on January 11, 2004
For those browsing through all of these reviews here and looking at the surprising number of poor reviews for it, I just wanted to post a quick review to add my agreement that this is easily Chuck's worst book and also probably one of the worst books I've ever read.
Please understand that I am a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk. I live in the Portland area and never miss him when I have a chance to go and see him talk and sign, and I have read all of his books. My favorites are Fight Club, Survivor, Fugitives And Refugees and Lullaby...I'm not a huge fan of Invisible Monsters or Choke but they both have their unique charms and are entirely readable. He's a talented writer and an all-around great guy, but if this book had been his first then nobody would know who he was. In fact, I would go so far as to say he never would have been published.
This book, from start to finish, is BARELY readable. Just to make it as straightforward as possible, I'll organize my major problems with the book point by point...(It's worth noting that the remainder of this review contains very minor spoilers...I'll keep them as light as possible)
-The book is really poorly organized. While I do appreciate an author's need to try different things and push the boundaries of their craft, Diary turns out to be a case study in why your Fiction Writing 101 teacher told you to never, ever change perspective mid-story. Once you have a perspective established, you stick to it. From sentence to sentence (for the first 3/4 of the book, anyway, a point at which Chuck seems to forget about what he was trying to do or just stops caring, and switches almost entirely to 3rd person), perspective changes back and forth...often, statements are repeated to the point of redundancy from different perspectives. It makes for a fairly jarring (and boring) reading experience.
-I got the impression several times that Chuck was trying to tell two stories at the same time, and the result is a confusing mess. On the one hand, we have the very genuine mourning and depression of Misty Marie, who is trying to recover from some very serious traumatic events that happened off-stage before the start of the book. On the other, we have the absolutely ridiculous "fairy tale" aspect of Waytansea island. The theme of both of these stories clashes horribly, never really meshing and never really working.
-Speaking of the fairy tale bits...these tend to dominate the latter half of the book. Chuck stretches way, way beyond reasonable expectations for the reader to suspend disbelief. When you finally get to the point of the book when the revelations begin to trickle down, and the protagonist tries desperately to fight against what's happening to her, you'll be saying "Give me a break!" more often than you'd probably like. Virtually everything that happens once we get into the climax doesn't make any sense at all. I am sorely tempted to point out specific examples, so ridiculous, unbelievable and poorly constructed/thought-out are the climactic events of the book, but I hate heavy spoilers in reviews so I'll restrain myself.
-The ending. THE ENDING. The last five or ten pages of this book, ESPECIALLY the last page, has got to be the dumbest, most derivative ending I've ever sat through. What a COP-OUT!!! I'll just say this: if you DO pick up this book, you're going to go through it hoping that, on some level, Palahniuk is going to deliver at some point...turn things around. All you will feel after reading that incredibly stupid final page will be disappointment, frustration and anger at yourself for sticking with it for no reason. There ain't no pay-off, folks!
What isn't a confusing mess or a bizarre and stupid "curse" story is paint-by-numbers Palahniuk that any one of his fans could throw together without any help from the author. You've got your heavily repeated statements to drive his point home. His over-eagerness to share useless trivia he acquired while researching the book. His fragmented sentences and overly short chapter breaks. All things that are charming and amusing in his other books, but here they feel forced and pointless. It's almost as though Palahniuk is satirizing himself.
In short, what we have here is easily the worst of Palahniuk books, and also one of the lamest ducks in modern American literature. If you're a Palahniuk fan, you've probably already read it and drawn your conclusions. If you've never read him before, or you aren't a fan of the man's entire catalog, avoid at all costs! ANY of Palahniuk's other work stands head and shoulders above this drudgery!
on November 24, 2003
It is often said that the publishing world is a difficult field to enter.
Quite the contrary. "Chuck Palahniuk"'s DIARY proves that absolutely anyone can publish absolutely anything.
The author is a very average, very typical human being who worked as a diesel mechanic and thought, like many others like him, that it would be "cool" to be a writer. He ripped off the ideas of fellow Oregonian John Zerzan and put them in a book called FIGHT CLUB and achieved notoriety when the novel was made into a flashy and interesting Hollywood film that is far better than its source material.
DIARY demonstrates, even to his die-hard fans, that Palahniuk is a man of limited linguistic ability and limited intelligence.
There is nothing profound with DIARY's repetitive assertion that "everything's a diary." What Palahniuk means by this is that all writing refers back to the life of the author. This, by the way, is the book's "meaning" and "main theme." Yes, the book is really that stupid and trite.
With the greatest prentiousness and arrogance, the subeducated author throws references into DIARY that any first-year college undergraduate would pick up on with ease. And he throws out these references as if they were erudite!!!! And he misunderstands them (take, for example, his butchering of Plato's allegory of the cave)!
Palahniuk thinks, in DIARY, that Athena is the goddess of love (!!!!).
Along the way, there are also frequent references to excrement. Is this self-referencing at work?
DIARY would have been better titled AMATEUR NIGHT AT TARZAN'S BAR AND GRILL.
on October 29, 2003
I've been a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk's work, but this book did much to diminish that respect.
At 260 pages, this is a short book to begin with. When you account for the chapter breaks every three or four pages, all the one-sentence paragraphs, all the sentences and phrases that are repeated over and over throughout the book, I would bet there is little more than 100 pages of real writing in this "story." That's not absolutely a bad thing, less is more in my book, but nothing is still nothing, no matter if it's stretched across 50 pages or 500.
Though a hardcover, it is not much bigger than a paperback in size. If it were printed on the same paper size as most real novels, using a similar typeface and elminiting all the repetition, this book might only amount to about 50 pages. If IKEA published books, they would be like "Diary;" sleek, cute, apartment sized and with a core made of recycled sawdust.
