hey buddy, can you spare a book?

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Book // Chuck Palahniuk – (Coma) Diary

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English version of the review below the Serbian one

Bez obzira na ogromnu popularnost autora i status kultnog pisca koji mu je Borilački Klub doneo, upravo je ovaj roman onaj koji je zadržao pažnju kritičara, ostavljajući druge Palahnjukove radove, uključujući Dnevnik, u svojoj senci. Ipak, Dnevnik je dobio veliku naklonjenost čitalaca. Kada su u pitanju recenzije, mišljenja su bila u umnogome podeljena. Iako je Independent ovo delo nazvao “Najstrašnijom nihilističkom i rezonantnom knjigom Palahnjuka posle Borilačkog Kluba” a Ali Smithom iz Guardian-a, izjavila da je knjiga ostavila “bez daha”, postojale su i recenzije koji su bili daleko manje naklonjene delu. Najkontroverznija među njima bila je ona koju je Laura Miler napisala za Salon.com, i otišla toliko daleko da kaže da je Dnevnik “polu-pečeni nihilizam naduvanog srednjoškolca koji je upravo otkrio Ničea i Nine-Inch Nails”. Ipak, roman je ostao je popularan među Palahnjukovim fanovima, iako još uvek nije toliko popularan kao Borilački Klub.

Kako sam naslov indicira, roman je napisan u obliku dnevnika. Protagonistkinju Misti Vilmot ohrabruje njena svekrva da vodi dnevnik za svog muža Pitera, koji je u komatoznom stanju nakon  pokušaja samoubistva. Stoga, roman nije prvenstveno namenjen širokoj publici, već na neki način upućen samo jednoj osobi. Čitalac biva postepeno obavešten da je priča postavljena na ostrvu Vejtensi, a da Misti sada radi u hotelu koji nosi ime ostrva.

Velika tajna ostrva Vejtansi je da se svake četiri generacije reinkarnacija poznate slikarke Vejtenski slikarske škole, čiji je začetnik Mora Kinkejd, pronađe i dovede na ostrvo, kako bi, kao što je to učinila Mora, stvorila zapanjujuća umetnička dela koja će spasiti ostrvo i osigurati njegovo blagostanje za naredne tri generacije. Svi momci sa ostrva šalju se u umetničke škole širom zemlje u potrazi za ovom reinkarnacijom, i ovog puta, Piter Vilmot je taj koji pronađe  Misti. Nakon što ju je ubedio u svoju ljubav prema njoj, naterao da zatrudni bez njenog pristanka probijanjem rupa u kondomima i bacanjem njenih kontraceptivnih pilula, uspeo je da je dovede na ostrvo sa obećanjem grandioznog života na čarobnom ostrvu, na šta ona pristaje i udaje se za njega. Sada je Piter u komi, celokupno stanovništvo ostrva odseda u Vejtansi hotelu, a sve predivne kuće iznajmljene su “letnjim ljudima”. Misti je srozana na ulogu konobarice u hotelu, vreme provodi u odvratno roze plastičnoj uniformi, konzumirajući velike količine alkohola kako bi zaboravila na ogavnu stvarnost svakog dana, potpuno nesvesna svoje uloge u velikom planu Vejtensi ostrva i njegovih stanovnika.

Kao dete, Misti Meri Klajman, samoproklamovana “white trash” kraljica robova, sanjala je upravo o životu na mestu kao što je ostrvo Vejtensi. Crtala je kuće i male bele drvene ograde, potpuno nesvesna da je to mesto identično Vejtensi ostrvu, a ne samo plod njenih “buržoaskih sanjarenja”. Za Misti, ovo je bila utopija, savršeno nepostojeće mesto gde “niko ne radi ništa drugo osim branja divljih borovnica i održavanja kuće,  gde svaki dan ne počinje sa budilnikom i završava se sa buljenjem u TV”. Po svakoj definiciji, ovo je utopija. Skriveno ostrvo na kom se sve porodice poznaju, kuće su savršene, nema sukoba, svi žive u savršenoj harmoniji, na svetu nema briga. S obzirom da je ovo utopija 21. veka, ljudi koriste trajekt umesto velikog broda da bi došli do njega, ali za devojčicu Misti, utopija je bila kompletna sa imaginarnim putovanjem, pošto takvo mesto ne postoji izvan njene mašte.

