Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck Palahniuk's darkly funny first novel tells the story of a god-forsaken young man who discovers that his rage at living in a world filled with failure and lies cannot be pacified by an empty consumer culture. Relief for him and his disenfranchised peers comes in the form of secret after-hours boxing matches held in the basements of bars. Fight Club is the brain child of Tyler Durden, who thinks he has found a way for himself and his friends to live beyond their confining and stultifying lives. But in Tyler's world there are no rules, no limits, no brakes.
Review: I’ve said before that I have a love/hate relationship with Chuck Palahniuk’s books. I hate a lot of them, but I keep reading them because I never know what I’m going to get when I open one. I like surprises.
Unfortunately, Fight Club wasn’t a good surprise for me.
The story is about an unnamed narrator who copes with his severe insomnia by attending support groups for people with deadly diseases. When it’s discovered that he doesn’t have a deadly disease, he forms Fight Club with his friend, Tyler, as a new way to cope with his problems. Fight Club starts as an underground boxing club, but soon the members start plotting to destroy civilization.
Even though it’s politically incorrect to say it, this is a total “boy book.” Most of the characters are frustrated, aggressive men. They’re stuck in jobs they hate. They have personal problems they’re struggling to solve without help. They’re mad at the modern world’s consumerist society. To deal with all of their rage, they form clubs and beat each other bloody. The fistfights quickly evolve into pranks, bomb-making, and property destruction. The men want to leave their mark on the world, even if it’s a bad mark. (As a side note, who knew that so many household objects could be used to create explosives?)
“I see in the fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives. We've all been raised by television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won't and we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.” – Fight Club
I think Fight Club is a modern classic because the themes are relatable. In modern capitalist societies, people often feel lonely and powerless. In Fight Club, the characters band together to take control of their lives. Becoming your own boss and abandoning society’s laws are appealing ideas, but the characters in this story basically become terrorists. They try to take control by destroying what already exists.
“The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.” – Fight Club
This book gives the reader a lot to think about, but I had a hard time getting past the writing style. Actually, I completely loathed the writing style. It’s a minimalist, stream-of-consciousness style that quickly got on my nerves. I know the author was trying to show the narrator’s mental instability, but it didn’t work for me. Sometimes I felt like the author was just trying to show how clever he is. I found it pretentious and distracting. I was so busy thinking about the writing that I never got invested in the plot or characters. This is one of those books that I had to force myself to read.
There are a bunch of other things I’d like to discuss, but they’re all spoilers, so I’m going to shut up. Now I need to watch the movie. I think I’ll like the story a lot more if I’m not trapped in the narrator’s head.