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The Diagnosis
Alan Lightman
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The Diagnosis

2.85 of 5 stars 2.85  ·  rating details  ·  732 ratings  ·  94 reviews
In the bravura opening chapter of Alan Lightman's novel The Diagnosis, a nameless horror befalls Boston businessman Bill Chalmers in the hubbub of his morning commute. As he jostles his way aboard the train and makes cell-phone calls to check last-minute details on his morning meeting (for Bill is punctilious), a realization surfaces in his brain, "like a trapped bubble of ...more
Published (first published January 1st 2000)
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This book was more than painful to finish. It started off as an interesting medical foray about a man who is on the train to work when he suddenly loses his memory as to who he is, where he is going, etc. After seeking medical attention, his memory does come back but he is left with numbing of his hands which greatly affects his ability to function at work. His job seems to be litttle more than pushing paper, emails, and phone calls around for numerous business clients. His wife is distant and f ...more
Initially I thought this book had potential and that it was not only going to be an examination of how technology disconnects us socially and spiritually but I incorrectly assumed that it would also be an exploration of what constitutes human consciousness. First impressions are often incorrect.

I understand what Lightman was attemtping to accomplish and his writing style was chosen to reflect the points he was making about technology, the speed of life, disintegrating societies filled with cold
The description of this book is somewhat misleading. Even the way it begins is misleading. It starts off great, and it's even hard to put down because it doesn't lag in introducing the plot or characters. The dilemma of this man losing his memory was what reeled me in to begin with.

As the main character is trying to desperately find a diagnosis for his illness, the story still has some good moments. I think it was a few pages before half-way through the book when I realized that it wasn't going
PAINFUL. It was basically about a guy who was just getting sicker and sicker and then making dumb decisions. Many pages were spent describing his work days, with things like 'and then I got an e-mail from so and so, and I was frustrated because I thought this person might be trying to usurp my spot in the company. Or maybe not.' Spending a day at work is boring enough. I don't need to hear a blow-by-blow of someone else's. Also, I just didn't like the character. The guy was an idiot. He wasn't v ...more
If I could have the time back, I would unread this book. More upsetting than revelatory, this books reveals only that people who have not gone through chronic illness think it's dramatic to do so.

It's fucking not.

The book was pretty accurate in almost all of its premises: breakdown, difficulty of diagnosis, withdrawal, lack of communication, interpersonal relationships. The one assumption I could not agree with was that the book was worth the time it took to write or read.

If you haven't called
This unusual work explores the oppression, indeed the submerged terror, of trying to maintain one's humanity in the rush of the world as it is today. The tyranny of tech, the vapidity of mass produced 'values', the embeddedness of material obsession - stuff, the embrace of cliche as a guiding force all finally overwhelm the protagonist. The book is funny - at least at first as the reader is drawn in, after all it is social satire. Still it becomes heartbreaking as our times in fact are.
I actually listened to this on tape. I buy used tapes so don't always have much selection. Picked this becausese I tend to be fascinated by things medical. I kept listening in hopes of a resolution. Btween the first tape and the last I suffered through a major Slough of Bad Writing.

I'll give you a diagnosis, alright. You have suckitis.
Bill Chalmers marks his days by knowing where specifically he is to be what time. Meetings, appointments, time allotted for e-mails and phone calls, family, etc. So when Bill suffers a severe memory loss on his commute to work one day his life is forever altered. He eventually remembers his purpose, but only after being taken to the hospital under humiliating circumstances. The return of his memory does not mark the return of his health; in fact his health deteriorates from that point on - first ...more
Anna Engel
The story started out decently enough: Bill Chalmers suffers sudden and complete amnesia. The plot, rather than focusing on finding a cause for his condition, detours into a somewhat existential/philosophical commentary on "modern life." I didn't finish the book, but I got the feeling (confirmed, for the most part, by other reviewers) that Lightman was going to put the characters in various situations that would highlight our isolation from each other and our inner selves. For example, Mr. Chalm ...more
Robanne Johnston
It was exciting at first...the idea of losing your memory. But then it fell apart. The insight into a patient and his lack of understanding about what is wrong with him was disturbing. At times I thought his thoughts and behaviors might also be a symptom so I was expecting it to come together somehow. It didn't and was terribly hard to finish. Unfortunately, I have a "finish-what-you-start" guilt thing, so I finished it and I'm glad it's done. Also, I saw no point to the greek history reference ...more
Mert Selcuk
It is a book that proves that human brain can take over the body according to the emotions a person. The brain is an ancient and complicated structure which mysterious of it has not been fully solved and The Diagnosis, show us that the brain is an organ that we should all be afraid of, cause once it decides that it is time for a person to stop, than all of our struggles to achieve more and more, mean nothing once we loose the freedom of our own limbs.
Many reviews complain about the way the emails were presented, but there is nothing wrong with such a stylistic portrayal from that time period and those interludes are not as oppressive and occur less frequently than is suggested by these reviewers (though I sincerely doubt, even if it is pre-spell check, that anyone makes that many typos or fails to edit). A fair amount of reviewers find the main character repulsive, which is unfair and lacking in compassion for the only thing that offers any ...more
Well, it gathered steam and I enjoyed the ending (no spoilers). there are some messages therein, but also a literary exercise, I think, and that's not too much fun.
"I'm not as f***ed as those people!" Whew!
I kept waiting for something to happen. After 369 pages I was still waiting.
Ann Olson
In the end, I felt so unresolved! Parts of the book were so enthrall ing, I really enjoyed the writing style. There were also so many elements involved in this story- different relationships , his work, his thoughts, his correspondence with work people and his son. I enjoyed the typos in the IMs and emails though sometimes they seemed over the top. I wish that people weren't so anxious about seeing mental health professionals, but his feelings about that and his overall frustrations and anger we ...more
Dennis Littrell
Lightman, Alan. The Diagnosis (2000) ****
A novel of despair and dark humor

This is a novel about the numbing of our lives. What is our disease? We don't know. What is the cure? There is no cure.

