Diary: A NOVEL by Chuck Palahniuk (Doubleday), 272 pages, $35.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Chuck Palahniuk (fight club, invisible Monsters) admits that you can't be an angry young man forever. In his new book, he's toned down his postmodern angst and wry social satire to write a 21st-century horror story. Diary takes the form of a "coma diary" kept by Misty Wilmot while her husband Peter lies senseless in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt. After getting pregnant, Misty quit art school to marry Peter, a construction contractor who quickly moved them to the once quaint Waytansea Island, which is now overrun with tourists. Reduced to working as a maid in the island's resort hotel, Misty has given up her dreams of becoming a great artist.
With her life in the toilet and her husband in a coma, Misty starts receiving messages from angry homeowners Peter worked for pre-coma. He's hidden entire rooms, and inside them scrawled vile and threatening messages. Although Misty dismisses them as the crazy rants of a husband she doesn't really know, they are ominous clues to a mystery.
Facing more lawsuits than Enron, she locks herself in her room and begins painting again, obsessively. But each new canvas is taken from the room by island residents now suspiciously interested in Misty's work.
Like his previous books, Diary is packed with trivia and written with the same insistent rhythms, but it's more concerned with storytelling than with social commentary. Don't blame Palahniuk for that, especially since this is such a good story.
The name Waytansea is a nod to Diary's pacing. Fight Club jumps right into the action and never lets up, but Diary develops slowly, dropping clues as the story darkens toward its pitch-black climax.
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