An Underachiever's Diary
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An Underachiever's Diary

3.11 of 5 stars 3.11  ·  rating details  ·  426 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Meet William, a devout underachiever. He enters life as the firstborn of identical twin boys. It is the last time he will beat his overachieving brother Clive, or anyone else for that matter, at anything.

This is William’s manifesto for the underachiever. It is the chronicle of a lifetime of failure–part diary and part handbook for self-defeat. At once corrosively funny an...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 1st 1999 by Harper Perennial (first published 1998)
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Avrei dovuto attribuire al titolo un significato più reale che simbolico. Ma tant'è. Ormai i 14 euro li ho spesi (anche se l'inutile spreco risale ormai al 2002).

Scrittura mediocre, svolgimento mediocre, interesse mediocre. Non capisco proprio come The New York Times Book Review abbia potuto scrivere che questo sarebbe "un romanzo irresistibile, intriso di beffarda ironia" o come il Times Litery Supplement lo abbia potuto definire come "il manifesto di un giovane Holden dei nostri tempi".

Al di...more
I'm stuck between three and four stars on this one.

The case for three: It's nothing really mind blowing, and the character isn't really someone you would want to hang around with. It's also odd in that were it true, it would seem more bragging about one's faults. It's not true however, so it almost seems like projecting some sort of angry motive into laze. Or none of these things...which is the case for four stars...I can't really figure out how I feel about the book. Things are very blurred tog...more
Dec 24, 2009 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own-it
This short novel is another I can add to the growing list of what seems to be predictable genre for me; that of the coming-of-age tale set in a prep school environment. Perhaps I crave these books to fill my regret at turning down a scholarship to attend one of these pretentious, torturous, academically-snobby (yet still highly coveted) prep schools, and I live vicariously through the pages. Such would be true of such books as Sittenfeld's "Prep", or Tobias Wolff's "Old School" perhaps, but An U...more
Julie Ehlers
Feb 23, 2013 Julie Ehlers rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: the-1990s
I bought this because I was interested in reading Anastas's recent memoir, Too Good to Be True, but I thought that, before reading his personal story, I should take the time read his most famous novel. Wow, am I sorry I did. A narrator who's even more loathesome than he's clearly intended to be--misogynist, judgemental, dull. A relentlessly one-note, droning monologue. The other characters sketchily drawn--which is a shame, because they all seem more interesting than the narrator.

I tried approa...more
The recommendation I read for this called said it "may have been the funniest, most underappreciated book of the 1990s". Really? I remember the 90's having better taste. This is the very colored reminiscences of the lesser of two twins. William is constantly outshone by his brother Clive (despite testing as well as, if not better than) from the cradle onward. Clive's more successful in school, socially, athletically, etc. He's better looking, healthier...better in ever conceivable fashion. Will...more
A fine drunk read. No overarching beauty or grace to speak of, but sprinkled throughout with wit and intelligence. The narrator, like most of us, doesn't get what this game is all about, only that he's losing before he can balance his head well enough to see the score, let alone where the points are coming from. The novelty, maybe, is that he's naive enough not to think that position more than personally problematic.

It's one of the few novels I've read where I would've preferred a little less s...more
This redefined underachievement for me the way Camera Obscura's LP, Underachievers Please Try Harder, redefined underachievement for me. Underachievers cannot try harder if their underachievement is intentional and teleological (however delusional that purpose may be).

Although, I dont believe that this protagonist's underachievements were truly intentional; his diary reads like a post-hoc justification for past mistakes -- a telltale sign of unreliable narration. Otherwise, it's more or less a p...more
May 21, 2013 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lesser twins
Recommended to Kate by: cover blurb on his newer book
"And there I was, on a golf course at midnight with a girl I really liked, underachieving all over again in a misguided attempt to make it new, and pioneer a romantic avant-garde where nothing started, in the moonlight, would ever finish, and the greatest love, or kiss, would be the one that never grew beyond its promising beginning; that way no one would ever have to live with an imperfect lover's guilt when things came to an end, inevitably."