Kada  Misti stigne na ostrvo, Vejtensi hotel je zatvoren. Nema  turista i idilični život koji joj je Piter obećao čini se istinitim. Međutim, nakon deset godina braka i jedno dete kasnije, hotel se otvara, svi stanovnici počinju da se useljavaju u njega, iznajmljujući svoje kuće turistima. Život na ostrvu se menja. Misti prelazi iz idiličnog života u lepoj kamenoj kući u plastičnu ružičastu uniformu, konobariše u hotelu, i uništava se velikom količinom alkohola: “Svaki put kada neko zatraži sto pored kamina a potom se žali na dim i toplotu i zatraži novi sto, popij piće. Pogled s prozora, horizont je preplavljen bilbordima lanaca  brze hrane, naočara za sunce, i mnogo toga drugog. U ovom trenutku ostrvo pretrpljava kapitalističku invaziju. Kritika kapitalizma je tema kojoj je Palahjuk izuzetno posvećen. Borilački Klub se vrti oko Mejhem projekta, pokreta koji je napravljen da uništi kapitalistički svetski poredak. Kao što se Orvel plašio totalitarizma, Palahnjuk svoju zabrinutost usmerava na ekvivalent totalitarizma 21. veka, opasnostima kapitalizma i konzumerizma. Kroz lik Misti Palahnjuk izražava svoje gađenje prema ovom sistemu. Jednom raj, ostrvo Vejtensi postalo je manifestacija konzumerizma. Blistavi automobili, špricevi i kondomi na plaži, bilbordi, luksuzni domovi koji nisu “domovi nego investicije”. Oni (autsajderi) imaju domove u Londonu i Hong Kongu. Druga četkica za zube čeka ih u svakoj vremenskoj zoni. Trajekt je išao  jednom u tri dana, a sad ih ide tri do pet puta dnevno: San je mrtav, utopija je uništena. Invazija stranaca nije ograničena na fiktivno ostrvo. Razaranje raja, za razliku od distopijskih pisaca iz prošlosti, ne predstavlja mogućnost izbegavanja  budućnosti, već sadašnju noćnu mora koje su se plašili. Ovo ostrvo, međutim, ima plan da povrati zemlju od onih koji su ga zaprljali, a plan uključuje Misti, iako ona nije svesna svoje uloge. U rukama ostrva, Misti je lutka, alat kojim treba manipulisati kako bi ostrvljani postigli svoje ciljeve. Kao i njeni prethodnici, Misti je da tu da stvori seriju slika koje će, na način na koji neću otkriti kako ne bih pokvarila vaše iskustvo čitanja.

Ovaj roman je nihilističko remek delo, koje se kreće između realnosti, distopije i čak elemenata magičnog realizma. Na neki način, i prema mnogim čitaocima, uključujući i mene, ova knjiga još je bolja i od Borilačkog Kluba, ali možda sam pristrasna jer je ovo jedna od moje dve omiljene knjige ikad napisane. Ako uživate u distopiji i imate barem jednu nihilističku kost u svom telu, volećete ovu knjigu. Ovo je jedno surovo, iskreno, vulgarno i ponekad odbojno delo – baš kao i sam život, ali podignuto na daleko viši nivo. Da li će Misti biti poslušna ili biti u stanju da se spasi i da se vrati svom starom životu u prikolici, nabavite primerak Dnevnika i saznajte. Garantujem da ćete mi biti zahvalni na ovoj preporuci.

Regardless of its author’s enormous popularity and the status of a cult writer that Fight Club acquired him, it is precisely Fight Club that retained the academic critical attention leaving Palahniuk’s other works, including Diary, in its shadow. Nevertheless, Diary received great popular acclaim among Palahniuk’s readership. When it comes to reviewers, the opinions were in diametrical oppositions. While the Independent named it “Palahniuk’s most scarily nihilistic and resonant book since Fight Club” and Ali Smith from the Guardian states it left her “breathless”, there have been reviews that were far less favorable and kind. The most controversial of the reviews was that by Laura Miller for the Salon.com, which went as far as to say that Diary is ”half-baked nihilism of a stoned high school student who has just discovered Nietzsche and Nine-Inch Nails”. Still, it remained a fan-favorite, although still not as popular as Fight Club

As the title indicates, the novel is written in the form of a diary. The protagonist, Misty Wilmot, is encouraged by her mother-in-law to keep a diary for her husband Peter, who is in a state of coma after his attempt at suicide. The novel is thus written by Misty, in the form of a diary, and therefore not primarily intended for a wide readership, but rather addressing one person only.  The reader is gradually informed that the story is set on Waytansea Island, and that Misty is now working at Waytansea hotel.