The big disappointment is that this book is not funny. It is completey lacking the wonderful wit that spices most of Chuck's work. The characters are universally unlikable, especially the main character, a fat, self-pitying drunk who is called by different variations of her full name which is poor little Misty Marie Kleinman Wilmot. So you get poor little Misty, Misty Marie Wilmot, Misty Kleinmen, poor little Misty Kleinman, etc. There is little more depth to her character than her names and the ongoing litany of how she has suffered at the hands of her husband, her in-laws and life in general.
The book flips back and forth between second and third person which is confusing and annoying, but perhaps understandable given that Misty does not seem to have a self. That might explain why she can be talking "to" somebody at the same time that she's talking "about" them.
Palahniuk tries to weave some Plato, Carl Young and art trivia into the story but again, most of it seems like useless filler that just won't come together at the end, no matter how hard the author tries to pretend that it does.
It took me about two months to get through this book, even given its short length. It never grabbed me, and was hard work all the way. I began dreading picking it up. It was painful. I kept expecting it to kick in and excite me like so much of Chuck's other work. It never did. It was almost as if somebody other than Palahniuk wrote it.
It's by far the worst thing I've read by Chuck and maybe the worst I've ever read.
on October 3, 2003
Look at the photo of Chuck Palahniuk on the back flap of "Diary," his new novel. The prospective reader can see a man who's confident in his talent, but unpretentious and affable--the face of a popular contemporary writer who is not full of himself. But what can also be seen is a facial expression that signifies a disappointed, even apologetic look, almost as if he's telepathically communicating to us: "I'm really sorry about this. I promise my next book will be better."
I should've realized this earlier and heeded the man's psychic advice.
As a fan of Palahniuk's prose (though I don't care much for his third-act narrative twists), I was, of course, happy to discover his new novel...and was considerably less happy once I battled through the printed anasthesia of this book. If this marks Palahniuk's initiation into the much-coveted "2-tome-a-year" club, it's not an encouraging sign for his future output. "Diary" is a novel stripped of the author's wit and satire, which is traded for a mostly sober tone, and the effect this has on the narrative is stultifying ("Just for the record, today's weather calls for a $25 paperweight with scattered passages of inspiration"). It's a novel filled with unexciting characters who do kooky things that fail to arouse much interest. The plot rips off a good (but forgotten) horror film from the 1980s called "Dead & Buried", but is rendered with a flatness that makes it a chore to read. After an extremely boring first half, Palahniuk manages a few glimmers of his humor and 'matter-of-fact' commentary, before diving into banality that persists until the very last page. Is there a narrative twist in the third act this time around? Dulled by the experience of reading this, I could hardly tell--that's how bad "Diary" is.
on September 2, 2003
As if the blatant references to "Rosemary's Baby" and even the NBC TV movie "Bay Coven," which starred Susan Rutan of "LA Law" fame, weren't enough! Does Palahniuk really need to add to the mix a lapsed Thomas Kinciad-esque painter/single mother who goes out of her way to ignore obvious signs of sketchiness? If you can forgive the author his lame-brained life insurance policy scheme, an unexplained father in law, a "heroine" with a penchant for gaudy costume jewelry, and other simplistic plot/character devices, this book might be for you. But don't think too hard...the story completely falls apart if you give it a second thought. At best--and at worst--its an amateurish look at materialism/consumerism through the eyes of yet another (potentially) unreliable narrator.
on November 5, 2003
Chuck can usually make even the most derivative plot cliches seem fresh (a poem that kills people when you read it out loud, anyone?), and his sharp, acerbic writing style more than masks his thin plotting, but Diary is uninspired and pointless. Gone is his astute social commentary, gone is the wit and humor, gone are the twisty plot developments. All we have left here are a few undeveloped ideas and a story that goes nowhere interesting. It reads like Stephen King during his alcoholic phase and doesn't even bother to build to a climax. If you want a recommendation, read Lullaby instead, which at least went for broke in its bleak nihilism and had more than a few moments of inspired brilliance.
on September 30, 2003
Reading this book is a bit like being repeatedly clubbed on the head, and I don't mean that as a compliment. If you are going to repeat the same sentence twenty times, at least pick a good one. Also irritating is Palahniuk's penchant for displaying his dimestore erudition, especially since he makes several rather glaring factual errors. If you are looking for a good book about painting, take a look at Maugham's "The Moon and Sixpence" or Robertson Davies' "What's Bred in the Bone." (Robertson Davies also actually knows how to do research.) Don't bother with this crap.
on September 24, 2003
This was possibly the worst book I have ever read. Against better judgement, having read "Choke" by Palahaniuk, I snatched this book from the shelf because of what seemed like a good plot. From the first page, I found myself bored with the diary of a hysterical wife who drools on about her pittiful existance. Palahaniuk takes a huge break from reality with a bizarre story that the reader assumes will tie itself together at the end but fails to do so.
on October 6, 2003
I have no idea how this book has maintained an overall rating of 4 stars. It is easily his worst book. I loved the ALL of Chuck's prior work. It read like he was forced to write this at gun point. I couldn't have been less interested in the story or characters. I kept hoping for a chuck-type twist that would make my time reading the book worthwhile. Sorry, didn't happen. Don't buy it.
on June 13, 2004
Like all the other fans, I have read every other Chuck novel, and liked them, each in their own way (Invisible Monsters is by far my favorite). Like them, I was waiting desperately for a twist that would make Diary at least a 3 star novel... it never came. I bought this novel when it first came out, as soon as it hit the shelves... from now on, I'll wait for paperback.