Friday Review: Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

This week I re-read most of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels, so I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to recommend you what I believe to be Chuck’s finest work to date. Or, well, my favorite of his novels.

Diary is the story of Misty Wilmot, a waitress. Yeah, she was once a promising painter, but now she’s just there, not dead yet, but not quite alive either. But when her husband tries to kill himself (and fails), she finds out that she hasn’t yet lost her talent. That’s basically the premise of this story. More or less. Yeah, there’s a plot twist towards the end, ’cause that’s Chuck’s specialty. And yeah, we’ve got strange characters doing strange things in a strange world.

You know what I like most about Palahniuk’s works? Call them transgressive fiction, call them strange, you can believe all you want that he is writing about characters that seem to live in a world outside our own, but the truth is that all of his characters resemble us in so many ways.

Without trying to sound too melodramatic, in a way we’re all broken. We all have our faults, our quirks, our sins, our strange habits. To some extend, neither one of us is normal.

And Palahniuk does a fine job at describing this world. In a way, he’s some sort of modern day Kafka. His fiction is not about the terrible things he describes, about the blood and the guts and the poison inside our soul, it’s about the fact that even though his characters are suspended in a world just outside your own, that world is terrifyingly close to yours.

I also love Diary for the questions it raises. What is art? What is inspiration? What’s the role of the artist in the world? And, finally, and  most probably the most poignant question: if you create something beautiful, what are you supposed to do with it?

“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.”

And Palahniuk takes apart all those bits, showing us what people are made of.

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”

My favorite quote ever. Nothing else to say.

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48 comments on “Friday Review: Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

  1. Chatter says:

    Thank you. He is one of my favorite of the new literary talents. Choke and fight club both still really stand out.

  2. love that quote too and your book review is very comprehensive

  3. Cat Forsley says:

    great book ——-love all he writes .

  4. Elaine says:

    Favorite Chuck Palahniuk quote ever! My favorite Palahniuk novel is Rant. After Snuff, everthing went meh, to be honest.

  5. Sounds like a good book, will check it out in Amazon, thanks!

  6. I haven't read 'Diary' yet! I need to. My favourite of his books that I've read is 'Invisible Monsters', because it speaks to that need of every person to be acknowledged, validated, by other people; and the fear of it not happening.

    • Yeah, Invisible Monsters. That opening scene is just brilliant.

      • What sticks with me is her ambivalent feelings towards her evil ex (we've all been there), and that paragraph that ends with the words 'Oh, love me, love me, love me, love me, love me.'

        And towards the end it has more twists than a road in *insert country of your choice that is noted for twisty roads*. Love Palahniuk. I need to finish 'Haunted'… I started reading it a while ago, got to the story of Saint Gut-Free, and put the book down until I could read it again without feeling sick.

    • NMW23 says:

      My favorite too.

  7. Linda Thorlakson says:

    Your description of this book leaves me wondering why I'm spending my time writing when I could be reading books like this instead! (and blogs like yours).

  8. One of my favorite authors. When I grow up as a writer, I'd like to be like Chuck Palahniuk. Off the wall and on the mark.

  9. Though I don't read novels, but business books and biographies. I will make sure I read this one.

  10. epicipseity says:

    I used to want to meet Kurt, and then he died. He made me want to do something ridiculous and meaningful.

    I used to want to be Chuck, and then I met him. He made me want to be me.

    Invisible Monsters is still unseated as my favorite. Diary uses a palette I'm not fond of, but that doesn't mean I don't think its a fantastic novel.

  11. Tina T. says:

    I don't read often, but I LOVE Chuck Palahniuk's books. Loved Choke and Invisible Monsters. Diary is one of his works I haven't gotten to yet, thanks for your review!

  12. N.T. Wiliams says:

    I have been meaning to read Palahniuk's other works, since I have only read Fight Club, which I was disappointed in; however, my favorite part about that book was his literary influences and references when he incorportates the poem Ozymandias.

    What are some of his other better works beside Diary?

