Dan Sandman

40: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

In Books, Fiction, Horror on 03/10/2014 at 12:00 pm

Fight Club by Chuck PalahniukPublished in 1996, this somewhat disturbing novel is narrated by an unnamed office worker suffering from insomnia. Depressed by his predictable life and utilitarian furniture, he fakes various medical conditions in order to attend support groups because he longs for human sympathy. At one such meeting, the narrator meets fellow fake Marla, who unravels the narrator’s secret world. Following this turning point, the narrator meets Tyler Durden, a charismatic leader with anarchistic tendencies who sets off a confused love triangle. And so, to replace the psychological crutch offered by the support groups (ruined by Marla) fight club is invented in the basement of a bar.

The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.

This edition of the novel contains an afterword written by Chuck Palahniuk in 2005, following the book’s hugely popular screen adaptation. In the afterword, Palahniuk humorously comments on the influence his story has had on society since the film was released, and offers a background to the story. In a similarly wry tone to the narrator, he juxtaposes Tyler Durden quotes on t-shirts with Fight Club as ‘just an experiment to kill a slow afternoon at work.’ Apparently, Palahniuk’s initial aim was to create a story that would cut quickly, like the film Citizen Kane, without losing the reader’s interest. This is where the rules (see above) come into play and help to make certain phrases within the novel so quotable.

My first reaction to this book was one of shock, with its vivid depictions of violence and chemical burns making me feel a little uneasy. Having said this, there was always a black humour to the horror, which served to emphasise the themes of the novel. This novel is highly critical of late twentieth century society; particularly, its hollow emphasis on consumerism and celebrity. The narrator has no name, appears to have no family, and has no helpful friends to fall back on. Therefore, he tries everything, from pretending to be a bowl cancer patient to writing haiku poems, until voluntary communal self-harm (i.e. fight club) offers a solution. However, later, when fight club becomes Project Mayhem, and things start to get out of control, the dark jokes begin to choke the reader into wanting out of this Gotham City type version of humanity.

Today, in our post-social internet culture, the planned graphic novel sequel will be most welcome.

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