Chuck Palahniuk, the bestselling author of Fight Club, Choke, and Lullaby continues his twenty-first-century reinvention of the horror novel in this scary and profound look at our quest for some sort of immortality.
Diary takes the form of a coma diary kept by one Misty Tracy Wilmot as her husband lies senseless in a hospital after a suicide attempt. Once she was an art student dreaming of creativity and freedom; now, after marrying Peter at school and being brought back to once quaint, now tourist-overrun Waytansea Island, she's been reduced to the condition of a resort hotel maid. Peter, it turns out, has been hiding rooms in houses he’s remodeled and scrawling vile messages all over the wallsan old habit of builders but dramatically overdone in Peter's case. Angry homeowners are suing left and right, and Misty's dreams of artistic greatness are in ashes. But then, as if possessed by the spirit of Maura Kinkaid, a fabled Waytansea artist of the nineteenth century, Misty begins painting again, compulsively. But can her newly discovered talent be part of a larger, darker plan? Of course it can.
Diary is a dark, hilarious, and poignant act of storytelling from America's favorite, most inventive nihilist. It is Chuck Palahniuk's finest novel yet.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Date of Birth:February 21, 1962
Place of Birth:Pasco, Washington
Education:B.A. in journalism, University of Oregon, 1986
Read an Excerpt
The Three-Quarter Moon
Today a man called from Long Beach. He left a long message on the answering machine, mumbling and shouting, talking fast and slow, swearing and threatening to call the police, to have you arrested.
Today is the longest day of the year--but anymore, every day is.
The weather today is increasing concern followed by full-blown dread.
The man calling from Long Beach, he says his bathroom is missing.
By the time you read this, you'll be older than you remember.
The official name for your liver spots is hyperpigmented lentigines. The official anatomy word for a wrinkle is rhytide. Those creases in the top half of your face, the rhytides plowed across your forehead and around your eyes, this is dynamic wrinkling, also called hyperfunctional facial lines, caused by the movement of underlying muscles. Most wrinkles in the lower half of the face are static rhytides, caused by sun and gravity.
Let's look in the mirror. Really look at your face. Look at your eyes, your mouth.
This is what you think you know best.
Your skin comes in three basic layers. What you can touch is the stratum corneum, a layer of flat, dead skin cells pushed up by the new cells under them. What you feel, that greasy feeling, is your acid mantle, the coating of oil and sweat that protects you from germs and fungus. Under that is your dermis. Below the dermis is a layer of fat. Below the fat are the muscles of your face.
Maybe you remember all this from art school, from Figure Anatomy 201. But then, maybe not.
When you pull up your upper lip--when you show that one top tooth, the one the museum guard broke--this is your levator labii superioris muscle at work. Your sneer muscle. Let's pretend you smell some old stale urine.
Imagine your husband's just killed himself in your family car. Imagine you have to go out and sponge his piss out of the driver's seat. Pretend you still have to drive this stinking rusted junk pile to work, with everyone watching, everyone knowing, because it's the only car you have.
Does any of this ring a bell?
When a normal person, some normal innocent person who sure as hell deserved a lot better, when she comes home from waiting tables all day and finds her husband suffocated in the family car, his bladder leaking, and she screams, this is simply her orbicularis oris stretched to the very limit.
That deep crease from each corner of your mouth to your nose is your nasolabial fold. Sometimes called your "sneer pocket." As you age, the little round cushion of fat inside your cheek, the official anatomy word is malar fat pad, it slides lower and lower until it comes to rest against your nasolabial fold--making your face a permanent sneer.
This is just a little refresher course. A little step-by-step.
Just a little brushing up. In case you don't recognize yourself.
Now frown. This is your triangularis muscle pulling down the corners of your orbicularis oris muscle.
Pretend you're a twelve-year-old girl who loved her father like crazy.
You're a little preteen girl who needs her dad more than ever before. Who counted on her father always to be there. Imagine you go to bed crying every night, your eyes clamped shut so hard they swell.