"No one would ever know me. No one would think of me...more
A great example of it's the "how" not that "what" that often makes an enjoyable and memorable reading experience. The set up is simple: the narrator is the massive underachiever of the title to his overachiever identical twin brother. What could have been a tedious and clichéd exercise, ends up being clever and charming. I haven't laughed out loud so frequently from reading a novel in a very long time. The trick this author plays on us is he creates a sympathetic main character that steadfastly...more
Dysmonia Kuiper
Beautifully written.
Enjoyable for the most part.
This book started out great. I loved part one as he described his childhood and many (humorous) illnesses. But almost as soon as I internally declared my love for the book, it started to sound more like whining than wit. There are some fun passages, but the last half of the book started to get tedious. Though, the author did stay true to the title. I kept waiting for a payoff, but wouldn't that be against character?
This was a quick read. The book is a fascinating tale of twins through the eyes of the lesser twin. It makes you wonder how the world would look if you constantly shared the space and the spotlight of literally your better half."the spare" It sounds a little painful but the author gives you the impression that attaining the underachiever status is both an accomplishment and an experience worth trying!
Jacqueline Toce
I don't remember why I picked up this book. I think I saw it in the "approval matrix" for New York Magazine as being good. It didn't really knock my socks off. There were parts of it that were funny but overall I just found it to be a really depressing book. I thought the author would create a likable underachiever but I didn't like the character at all. At least it was a short book.
Not really sure what to make of this book honestly. The emotions of the protagonist are raw and relatable but lacking the degree of insight required for true introspection and understanding. May have deeper meaning as an allegory for how we compare ourselves with others and how our meritocracy treats those that don't measure up and allows them to fall further and further behind.
This book is so short it should be read in one sitting to fully enjoy it. I regret I didn't read it in one shot. There are not enough breaks in the narrative for putting it down to be picked up later. There is no real story, just the diary writer's funny and pathetic underachieving in every aspect of life, starting from birth. His overachieving twin brother is his foil.
Very funny. It made me appreciate a little more the Freud loving baby boomers.

"Name all the people I have known and not one soul is finished, we are a litany of criminals-against-perfection that will last forever, or at least until our time on this spinning puddle comes to an end."

You never reach "you". As long as you live you change.
I would have enjoyed this book a lot more had Anastas allowed his narrator to expand on his experiences in greater detail - his voice is so funny and unique and the book so slight. But I guess it follows the convention of his underachieving to squander that opportunity. Still, a very entertaining read, for what it is.
due gemelli uno bravissimo e l'altro inconcludente ecco quesa è la storia die quello che dei due che si imepgnava non riuscire ... la premessa è migliore del libro ma vale sempre l apena leggerlo perchè è ben scritto e divertente anche se mi sarei aspettato qualcosa di più data la bellissima premessa
This was well-written but the material, by nature, makes for a somewhat unsatisfied read. There are moments of humor and the narrator's voice is well developed but on the whole his story is, as one might expect from an underachiever, unremarkable and (for the most part) uninteresting.
"I am proud to be a disappointment to almost everybody. Lend me money, and I will never pay you back. Fall in love with me and I will fail to acknowledge you. Save your compassion for someone who really needs it; I am well engaged being my own worst enemy."
As the precursor of sorts to Kunkel and Gessen, I suppose we could call it N+0. It's hard for an aspiring overachiever like me to have sympathy for a slacker (esp. such a classic 90s slacker), and the book isn't as funny as it thinks it is.
Dec 04, 2007 Carly rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2007
...I'm not sure how I feel about it. The author/character is an I concentrate on his words, or do I let my mind wander to the similiar people like him I have known in my life...?
Just added as the next Book Club Book.

This book was only 149 pages, but I just couldn't get interested. I had to skim the end because it was due back to the library.
This is probably more of a 2.5. While amusing at times, for the most part I found the narrator kind of annoying. Maybe it was hitting a little too close to home. *Shrugs* :)
Interesting book on brothers, in this case twins, but it applies in any brother relationship where one seems so much "different" than the other.
Loved the witty, self-deprecating writing, but I got frustrated that the story didn't really go anywhere. It certainly lived up to its name!
Catcher in the Rye but smarter. The ending was disappointing, and the book could have been longer, but overall it's a good value for your time.
Wonderfully funny, but missed many opportunities to expand the story into a complete novel rather than a rushed summary.
A pleasant diversion during a trip to the laundromat. What, you expected more from a book with "underachiever" in the title?
The book is short to begin with; it could have been even shorter with the same ideas being explored over and over
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