Today’s post for TheMidnightMuse reminded me of this gem of a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, who is probably the literary equivalent of a method actor. He meticulously researches his books.
But this novel is different. This one’s about the artistic process, one I think this author is both familiar with and also terribly good at explaining it.
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.