The "orange peel" texture of your chin, these "popply" bumps are caused by your mentalis muscle. Your "pouting" muscle. Those frown lines you see every morning, getting deeper, running from each corner of your mouth down to the edge of your chin, those are called marionette lines. The wrinkles between your eyebrows, they're glabellar furrows.
The way your swollen eyelids sag down is called ptosis. Your lateral canthal rhytides, your "crow's-feet," are worse every day and you're only twelve fucking years old for God's sake.
Don't pretend you don't know what this is about.
This is your face.
Now, smile--if you still can.
This is your zygomatic major muscle. Each contraction pulls your flesh apart the way tiebacks hold open the drapes in your living room window. The way cables pull aside a theater curtain, your every smile is an opening night. A premiere. You unveiling yourself.
Now, smile the way an elderly mother would when her only son kills himself. Smile and pat the hand of his wife and his preteen daughter and tell them not to worry--everything really will work out for the best. Just keep smiling and pin up your long gray hair. Go play bridge with your old lady friends. Powder your nose.
That huge horrible wad of fat you see hanging under your chin, your jowls, getting bigger and jigglier every day, that's submental fat. That crinkly ring of wrinkles around your neck is a platysmal band. The whole slow slide of your face, your chin and neck is caused by gravity dragging down on your superficial musculo-aponeurotic system.
If you're a little confused right now, relax. Don't worry. All you need to know is this is your face. This is what you think you know best.
These are the three layers of your skin.
These are the three women in your life.
The epidermis, the dermis, and the fat.
Your wife, your daughter, and your mother.
If you're reading this, welcome back to reality. This is where all that glorious, unlimited potential of your youth has led. All that unfulfilled promise. Here's what you've done with your life.
Your name is Peter Wilmot.
All you need to understand is you turned out to be one sorry sack of shit.
A woman calls from Seaview to say her linen closet is missing. Last September, her house had six bedrooms, two linen closets. She's sure of it. Now she's only got one. She comes to open her beach house for the summer. She drives out from the city with the kids and the nanny and the dog, and here they are with all their luggage, and all their towels are gone. Disappeared. Poof.
Her voice on the answering machine, the way her voice screeches up, high, until it's an air-raid siren by the end of every sentence, you can tell she's shaking mad, but mostly she's scared. She says, "Is this some kind of joke? Please tell me somebody paid you to do this."
Her voice on the machine, she says, "Please, I won't call the police. Just put it back the way it was, okay?"
Behind her voice, faint in the background, you can hear a boy's voice saying, "Mom?"
The woman, away from the phone, she says, "Everything's going to be fine."
She says, "Now let's not panic."
The weather today is an increasing trend toward denial.
Her voice on the answering machine, she says, "Just call me back, okay?"
She leaves her phone number. She says, "Please . . ."
Picture the way a little kid would draw a fish bone--the skeleton of a fish, with the skull at one end and the tail at the other. The long spine in between, it's crossed with rib bones. It's the kind of fish skeleton you'd see in the mouth of a cartoon cat.
Picture this fish as an island covered with houses. Picture the kind of castle houses that a little girl living in a trailer park would draw—big stone houses, each with a forest of chimneys, each a mountain range of different rooflines, wings and towers and gables, all of them going up and up to a lightning rod at the top. Slate roofs. Fancy wrought-iron fences. Fantasy houses, lumpy with bay windows and dormers. All around them, perfect pine trees, rose gardens, and red brick sidewalks.
The bourgeois daydreams of some poor white trash kid.
The whole island was exactly what a kid growing up in some trailer park--say some dump like Tecumseh Lake, Georgia--would dream about. This kid would turn out all the lights in the trailer while her mom was at work. She'd lie down flat on her back, on the matted-down orange shag carpet in the living room. The carpet smelling like somebody stepped in a dog pile. The orange melted black in spots from cigarette burns. The ceiling was water-stained. She'd fold her arms across her chest, and she could picture life in this kind of place. It would be that time--late at night--when your ears reach out for any sound. When you can see more with your eyes closed than open.