The great secret of Waytansea Island is that every four generations a reincarnation of the famous Waytansea school painter, Maura Kincaid, is to be found and brought to the island so she can, just as Maura did, produce astonishing works of art that will save the island and secure its well-being for the next three generations. All boys from the island are sent to art schools across the country in search for this reincarnation, and this time, Peter Wilmot is the one to find her in Misty. After convincing her of his love, and impregnating her without her consent by piercing holes in condoms and flushing her contraceptive pills, he manages to bring her to the island and with the promise of a great life on a magical island, she agrees to marry him. Now he is in a coma, the entire population of the island is staying at Waytansea hotel, all the wonderful houses rented out to summer people, and Misty is left waiting tables in a plastic uniform, consuming large amounts of alcohol to forget the reality of each and every day, completely unaware of her role in the great Waytansea scheme.

As a child, Misty Marie Kleinman, the self-proclaimed white trash queen of the slaves, dreamed of living in a place just like Waytansea island. She made drawings of the houses and little picket fences completely unaware that the exact place she was drawing actually existed in reality and not just as a figment of her “bourgeois daydreams”. For Misty, this was utopia, the perfect non-existent place where “nobody works except to pick wild blueberries and keep a house…where every day doesn’t start with an alarm clock and end in television”. By every definition, this is utopia. A remote island on which all the families know each other, the houses are perfect, there are no conflicts, everyone lives in perfect harmony, there is not a care in the world. Given that this is a twenty-first century utopia, people use the ferry instead of a large ship to get to it, but for the little girl Misty, the utopia was complete with an imaginary voyage, since no such place exists beyond her imagination.

When Misty came to the island, the Waytansea hotel was sealed shut. There were no tourists and an idyllic life that Peter promised her seemed to be true. However, ten years into the marriage and one child later, the hotel opens, all the islanders start moving in, having rented their houses to tourists. Life on the island is changing. Misty goes from living in a lovely stone house to wearing a plastic pink uniform, serving tables at the hotel, numbing herself with large amount of alcohol in the process: “Every time someone asks for table nine or ten by the fireplace and then bitches about the smoke and asks for a new table, you take a drink”.Everywhere she looks is polluted by tourists, advertisements, the islanders wearing corporate logos on their T-shirts and baseball hats: “The view outside, the horizon is cluttered with billboards, the same brand names for fast food, sunglasses, tennis shoes, that you see printed on the litter that marks the tide line”. At this point, the island has suffered a capitalist invasion. The criticism of capitalism is a recurrent theme for Palahniuk. The entirety of Fight Club is about Project Mayhem, a movement designed to destroy the capitalist world order. Just as Orwell feared totalitarianism, Palahniuk places his concerns on the twenty-first century equivalent, the dangers of capitalism, consumerism (a set of beliefs and values intended to make people believe that human worth is best ensured and happiness is best achieved in terms of our consumption and possessions). Through the character of Misty Palahniuk conveys his revulsion towards the system. Once a paradise, Waytensea Island has become a manifestation of consumerism. Shiny cars, syringes and condoms on the beach, billboards, luxurious homes that are not “homes but investments. They (the outsiders) have homes in London and Hong Kong. A different toothbrush waits in every time zone, a pile of dirty clothes on every continent”. The ferry used to go to the mainland once every three days, and now it brings these intruders three to five times a day: The dream is dead, the utopia is ruined. The invasion of foreigners is not limited to the fictitious island. There are paradises on earth being polluted every day, reducing the locals to shoe-shiners, waiters and pool-boys. The destruction of paradise is, unlike for dystopian writers of the past, not possibility to avoid in the future, but a present nightmare they had feared This island, however, has a plan to reclaim its land from those soiling it, and the plan includes Misty as its executor, although she is not aware of her role. In the hands of the islanders, Misty is a puppet, a tool to be manipulated in order to achieve their goals. Like her predecessors, Misty is to paint a series of paintings that will, in a way that I will not reveal as to not spoil your reading experience.

This novel is a nihilistic master-piece, bordering between reality, dystopia and even elements of magic realism. In a way, and according to many readers, me included, this book is even better than Fight Club, but I may be biased as this is one of the my two favorite books in the world. If you enjoy dystopia and have at least one nihilistic bone in your body you will love this book. It’s raw, honest, vulgar and even repugnant at times – just like life itself, but on a higher, fiction scale. Whether Misty will comply or be able to save herself and go back to her life, crappy as it was, make sure to grab a copy and find out. I guarantee this will be a read you will not regret.

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