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An Underachiever's Diary: A Novel Paperback – July 28, 2009


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An Underachiever's Diary: A Novel + Too Good to Be True: A Memoir
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (July 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385343043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385343046
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.4 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Recalls Frederick Exley’s masterpiece of the genre, A Fan’s Notes.” —New York Times Book Review

“I would be proud of myself if I ever underachieved so brilliantly.” —Ann Beattie

"The book's veils of irony are light enough to charm even the coolest reader, and its emotional details, particularly those of William's bond with his faultless brother, ring true."—The New Yorker

"Fantastic...A fun, funny book."—Detroit Free Press

“Very funny . . . A masterpiece of controlled failure in which the narrator fails to deliver on every front.” —New York Post

“From the first paragraph, Benjamin Anastas has got you.” —Thomas Mallon

About the Author

Benjamin Anastas is the author of The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, Men's Vogue, and GQ.

More About the Author

Benjamin Anastas is the author of the novels "An Underachiever's Diary," recently re-released in paperback by the Dial Press, and "The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance" (FSG), which was a New York Times notable book. His memoir "Too Good to Be True" was published in October of 2012. Other work has appeared in The Paris Review, Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, Bookforum, The Yale Review and The Best American Essays 2012. He teaches literature at Bennington College and is also on the core faculty of the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Customer Reviews

This book though, is a good read, period.
joanthan6shipley@yahoo.com
I know they tell writers these days to "write about what you know;" too bad they don't also stress the injunction to "make sure you have something to say."
Caraculiambro
The cover of this book is what first drew me in to it; so dull to be so full of brilliance.
Joey Miller (mjmiller@olemiss.edu)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 14, 1998
Format: Hardcover
An Underachiever's Diary was a very good novel. Not since Catcher in the Rye have I had so much fun reading a novel. I never wanted to stop reading it. The book is about a young man named William, who is a complete loser throughout his whole life and trys his best to not be in the shadow of his own younger twin brother Clive, who is a very successful person. The sad thing is that William has had bad luck ever since his birth in the hospital room. It is funny, however, how he never tries to become like his brother even though he idolizes him and just when things start to go right for him, he gets messed up again. He is like a modernized Holden Caulfield. Overall, this is a very good book to read and I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joey Miller (mjmiller@olemiss.edu) on April 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The cover of this book is what first drew me in to it; so dull to be so full of brilliance. A very easy read, it is a wonderfully compelling book, which managed to make me laugh, then feel sad for poor William, and then turn around and cheer for him in the end, hoping that he really does become the greatest underachiever in the world. I disagree entirely with Kirkus. The story does not need a plot, but stands alone as a simple monologue, reminiscent, perhaps, of Kerouac's free form. The "moral" or the story is what's truly important. I must say, it is one of the most refreshing books i have read in a long while. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Anastas' work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yours Truly VINE VOICE on December 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this novel after I read Anastas' memoir, Too Good to Be True, which mines some of the same themes. He f***s up totally in the memoir, and I liked that better. The problem with the novel for me was that the theme of being an underachiever got tired, even in a short novel.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Benjamin Anastas' story is hysterically witty, and finally somebody as insane as this author can spit out a quality story in modern and uniquely 21st century style of language, with enough philosophy to make reading the book worth it. The book cannot possibly take anybody more than two days to read - unless your sense of humor is as idiotic as television sitcoms, or you're too busy seeking out meaningless goals: the exact type of personalities Anastas rips to shreds with his gift of story telling. There is a certain desire to identify with the main character, yet on the same hand it frieghtens you, because he is flawed to a degree you've never opened your own eyes to. Don't read this book if you can act poised through a bad highschool play performance, if you've ever thanked 'God' in an acceptance speech of any sort, or if you're drawing conclusions about me based on this review. It's for a different 'type' of person! You'll see how Anastas paints these different 'types' of people, and you'll think it's cruel, funny, and very true. Note his keen East Coast attitude, and his recollection of many boyhood experiences familiar to anybody who was raised on that side of the continent. Also, note how the protagonist's journey to adulthood leads him to California, on the other side of the country, yet spiritually and mentally he never grows or matures, taking hedonistic pleasure in obscene mediocrity. The book is so much fun, and look for anything else you can get your hands on by this author. (Then send it to me!)
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
this debut novella leaves the reader shaking with laughter and shaking their head at the audacity of the writer. It's a quick, sharp, hilarious read that takes no prisoners, pulls no punches, and leaves no moment alone--all is fair game in the life of the Hapless narrator. A pleasure.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Caraculiambro on May 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I had been wanting to read this book for about five years for one reason: I had repeatedly heard it referred to as being comparable with Frederick Exley's brilliant and searing "A Fan's Notes," a volume I respect like few others. Yesterday I finally got around to it.

This is not just my imagination. The similarity is pushed by the publisher itself: for example, the only thing that appears on the white cover besides the title and name of the author is a quote where the NYT's book reviewer compares the thing to Exley's work. And if that doesn't make the point clear, the "bio blurb" on the inside back cover additionally informs you that the author has won GQ's Frederick Exley prize for fiction.

Well, "An Underachiever's Diary" is a major letdown, folks. If Anastas has been, as he claims, underachieving all his life, then he is in full form with this production, itself a massive underachievement throughout. Exley was enormously well-read, led a life of harrowing misery, and could write like an angel. Anastas sports a smattering of learning, has dropped out of life largely because of self-pity, and cannot seem to craft a memorable character or even sequence.

With these shortcomings in mind, Anastas would have been wise to ask his publisher to tone down the whole comparison thing with Exley.

I kept waiting for the book to take off, to get the point where something incredible, horrid, or at least entertaining happened to Anastas. But page after page saw him doing nothing but envying his twin brother and bumming around the country. I know they tell writers these days to "write about what you know;" too bad they don't also stress the injunction to "make sure you have something to say.
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