The fish skeleton. From the first time she held a crayon, that's what she'd draw.
The whole time this kid's growing up, maybe her mom was never home. She never knew her dad, and maybe her mom worked two jobs. One at a shitty fiberglass insulation factory, one slopping food in a hospital cafeteria.
Of course, this kid dreams of a place like this island, where nobody works except to keep house and pick wild blueberries and beachcomb. Embroider handkerchiefs. Arrange flowers. Where every day doesn't start with an alarm clock and end with the television. She's imagined these houses, every house, every room, the carved edge of each fireplace mantel. The pattern in every parquet floor. Imagined it out of thin air. The curve of each light fixture or faucet. Every tile, she could picture. Imagine it, late at night. Every wallpaper pattern. Every shingle and stairway and downspout, she's drawn it with pastels. Colored it with crayons. Every brick sidewalk and boxwood hedge, she's sketched it. Filled in the red and green with watercolors. She's seen it, pictured it, dreamed of it. She's wanted it so bad.
Since as early as she could pick up a pencil, this was all she ever drew.
Picture this fish with the skull pointed north and the tail south. The spine is crossed with sixteen rib bones, running east and west. The skull is the village square, with the ferryboat coming and going from the harbor that's the fish's mouth. The fish's eye would be the hotel, and around it, the grocery store, the hardware supply, the library and church.
She painted the streets with ice in the bare trees. She painted it with birds coming back, each gathering beach grass and pine needles to build a nest. Then, with foxgloves in bloom, taller than people. Then with even taller sunflowers. Then with the leaves spiraling down and the ground under them lumpy with walnuts and chestnuts.
She could see it so clear. She could picture every room, inside every house.
And the more she could imagine this island, the less she liked the real world. The more she could imagine the people, the less she liked any real people. Especially not her own hippie mom, always tired and smelling like French fries and cigarette smoke.
It got until Misty Kleinman gave up on ever being a happy person. Everything was ugly. Everyone was crass and just . . . wrong.
Her name was Misty Kleinman.
In case she's not around when you read this, she was your wife. In case you're not just playing dumb--your poor wife, she was born Misty Marie Kleinman.
The poor idiot girl, when she was drawing a bonfire on the beach, she could taste ears of corn and boiled crabs. Drawing the herb garden of one house, she could smell the rosemary and thyme.
Still, the better she could draw, the worse her life got--until nothing in her real world was good enough. It got until she didn't belong anywhere. It got so nobody was good enough, refined enough, real enough. Not the boys in high school. Not the other girls. Nothing was as real as her imagined world. This got until she was going to student counseling and stealing money from her mom's purse to spend on dope.
So people wouldn't say she was crazy, she made her life about the art instead of the visions. Really, she just wanted the skill to record them. To make her imagined world more and more accurate. More real.
And in art school, she met a boy named Peter Wilmot. She met you, a boy from a place called Waytansea Island.
And the first time you see the island, coming from anyplace else in the entire world, you think you're dead. You're dead and gone to heaven, safe forever.
The fish's spine is Division Avenue. The fish's ribs are streets, starting with Alder, one block south of the village square. Next is Birch Street, Cedar Street, Dogwood, Elm, Fir, Gum, Hornbeam, all of them alphabetical until Oak and Poplar Streets, just before the fish's tail. There, the south end of Division Avenue turns to gravel, and then mud, then disappears into the trees of Waytansea Point.
This isn't a bad description. That's how the harbor looks when you arrive for the first time on the ferryboat from the mainland. Narrow and long, the harbor looks like the mouth of a fish, waiting to gobble you up in a story from the Bible.
