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.


John Vondracek said...

oh noooooo! I am a HUUUGE CP fan and even IIIII don't like "diary"

I would have WARNED you!!!!! read "Haunted" or "Survivor" or "Choke"

I'm so sorry you had such a bad first time...

:) Big Red

geoff said...

That's why he gets another shot--I should have gone with your recommendation, which I bought at the same time (Lullaby is the one with the disturbing short stories, right?).

We missed American Hardcore, too. Tried to co-ordinate a night to see it with other people who'd planned on the premiere, but that pesky weekend jump threw everyone out of whack.

john Vondracek said...

nooo... lullaby is just so-so too haunted is the short stories one

yeah, I was sooooo sad about the weekend jump... even a week LATER would have been better than a week earlier

I was really pissed off and just plain sad. oh welll.. that's life.... the DVD release should be pretty sweet though!

geoff said...

Haunted, that's the one you told me about in Rehoboth. I'm going to return Diary to B&N and exchange it.