Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck Palahniuk practically became a household name because of Fight Club. Well, in actuality, Tyler Durden became a household name because of Chuck Palahniuk and Fight Club. Although, I knew all about the book and the movie, I've never given either much of a chance. I have, however, read quite a few of Palahniuk's subsequent books.
I finally got around to requesting this from my local library and I tore through it in a day last weekend. Considering that I spent a good chunk of the holiday weekend, paddling around in my pool until I was too cold and exhausted to stay in the water, this is kind of saying something.
Fight Club begins with our unnamed protagonist standing atop a building that is about to be demolished while Tyler Durden holds a gun in his mouth. Even if the trigger doesn't get pulled, there's no turning back now. But, we do just that. We turn back and take a look at all the events that lead up to that roof.
By now, I'm sure there aren't very many people who don't know the secret at the heart of Fight Club and I guess I should not have to worry about spoilers, and yet, I am loathe to take the discovery away from someone coming at this book fresh. The clues are all there, and the reader gets them as our poor anonymous protagonist does, although it takes him an awfully long time to get it. But when he does, Wham!!!
This book is dark and disturbing, but it definitely makes its point. I kept finding myself wondering what it would be like if, everywhere you went, you saw these broken and beaten men. Can you even imagine? We're talking essentially, the every man. Palahniuk describes them as the children who grew up being told they were all going to be stars, famous and attractive and wealthy and that every dream would come true for them. Of course, we all know it doesn't work that way, but how far do we have to get before we realize that there isn't an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, a Super Bowl Ring or platinum record waiting for us on the horizon? How do you react to the knowledge that you may really only be a regular average Joe (as the vast majority of us are) an office drone, a waiter, a cop, a firefighter. Sure, you can be an everyday kind of hero (see cops and firefighters, for example), but that's not the same as the rosy superstar life you envisioned growing up. Palahniuk's reasoning is valid, although he certainly took every extreme response that people can have to the realization that they aren't living the life they thought they would, and he threw them all into the stew. And then he stirred the pot.
I read the 2005 reprint with the afterword by the author. If you are the kind of person who skips those (I'm not), don't this time. Palahniuk gives a lot of insight into his creation of this story, his background and all that he's learned, been accused of, or given credit for, since the original publication of the book. I almost wanted to start over and read it again after reading what he had to say. I didn't. Well, the stack of books on my nightstand alone prohibited that, but the fact that I thought about it speaks volumes. I have a new respect for the man who started with a seven page short story and became a literary force, churning out angst and rebellion and all of our basest instincts in lurid technicolor. It's perfect, in its own gloriously imperfect way.