You can walk the length of Division Avenue, if you've got all day. Have breakfast at the Waytansea Hotel and then walk a block south, past the church on Alder Street. Past the Wilmot house, the only house on East Birch, with sixteen acres of lawn going right down to the water. Past the Burton house on East Juniper Street. The woodlots dense with oaks, each tree twisted and tall as a moss-covered lightning bolt. The sky above Division Avenue, in summer it's green with dense, shifting layers of maple and oak and elm leaves.
You come here for the first time, and you think all your hopes and dreams have come true. Your life will end happily ever after.
The point is, for a kid who's only ever lived in a house with wheels under it, this looks like the special safe place where she'll live, loved and cared for, forever.
For a kid who used to sit on shag carpet with a box of colored pencils or crayons and draw pictures of these houses, houses she'd never seen. Just pictures of the way she imagined them with their porches and stained-glass windows. For this little girl to one day see these houses for real. These exact houses. Houses she thought she'd only ever imagined . . .
Since the first time she could draw, little Misty Marie knew the wet secrets of the septic tanks behind each house. She knew the wiring inside their walls was old, cloth-wrapped for insulation and strung through china tubes and along china posts. She could draw the inside of every front door, where every island family marked the names and height of each child.
Even from the mainland, from the ferry dock in Long Beach, across three miles of salt water, the island looks like paradise. The pines so dark green they look black, the waves breaking against the brown rocks, it's like everything she could ever want. Protected. Quiet and alone.
Nowadays, this is how the island looks to a lot of people. A lot of rich strangers.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
“Some of his best work is here. . . . It could be Palahniuk’s most ambitious novel to date, certainly the most ambitious since Fight Club.” —The Washington Post Book World
The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Diary, Chuck Palahniuk’s latest tale from the dark side. We hope they will provide interesting ways of thinking and talking about this chilling, hallucinatory, and compulsively readable novel.
1. The opening pages of the novel present a bewildering situation for the reader with their use of the narrating voice. Who is “you”? How soon do we learn who is speaking (or writing), and who is being spoken to? What is the effect of this confusion, and why might Palahniuk have chosen to begin this way? What are the characteristics of Misty’s diary style?
2. Misty grew up in a trailer park where “she never knew her dad, and maybe her mom worked two jobs. One at a shitty fiberglass insulation factory, one slopping food in a hospital cafeteria. Of course, this kid dreams of a place like this island, where nobody works except to keep house and pick wild blueberries and beachcomb” [p. 9]. Why does she poke fun at her own background and her dreams of a perfect place like the island?
3. As she works in the Wood and Gold Dining Room, Misty calls herself “queen of the slaves” [p. 17] and is disgusted by the rich summer people who have destroyed the island. When she sees a message written on the underside of table six—“Don’t let them trick you again” [p. 22]—she doesn’t understand what it means. How do the book’s early chapters create suspense, and how do they create a sense of empathy for Misty?
4. What details contribute to the reader’s perception of Peter’s mother? Why is she both laughable and sinister?
5. Misty tells herself after marrying Peter, “It wasn’t a career as an artist that she wanted. What she really wanted, all along, was the house, the family, the peace” [p. 13]. Does the novel suggest that Misty has been sucked into a role of feminine domesticity at the expense of her desire to be an artist? Or does it suggest that there was never any other destiny available to Misty than to be the chosen vehicle for the island’s salvation?
6. Diary is full of scrawled messages and urgent attempts to communicate. Some are left by Peter Wilmot, some by Maura Kincaid, and some by Constance Burton. Why are these messages so difficult to understand? Why did Peter leave his messages in sealed rooms? Does Misty lack the knowledge essential to interpreting them? How does she figure out what is going on, and how does her understanding influence her actions?
7. How has Peter described Misty’s body? How does Misty describe her own body? Why is her physicality important to the story, and why does Palahniuk use such unflinching details about bodies and their functions? What do these details contribute to the atmosphere of the novel?
