My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A delightful romp of narcissism and nihilistic philosophy that represents an early high point of Palahniuk’s career, however it does have a couple of deep flaws that weaken the overall effect. Whenever the spotlight is on Misty, protagonist and narrator of the book, everything is in clear focus and the characterisation bites deep and hard. But secondary character are, to a man, fuzzy and ill-defined, with little to distinguish them and some deeply inexplicable motivations are never explored: the supporting cast often acts as it does simply because the plot demands it be so, rather than out of any consistent narrative arc, and it leaves the reader with an impression of a succession of poorly-defined, out-of-focus cardboard cutouts being placed about the stage for the protagonist to wander past. Admittedly, this can be considered a function of Misty’s unreliable first-person narration, but it’s a trick Palahniuk performs better in other novels. More damning, however, is an ending that takes all of the narrative suspense that proceeds it and simply disperses it upon the wind- the climax simply fizzles out, and what should have been a chaotic whirlwind of effect is simply a damp and unsatisfying squib. Once again, it can be considered a function of a message oft-repeated throughout the book: that lief has no happy endings, indeed, no endings at all, and that what we experience is simply a B with neither A nor C to add meaning: narratively clever, but emotionally unsatisfying as an ending.
At its best, Diary is a bleakly hilarious tour de force, with Palahniuk’s trademark mix of anger, satire and vicious social commentary in full flow. But it just doesn’t maintain itself long enough, and ultimately, lets its reader down.