Most of you have probably seen the movie, so you pretty much know what it’s about. An unnamed narrator whose life pretty much consists of his job (avoiding car recalls) and his IKEA catalog, suddenly makes a friend named Tyler who is everything this guy probably always wanted to be: unafraid, gutsy, deviant. After an explosion at his house, he moves in with Tyler. Fight Club starts out as a way for men to prove something to themselves about their own masculinity I suppose. I can’t really relate to the masculinity thing...but I do know that kicking the crap out of something after a long day at work does make the world feel a little more tolerable. Anyhoo...this fight club thing really takes off, and Tyler begins to recruit members for his Project Mayhem, which is essentially anti-consumerism guerilla warfare...you know, blowing shit up and stuff. But it grows increasingly more violent and destructive, and also more serious, as Big Bob gets killed by police. The narrator tries to step in, to stop everything, but he quickly learns that people think he’s Tyler...and eventually he comes to realize that he is Tyler...that his insomniac brain has created this alter-ego to escape his horribly boring, completely unrewarding life. But he can’t step in and do anything...when he tries to stop Project Mayhem, the “space monkeys” say, “You told us you’d say that,” etc. His other ego has prepared his minions for that his “real” ego would try to do. And by now, Tyler has recruited EVERYONE it seems...the police, etc. In order to stop Tyler...to stop everything he created, the narrator tries to shoot himself, and waking up in a hospital, he only encounters more of Tyler’s trainees, who gleefully inform the narrator that they can’t wait until he’s back, and that they’ve been carrying on without him.
Like with Invisible Man, there are a lot of themes here that I could write about, but I just don’t feel like it. Or maybe I don’t care. Whatever. Sometimes you read a book to discover some deep meaning – about yourself or others or society or something like that – and sometimes you just want to be entertained. But while I’m on the topic, I will say, I liked this indictment of consumerism much more than American Psycho. I’m still reeling from the violence in that book, and it’s partly to blame for my difficulty in finding something I want to read...it’s like I maxed out my tolerance for the year in that one book...but fortunately for me – for my mental health - Fight Club really wasn’t that violent. Or maybe violent yes, but not as detailed, not as graphic. I don’t care about the hole in the narrator’s cheek. Just no more rape and torture, please.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t blown away by Fight Club. Maybe it was partly because I had seen the movie, so I already knew that Tyler and the narrator were the same person. But today, since the movie’s become such a cult hit, I imagine most people come to the book after seeing the movie. I mean, I can totally see punk-ass teenagers, probably mostly posers (or, as I called them in my day, PIDs – Preppies in Disguise) reading this novel and thinking, “DUDE THIS GUY IS AWESOME!” My own punk-ass (but not poser!...trust me, when I was into it, it was not the cool thing) teenage years have turned into cynical adult years, so it takes much more for me to be impressed by anything, especially writing. That said, it certainly was clever, and the repetitive/spiral style of writing (“I know this because Tyler knows this.”) reminded me of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. If I remember correctly though, in TPoMJB, you knew from the beginning what was going to happen...with Fight Club the clues are there from the beginning, you just don’t realize it. It was a good book, or a decent book, and the writing was good...almost Cormac McCarthy-esque but not as hard hitting. I’m not burning with a desire to rush out and devour other books by Palahniuk, but I certainly wouldn’t mind reading more in the coming years. I guess with my current state of reading, that’s perhaps the best compliment I can give at this time.
But there is a riddle I have been pondering while thinking about and writing this post...if the first rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club, should I have written this post at all? harharhar :-)