on August 16, 2008
This review is mostly a counter argument for some of the other reviews I've read for this work. I think the people who read Palahniuk for the gut wrenchingly horrifying and morbidly twisted, yet incredibly imaginative plot lines will be somewhat disappointed with this novel. It's not the most visceral of his works. Then again, a lot of people criticize him for focusing too much on just grossing people out, but claim that his books have no substance. So, this book will definitely prove those people wrong.
I see how people could feel that this story falls considerably short of what they expect from Palahniuk. And short isn't the right word, because that has negative connotations. Maybe it falls to the right, or to the left, or maybe even higher than people's expectations (if you look in the right places). Usually his stories leave your head spinning with their absolute insanity, whereas this one kind of just leaves you humming to yourself and thinking it's all a little absurd, but not even that interesting. On the surface that is.
If you look at the story more metaphorically, and look at what the events that are taking place say about society, love, life it actually is quite interesting. If you have a familiarity with the works of Plato I think you will have fun with this book. He is referenced by name several times, but people who know his work will recognize tons of his ideas worked in. I found it intriguing the way ideas that have been around for thousands of years were worked into modern times and proved to be relevant and socially significant for the present day.
I think this book merely doesn't cater as well to thrill-seekers as much as, say, Choke or Haunted, which is definitely a huge part of Palhniuk's audience. I still think this is a pretty good book, though. It has a lot to say about humanity's conception of immortality, and the things we are willing to sacrifice to obtain it, as well as modern value systems.
I feel unable to put in words everything that is going on in this novel, especially without using examples and giving major spoilers but I think a lot of the negative reviews cater to a specific kind of Palahniuk fan, but there are still plenty of others that would love this book and find it really brilliant.
on March 26, 2011
Diary is one of Palahniuk's best books. It's a surprising book about life, art, and hope. I LOVED it.
on August 27, 2003
I anxiouslly awaited the realese of Palahniuk's sixth novel, after being enchanted by the first five I expected the same for Diary, well it didn't happen. I never thought I would say this about Chuck Palahniuk's work, but this was awful. It went nowhere for about three quarters of the novel, it seemed like I was rereading the same chapter for 200+ pages. There were no characters in the book that were remotely interesting, nor did I care what happened to them. There isn't much to sumarise because there isn't enough context to eleborate on whats written in the dust-jacket. I'm hoping that his next novel makes up for Diary. To fans of Palahniuk, I'd wait for the paper-back.
on January 14, 2006
Perhaps it was my fault for reading two novels consecutively by the same author. After enjoying Lullaby, I just could not see what made this book unique. Palahniuk's style shocked at first, but a book driven solely on the visceral fails to hold attention after the initial reaction has expired. Palahniuk pounds the narrator's emotion into print, chapter after chapter, but the story itself had little to say. The wealthy capitalists are manipulative and hollow... we get it, Chuck. Art derives from pain... we get it, Chuck. I found myself frustrated that I'd been taken on a very indirect rout to nowhere.
on September 8, 2003
Overall, Diary was very good. However, it was somewhat disappointing considering the masterpieces Palahniuk has written in the past. Obviously, it was infinitely better than Laura Miller said it was in her scathing salon.com review (look at me, I write for salon.com and can say whatever I want even if it's not true at all). While I would recommend the book to a fan of Palahniuk, it surely wouldn't be the first I'd recommend to someone who hadn't read him (that would be Survivor or Fight Club, of course).
For the first 38 pages or so, I was completely lost. I had no idea what was going on. Then in a few pages all the basic things are explained. I then reread the first 38 pages again and everything made perfect sense. I don't know why it was written like this, perhaps so you pay attention to the atmosphere and details, instead of merely absorbing plot details (like that's ever a problem with one of Palahniuk's books), and while these opening pages were well written and filled with great stuff, it was still annoying, even if in the end it led to a greater appreciation. I didn't care for the supernatural stuff, and the repetition stuff seemed especially repetitive, without being as insightful as in previous books. The ideas on where we get our inspiration were very interesting, but that's about it.
I found the use of the 2nd person to be refreshing, although I don't know how women readers would like this, since "you" are a comatose male (this is revealed shortly after page 38, so it's not a spoiler, and knowing that makes the first 38 pages much more intelligible on the first read). It's not until the very last page that all the pieces of Palahniuk's idea are revealed, and I think while his execution is less than perfect (but still very good), you have to appreciate the completeness to which the idea was used and executed.
