voice and the story's slowly building creepiness are
powerful enough to overcome any stylistic trickery that might
otherwise be off-putting.

Reviewed by Becky Ohlsen ( on January 21, 2011

Diary: A Novel
by Chuck Palahniuk

  • Publication Date: September 14, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 1400032814
  • ISBN-13: 9781400032815