8. Why does Misty allow her drinking habit to be replaced by the little green pills, even when they give her terrible headaches? How might she have resisted the doctor and her mother-in-law?
9. With Misty’s descriptions of the work that was considered cool in art school, is Palahniuk delivering a critique of contemporary ideas about edgy, ironic art [pp. 75–76, 79–80]? Is he suggesting that art like Misty’s, which is a direct expression of her own desire, is of greater value? Or is he also criticizing the art of the idealized landscape and the perfect world–“the wish list of a white trash girl; big houses, church weddings, picnics on the beach”—as being trite?
10. Who is staging the “reality” that Misty is experiencing? What is being staged, and what is she imagining? Is there any way to explain the events that take place in this story? Is the world of the novel meant to comment on reality? If so, how?
11. Does Misty love Peter? How hurt is she by what she has found out about his true feelings for her and by the fact that he was simply using her to save the island? How interesting is it that Peter is gay and has been pretending to be straight in order to do his parents’ bidding?
12. Is Misty, in the end, heroic in her attempts to stop the violence on the island and save her daughter? Or is she too passive, allowing herself simply to be used by Peter’s parents? To what degree is Peter also a disposable element in his parents’ plot?
13. Peter’s father Harrow tells Misty how she fits into the island legend: “She’s doomed to fame. Cursed with talent. Life after life. She’s been Giotto di Bondone, then Michelangelo, then Jan Vermeer. . . . She has always been an artist. She will always be an artist” [p. 242]. What do the events related on pages 242–45 reveal about Misty’s identity, and does Misty herself accept these statements?
14. On page 257 we’re told that Tabbi is “hugging the ashes of Grace and Harrow.” Why do Peter’s parents die in the fire? Are they really dead?
15. How does Misty react when she learns of Tabitha’s role in the hotel fire? How surprising are the final few pages of the novel, and which revelations are most shocking?
16. How does Misty hope to change the future by sending her diary to Chuck Palahniuk [p. 261]?
17. A reviewer for Newsday wrote, “Palahniuk is one of the freshest, most intriguing voices to appear in a long time.” Which aspects of his style or voice contribute to this sense of his uniqueness?
18. If you have read any of Chuck Palahniuk’s previous novels, how does Diary compare to them? What concerns, obsessions, or themes of the author are continued or revisited here?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the only book I've ever finished and had to re-read within the week to catch the details I missed the first time through. Definately off beat, from an author who's known for off beat. Wish I could have shared this with a book club.
I really enjoyed this book. Chuck Palahniuk's protagonist Misty writes in a diary to her comatose husband Peter, detailing their lives and the current happenings on Waytansea Island in case he comes around. Peter's coma is the result of a failed suicide attempt. While he is in the coma Misty learns of hidden rooms in the homes he has recently renovated. Each of the rooms is covered with graffiti of Peter's anger and warnings to the inhabitants. She is called to each home and threatened with lawsuits by the owners. At the first of these occurrences Misty meets a fellow named Angel who seems to take an interest in the graffiti and ensconcing himself into Misty's life. Soon strange things begin to happen to Misty, she begins having horrible headaches and finds herself in a trance-like state with the only thought in her mind being painting. She is pushed by her mother-in-law, daughter and the residents of the island to paint every time she is in their presence. She is compelled to pick up her paintbrushes and spends weeks locked in an attic room of the Island's historic hotel painting with such a fervour she forgoes eating and wears a catheter so she won't have to leave her work. Once she is done she has created 100 paintings that are all part of a large painting she has never seen that is to be revealed in an exhibit for the summer people which flock to the island. With the help of Angel, Misty uncovers a tradition to replenish Waytansea's wealth by bringing a female artist destined for greatness to the island by marriage to one of their sons. The son gives his life as a sacrifice which is the catalyst for the process to begin. The one thing the inhabitants of the island don't count on is that Misty's husband Peter is homosexual and Angel was his lover and the confidant of his disdain for the tradition and also the man Peter is intent to run away with. The book comes to an end with a final twist the reader doesn't see coming. Chuck Palahniuk proves once again what a talented writer he is and will continue to be thrilling the reader in a way no other can.
