Review: Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik (Spoiler-Free)
I know this because Tyler knows this.
Gonna have to break rule number one. Fight Club has been a favorite story of mine ever since I watched the movie for the first time in early high school. I've seen it more times than I probably should admit, and when I saw this gorgeous edition of the book in London I took it as a sign to finally read the source material. It did not let me down.
I am Jack's Smirking Revenge.
I love a book that runs in circles and loops back on various threads, suspending the reader in a murky web. I like having to pick things apart and coming across dead ends. I don't like the amount of people (men) who have only seen the movie and think Tyler Durden is some kind of messiah just because he's hot, played by Brad Pitt, and says it's okay to slug each other in the ears. That's why I especially appreciated the afterword included in this edition which features a reflection from Palahniuk on the impact the movie has had and how that was most certainly not his intention when Fight Club began as a seven page short story.
He touches on the fact that Fight Club isn't really about one specific thing—it was an exercise in how to tell a story without transitions, just eight core rules. It has a lot of subtexts, the main ones of which being capitalism and nihilism. Some read it through a homosexual lens (I mean, "the first rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club"... the ideas form themselves), but Palahnuik doesn't seem to be a fan of this reading. I think he's more concerned with expressing frustration with the state of society, how we all live and die, and how getting from birth to death can be especially troubling for men with abandonment issues.
There's a lot of discussion on what takes over a father figure role in these men's lives—God, "Tyler Durden", Project Mayhem, etc. Insomnia acts as the symbol for how many of these men float through their lives. They're always miserable, half-awake, and incredibly susceptible to external influence. Fight club is the first thing to make them feel alive.
They're terrified that their life is ticking by on a clock they can't control,
This is your life and it's ending one moment at a time.
but they have nothing to which to lay claim, no purpose or drive. Life is endless and meaningless until it finally isn't.
It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
Anyway, that's a long-winded way of saying I read Fight Club as an emotionally-stunted man's first existential crisis. And it's fascinating.
I was trying to think of a way to slide the Tyler Durden subliminal messaging into this review because I think it's funny, but I don't think writing "DICK" in the middle would be quite as subtle as a single frame of film... Alas.