Is this the price we pay for the guilt we feel for never being man enough? How is it that we fail in the midst of success? We are sick, but what is the disease? What is the diagnosis? Where is the pain? It is not physical. We feel it in our minds and in our souls. We are tired, weary. We know the prognosis
I picked this book up from a library book sale thinking it would be interesting to read. The blurb on the inside cover certainly made me think it was going to be like an episode of House. It was not.

The Diagnosis started out with Bill spontaneously losing his memory, going insane, and later on spontaneously recovering his memory. After that it just slid downhill for me.

A majority of the book dealt with how Bill, Bill's family, and Bill's colleagues reacted to his illness. Unfortunately, the wa
Craig Robertson
I rate this novel as a two, sort of half way between one and five. Lightman gets a one for characters and story, but a five for sheer writing prowess. This is a completely schizophrenic work. On one hand it is riveting with his use of language and his ability to create mind bending visual images. This brilliance is juxtaposed to an inexcusable storyline and structure. None of the characters are sympathetic or likable, the direction is lamentably predictable, and there is no resolution. Cassandra ...more
Wonderful concept. I started reading it three days after downloading it, even though I have thousands of other books I could have picked up, because it sounded that good. And it was...For the first third. I read that portion of the book in about an hour because I simply could not stop. The approach to a man who cannot remember anything about who he is and where he's going, but only his corporate motto, and how people react to that man in our modern age was well thought out and a delight to r
Alan Lightman wrote Einstein's Dreams, a book ruminating on physical and spiritual matters, often finding profound connections between the two. It wasn't quite a novel, but it wasn't exactly an essay collection either. It was poetic nonfiction I guess, and it was lovely.

The Diagnosis is a straight-up novel, and is far less enjoyable to read. It demonstrates Lightman's appealingly uncomplicated, gently reflective prose, but the story it tells is utterly joyless, without giving you any good reason
A really interesting book that captures more of his fantastical prosaic style that gripped the reader so tightly in his masterpiece Einstein's Dreams, than do some of his other novels. I can understand how many people were frustrated or bored with this book, as it can be very slow at times. The majority of the book is entirely inside of the main character Bill's head, a place which is often abstract and devoid of the definitive action that grounds many people into the book they are reading. Alth ...more
Alex Telander
The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman is a captivating book that I a perfect example of one of the best story-writing techniques; throughout the book, right up to the ultimate pages, the reader has no real idea what the main character is going to do, or what the author is going to make him do. A useful tool that keeps the reader hinged onto the book, riding the edge of their seat, until the end and only then will they feel satisfied.

The opening portion of the book features the main character, Bill Chal
Stephany fisher
Jul 03, 2007 Stephany fisher rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not recommended for those who like clean, resolved endings.
This is no trifle of a beach read -- it is a book with accessible language and a fairly enjoyable plot. However, though it has been well reviewed by critics, it has also confounded them. The book is about a man who has his nose to the grindstone at work. He faces pressures both from competitive workmates and the fast pace of technology including cell phones, e-mails, texts, etc. While on his way to work on the subway one morning, he forgets who he is and where he is going. After a surrealistic j ...more
Ted Burke

Out of the DeLillo playbook, a business commuter gradually loses the use of his limbs, and his confronted with medical experts who disguise their inability to treat him and render a diagnosis by having him submit to yet more tests. A novel full of comic moments and sleights of hand-- the father's relationship with his son is sad stuff, two-hankie time-- but there is strong feeling of what the world would be like if all the things that we plug into stopped giving us the illusion of information an
Donald Crane
Maybe I'm not perceptive enough, but I didn't get the inclusion of some chapters about Anytus, an accuser of Socrates. It just didn't seem to obviously tie in the with the modern day plot.

There are also numerous early 2000s e-mail transcriptions, appearing how they would have appeared in an AOL e-mail account at that time. A little odd, but what was really distracting about them was the persistent (and, I'm sure, intentional) typographical errors, as though to suggest that no user of this "new"
This book has been described to me as Kafkaesque which may be true for the initial action of the plot. But Lightman quickly establishes his own tormented and intricate style.

The Diagnosis is full of parallels and symbols. Email dialogues illustrate a very thin line between intimacy and disconnection. A college course on Plato gives readers a mirror image of an ancient man who, like the main character, becomes disoriented and detached. And constant wandering views into strangers' imagined lives
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I wish I could have been more impressed by this book, but I found it just a bit contrived. I see the point - a criticism of the stress and meaninglessness of corporate city, suburban life. The main character contracts some unknown disease which eventually paralyses him and his world is forced to slow down. But I really don't see why the few random chapters of Greek Philosophy were in there. They didn't seem to link to the book and were so sparse that they jarred. The character of the wife was am ...more
The theme has been done before, again and again and again, so when an author chooses to tackle it yet one more time s/he really should have something brilliantly different to bring to it. Lightman makes a dedicated effort but ultimately overreaches a bit and ends up bludgeoning the reader with his thesis almost as hard as Bill is bludgeoned by fast-paced, vapid, unreflective techo-society. The saving features of the novel are the effective capture of an anxiety-ridden lifestyle that, for better ...more
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What's The Name o...: philosophical novel [s] 5 45 Aug 06, 2013 04:39PM  
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Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist, and essayist born in Memphis, Tennessee. He is an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of the international bestseller Einstein's Dreams.

More about Alan Lightman...
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