  13. bgbgbgbg says:

    Your review convinces me I should read some of Palahniuk's early stuff! Thanx, bgbg

  14. chr1 says:

    Thanks for putting this up.

  15. meridabill says:

    Thanks for the review and the quote from his work. I have to read his stuff. Anybody read or reading "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" by Ben Fountain. He nails America and makes you laugh at the USA. Kind of necessary especially if you were born there as I was and it's become the corporate monster Marx predicted.

  16. yomicfit says:

    Sounds like a great read!

  17. I'm sold, I'll give this book a read. :)

  18. Debbie Bec says:

    "…we’re all broken. We all have our faults, our quirks, our sins, our strange habits. To some extend, neither one of us is normal."

    So true, Cristian. Insightful review. Thank you.

  19. artzent says:

    It is a fantastic novel! Thank you Cristian!

  20. Larry Who says:

    In one cartoon strip of "Bloom County," two little boys were lying on a hill, looking up at the clouds in the sky. Oliver Wendell Homes explains about the scientific differences between cumulus and the other clouds. Then Oliver said to little Michael, "What do you see when you look at the clouds?" Little Michael said, "I see horsies and cowies."

    I'm like Michael when I read novels because I'm not that deep and simply see the story. I don't care if Chuck Palahniuk or Elmore Leonard writes the story, it has to keep me involved and moving along with it.

    Good review.

  21. kelihasablog says:

    Yep… "Nothing else to say"….

  22. That is an awesome quote!

  23. ldgrant says:

    I have a preference for early American lit, but my friend gave me this book for my birthday this summer and I loved it. Fight Club was great, but this book is phenomenal. I particularly liked the daily weather reports… "The weather today is partly angry, leading to resignation and ultimatums." Nice review.

  24. frequentneed says:

    Chuck is one of my favorite authors, Diary was wonderful

  25. frequentneed says:

    “On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

    ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

    My father passed away a couple of years ago and this actually helped me get life into perspective during that time

  26. The book sounds interesting. I'm going to have to get a copy. I've seen the quote before but didn't know it was his. Thanks for the review.

  27. Great book, although I do think "Survivor" and "Haunted" are tied for my favorite Chuck P. novels. His voice is consistently haunting though, in a good way.

  28. For some reason it always takes me much longer to read a Palahniuk novel than any other, but I think the reason why is because his stuff is so intricate and his characters are fantastic. The chapters stick with me for a few days before I even think about continuing. (I've been reading Diary for a month now…) My favorites have to be Lullaby and Invisible Monsters.

  29. Alissa says:

    This is my favorite Pahlaniuk novel, too! = )

  30. Eric says:

    This is a strange coincidence.

    I'm working on a piece for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and, out of curiosity, I submitted what I had to the "I Write Like" website that analyses your writing style and tells you who you write like. My result: Chuck Palahniuk.

    I didn't know who he was, but I looked him up. (Fight Club – yeah, heard of that) And now I find this review of his new book. Okay, I can take a hint. I'll go read some Chuck Palahniuk books.

  31. arnoldthearmadillo says:

    Looks good, I will check it out

  32. Will definitely be checking out his work

  33. What is art? What is inspiration? What’s the role of the artist in the world? And, finally, and most probably the most poignant question: if you create something beautiful, what are you supposed to do with it? These are the questions we must ask and answer over and over!

  34. Allen says:

    Totally forgot how great that book is. Favorite besides Fight Club, tho, is Haunted.

  35. I read an article about a local woman, a retired art teacher, who created beautiful art quilts. When she was asked about where she keeps them all. her response was – hanging in a closet or my children take them.

    Personally, I need more wall space, because what I create, I hang on my walls. If I create something that is in fact an expression of who I am, I don't want to put it away. I want it to be with me.

  36. ClewisWrites says:

    He really is one of the best writers of our time!

  37. Great review of a great book. Always enjoy your blog.

  38. I also love the raw truths of Pahlaniuk's stories.

  39. Greg Gelb says:

    I have yet to read a book by this author but after your review I am going to buy it! Thanks for the follow and keep up the great blog! I enjoy your reviews and style of writing!

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