Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
People, places, towns, and islands: all of these are haunted in Diary. Chuck Palahniuk is well-known for his transgressive writing, and this novel came in for harsh criticism on publication, though the book was appreciated by many readers. Looking past the buzz and scorn, Diary is a strange, disturbing, and engaging novel.
The story centers on Misty Marie Wilmot, whose husband Peter recently failed at a suicide attempt, ending up insensate in the hospital. The lives of almost every character in this story are falling apart, and everyone is in some kind of coma or another. The plot would resemble that of a horror novel if graphed on a chart, and Palahniuk has even referred to the novel as such, but calling Diary a horror novel is not unlike calling Crime and Punishment a thriller. While the structure and events are familiar--from boarded up rooms to uncanny skills and curses passed down the years--the author embroiders them with penetrating portraits of people at extremes, determining what they are willing to do in order to save what they love, and how much suffering is necessary to create art.