Diary is a very good book that I recommend. I rate it near Invisible Monsters, Lullaby, somewhere below Survivor and Fight Club, but above Choke.
on July 9, 2006
Today, the reader from Harrisburg finished Chuck's novel "Diary." The novel that never really convinced him was a diary, as it never stooped to that convention of writing in the first person. He read the awkward switching from third person to second person in Chuck's novel.
Your novel, Chuck.
Apparently, you are in some sort of ironic writer's coma. He is. You are. See how disconcerting this can be, carried out over 250 plus pages of his novel?
Your novel, Chuck?
If you removed all the third-to-second person clarification prose, this job drops an easy 50 pages. Take out all the adipose ramblings of subcutaneous fat and musculataure, which begin cute and end tedious, maybe we're down to a tight novella, Chuck. You are. He is.
In the middle, his novel picks up something resembling dramatic steam. He stayed the impulse to throw the book aside, half-read, Chuck. Your reader, the guy from Harrisburg. But nothing too awfully surprising happens on Waytansea Island. He, your reader, just waits and sees that you have some clever almost Nietzschean idea of eternal return and artistic hell. Did he, I mean you, Chuck, the writer of this poorly executed novel, intend some statement about artistic sacrifice? Or did he, you, I mean, intend just a good read? Because on the latter you failed, and on the former, you failed, and about the best I can summon is that you meant well, and you aren't Danielle Steele or that basic ilk.
My impression was that in picking up a Palahniuk novel, my first Palahniuk novel, his first Palahniuk novel -- your novel, Chuck -- I'd find crisp writing, challenging plot developments, and a refreshing, even bracing worldview.
Instead, he found a tendency to repeat phrases about "What you don't understand you can make mean anything" and suchlike drivel. Why didn't he simply say "What I couldn't write, maybe you can just go think up and attribute to me?"
Why didn't you, Chuck?
Because his characters never come alive. They seem like exercises best left in notebooks.
Your characters, Chuck. Misty, Peter, Tabbi, Grace. Harrow. Angel. Oh, I can name them, but ask me again in a week. Ask him again, and he'll have forgotten them. He will. I will. Me. The reader. Remember the reader, Chuck? Chuck, that rhymes with "buck," that comes from movie rights to half-hearted attempts to replicate the vigor of "Fight Club?"
Caveat emptor. No more will I read his novels. Your novels, Chuck. Even if you awake from your coma to read my diary of your "Diary." His "Diary." Your sloppily written, flimsy dreck that should only garner one Amazon star but for the fact that worse writing does exist, sadly.
When he finished your book, Chuck, the reader from Harrisburg threw it aside and took a nap. The nap was good, at least. Later, he wrote a review on Amazon. About your book. I did. About your book. Blecch.
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.
I bow down to Palahniuk and his absolutely perfect use of 'You' in the telling of this story. He pulls the point of view off beautifully and the direction of reference is placed toward the intended audience, the coma ridden Peter Wilmot. An impressive and original piece of work that again sticks with you long after you read the last sentence. I found myself still pondering different parts of the story for days and marveling at the gutty grit with which so many issues and themes are revealed. After reading a Palahniuk tale, you can't help but look at humanity with eyes wide open and see all the wonderful, shocking and often laughable flaws. Each story is a social experiment that leaves the reader stunned, horrified and thankful that someone has the tenacity to be honest. I loved it! This excerpt says it all and resonated so strongly for me that I had to highlight it. We don't learn from happy, sweet stories or events -- unfortunately, we must be scarred.
"It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace."
Palahniuk will not appeal to everyone. This isn't necessarily a flaw, but a reality for most authors. He has a cult-like loyal fan base but may not attract a large demographic especially across the age gap. However, if you have an open mind and crave something original, I say give it a try. Nonetheless, whether you love Palahniuk or not, you won't easily forget the experience.
Bitsy Rating: 5 Stars
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 August 29, 2003
Being an avid read of Chuck Palahniuk I became addicted to his writing after reading Survivor and quickly bought each of his other four novels (Fight Club, Choke, Invisiable Monsters & Lullaby) and was equally impressed by all of them. I was expecting the same experience from his sixth novel Diary, but I was wrong. This is awful, I hate to say it but it's true. The above summary basiclly explains the whole book being that the book seems to repeat itself and goes nowhere. The narrator, Misty Wilmont, isn't enough to carry the book. By the end of the book you don't care about any of the characters, nor what happens to them. The climax is stolen from a movies that probally everyone has seen about 12 times. Just a bit of advice, if you're going to steal a scene from a movie at least take it from a B-List or Indepentant film that all of America hasn't seen time and time again (and I'm not talking about Rosemary's Baby). I was far from impressed or entertained by this book, hopefully his next book is up to per with his first five, sorry Chuck.