Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Palahniuk has been recommended to me so many times over the last decade that it's become a given at parties--somebody I meet for the first time is going to recommend one of his novels. This never fails.
I thought the film Fight Club was great fun, even though the alter-ego was handled a bit transparently, so when I did settle down to read my first Palahniuk I was eager to do so.
Diary was terrible, however. I didn't like the voice, the structure, the ham-handed way the novel turned now and again into a lecture on art history or Carl Jung or chemistry (note to novelists--it's possible to incorporate such material into the narrative rather than turning your narrative into an expository text several times). By the half-way point I was unamused, by the two-thirds point I was obligated to finish and bored by the entire affair.
Distill Diary down to its purest essence and you get Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, which is far creepier, far more elegant, and doesn't try to do too much. I think Palahniuk's book suffers from an overabundance of purposes--he wants it to be political, he wants it to be social commentary, he wants it to be a horror novel, he wants to show off his knowledge of art history, and he wants people to think that Jung for Dummies book he flipped through makes him an expert on psychoanalysis. Certainly it's possible to do so many things with a single novel; Pynchon, Gaddis, and Gass are only a few who've done so. I found Diary a mostly annoying rehash of The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby. I'll give Chuck another shot--but only one more.