Its been awhile since ive read this story, but it has stuck in my mind and i felt it needed to be rated. I thoroughly enjoy Palahniuk's work. this particular book had a certain mystery to it(as do many of his other novels)that kept me involved. I couldnt wait to get out of work just to read this book, The Diary. I highly recommend it to people who just enjoy a good read. It keeps your interest, and keeps you guessing. Palanuick has such a way about his writing, that makes it hard to put his books down. His imagination is truly inventive. If you have never experienced Mr. Palahnuick I suggest you go out and buy one his books. if i had to describe his style I'd say blunt, outlandish, and at times can be a little twisted.
Thid book will pull your heart strings, kill your brain, and take you one an emotional rollercoaster. This book is amazing, but not for the faint of heart.
I knew I would eventually find one of Chuck's books i didn't like. I can stop looking now. I feel bad saying that because I usually love his work. But i found nothing compelling or interesting about any of the characters. If you're new to the author, please don't make this your first.
In Chuck Palahniuk¿s book, Diary, he told a mind boggling story, which will keep you on the edge of your seat till the very end. His way of switching back and forth between first point of view and back again to a third person omniscient point of view is what makes this book unique and it will keep drawing you back, but it will also make it sometimes a bit hard to understand, so it¿s best if you re-read the book a second time to see all the little details you¿ve missed, which were a lot for me. For the first few chapters it¿s boring and seems to just go on and on with descriptions, but trust me when I say to keep going on. Around the middle of the book is when it gets extremely interesting with deeper plots and the puzzle pieces start to actually fit together perfectly. Similar to all of Palahniuk¿s works, it¿s a brain teaser, and it will always surprise you by how he ends this marvelous tale of rituals, and the horrible mess that will become of this small island town, but while it¿s something you¿ve come to expect from Palahniuk it¿s also something fresh, and something that no one, in my opinion, could have done any better. With many twists, and flat characters turning into somewhat complex, it¿s a perfect read for anyone who enjoys books that can¿t be judged by the first few pages. Palahniuk finds a strange, almost creepy way to describe the people, the town, and the imagery of things, making them seem as they should be the one thing you should know, yet how they have this whole new different life of which you¿ve never expect. From the moment the people in the book begin to seem to have a sort of façade, is the moment when you start to find out about the psychological thrills, and all of the misfortunes of Misty Marie happen to be coming first hand from the island¿s elder owners. A reoccurring theme in Diary is torture, and how it is what all great artists, like himself, need to make great pieces of art, which is why Misty will only start painting stunning pictures when she seems to be in a great deal of pain and hallucinations. The way Palahniuk writes on about words, that Peter had written on the wall, that seem to tell a story of horrible torture, and of his life as a servant to the elders of Waytensea Island, is ingenious and as the story progresses on, you will find yourself entwined with the book at how the past is talking to Misty, and hoping she is somewhat different, and while hoping the protagonist will win in the end you find yourself feeling terrible as you come to realize that she will never win in this recurring battle with the people of Waytensea Island. All in all, this book is one of the mystifying, intriguing books that will keep you reading and making up little details with what Chuck Palahniuk has written.
Telk me anygood books
I love the gritty details of this story. It made it seem far more real and horrifying than many books in the horror and thriller genres I've read in the year since.
always kept you guessing, very suspenseful! i'm not onto read the rest of his books! well written
Diary is a wonderful novel, filled with great characters that are in an intriguing setting. The main character [Misty] is very complex, and the book gives us a healthy dose of the dark humor and psychological thrills that we've come to expect from Palahniuk. The use of diary entries is very effective in this narrative, as it provides us with intimate scenes without being too cliche. With a classic Palahniuk twist at the end, this book demands the attention of anyone who has an interest in modern fiction.