Book Review #2
Narrative: 1st Person
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Published: August 17, 1996
Movie Release: 1999
“We’ve all been raised on 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.”
I am Joe’s gleaming book review. I finally got around to reading Fight Club after 15 years of putting it on my to do list. I first watched the movie Fight Club in the early 2000’s at my middle school buddie’s house. Soon after, I saw a copy of Fight Club laying around his house too. I remember being astonished that Fight Club was actually, a book first, not a movie. And here I am, almost two decades later finally reading the book. The book and movie are both well rated and reviewed. I also agree with this, which I will get into. This is one of my all time favorite books and movies. Even as a stupid middle school student, I could see the deep philosophical meaning depicted in Fight Club. Reading the book as an adult was even more amazing being able to appreciate this cult classic, by an author I still can’t pronounce his last name. This book deals with themes of atheism, mental illness, existentialism, cults, anti-capitalism and general distain for society. The story is narrated by an unnamed protagonist who is suffering from severe insomnia. On the surface, his life is perfect he has a well paying corporate job that allows him to live a nice lifestyle. He has a nice condominium that is furnished to his exact style from Ikea. To deal with his insomnia he goes to AA style meetings for sufferers of various diseases and disorders. There he can pretend to be one of the people suffering, and he find solace in this, but more importantly sleeps. He soon finds another woman going to all the same meeting, doing the same thing as him. Her name is Marla Singer, and he can’t enjoy the therapeutic effects knowing another faker is there. They agree to split different times to avoid each other. The narrator soon finds out that his apartment has exploded while on a business trip. He calls his friend Tyler Durden, and they meet at a bar. Tyler insists on having him punch him in the face, if he wants to stay at his house. They end up play fighting. The thrill and release of fighting each other leads them to set up ‘Fight Club’ in the bar of a basement. Every week, more and more people come to Fight Club. The narrator ends up moving into Tyler’s huge, abandoned old house in an industrial area, where they are the only house for miles. Marla Singer calls the house saying she is going to commit suicide, so Tyler goes to her hotel and, they hook up and become an item. Fight Club becomes a huge success and people all around America are setting up their own little chapters of Fight Club. Tyler Durden becomes a living legend for being the founder of the organization. People start recognizing him everywhere. Tyler and the narrator end up black mailing their bosses into paying them a regular salary without attending work. Eventually, the thrill of Fight Club wears off, and Tyler establishes Project Mayhem. It serves to disrupt society through kidnapping, vandalism, and propaganda to try to create literal anarchy and destroy society. Every week, Fight Club attendees are given tasks. Some tasks are seemingly pro-social for instance, they threaten to stalk and kill somebody, if he doesn’t stop working at a gas station and follows his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Tyler suddenly disappears. The narrator goes looking for him everywhere throughout the country. Everyone recognizes the narrator, but won’t answer if they know who Tyler Durden is. They think it’s a trap or test, but hint that the narrator is Tyler Durden. Marla Singer soon confirms this is in fact true. The narrator is Tyler Durden. When the narrator goes to bed Tyler Durden wakes up. He basically has split personality disorder, and is so exhausted by his insomnia he can never remember what’s going on. He is always in a state of limbo, between sleep and wakefulness. Tyler Durden threatens the narrator to not stop him, or he will ‘get him.’ The narrator tries to disband Fight Club and Project Mayhem to no avail. He takes the bus to work one day to sees a huge explosion at his company. He knows Tyler Durden killed his boss. He is soon kidnapped by fight club members for trying to stop the organization. He then wakes up in his Paper street abandoned house. Tyler tells him to wake up and get ready for his grand climatic death. He is going to explode a large building with himself inside. In the building before the explosives go off. He puts a gun to his head. Marla comes with the support group people and police helicopters are in the area. He refuses to listen to her and pulls the trigger. He wakes up in what he believes is heaven but is actually in a mental institute. Workers in the institution are also members of fight club and say they look forward to getting him back.
“Getting fired,” Tyler says, “is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we’d quit treading water and do something with our lives.”
Fight Club embodies the spirit of western counter-culture. It clearly reveals our consumeristic culture for what it is. Shallow, meaningless and mind numbingly boring. Utterly void of meaning and inspiration. He shows this by rejecting everything about mainstream society. He questions the point of getting married and having a family. He questions how his life would become better, by simply getting married. Also, the book and movie dives into atheism as well. In the movie, when he is getting the lye chemical burn on his hand, it in a sense is, him freeing himself from God. Tyler Durden says how God hates you, and you need to accept that. Tyler is forcing him to acknowledge the notion that there may be no God, thus freeing him from the confines of religion and therefore society. In the book as well, there was dialogue about God hating you, and touches on the notion of giving up religion and freeing yourself from the restrictions of society, which for a big part is religion. This is a central theme to the book. The theme of giving up everything you believe in so that you can truly live your life free and autonomous. The book touches upon how we can have, all the material possessions in the world like a nice house, nice car, nice furniture and still be completely depressed and miserable. It shows office life for what it is, often monotonous and totally unfulfilling. A search for identity is a key theme in the book. The narrator defines his life through a job he hates and meaningless cookie cutter Ikea furniture sets. It perfectly showcases existentialism, the philosophy of what’s the meaning of life. The movie starts off on the extreme end of the spectrum of existentialism. It portrays a meaningless, rudderless life where you’re are destined to soul crushing office life, and cookie cutter possessions that define you. You basically have no control over your life; you’re destined to a nine to five, 1.4 child life. You are completely enslaved by your job and alienated from your life and hobbies. Then, the opposite side of the spectrum reveals itself. Quitting your job and losing all your possession to pursue meaning in your life. This is depicted by the narrator becoming a cult legend and trying to destroy society to create a better society through anarchy, which he believes it complete freedom. Through this he finally finds meaning and fulfillment in his life that he was so lacking. He does this by abandoning societal norms such as marriage, materialism, and religion. By giving up all the societal pressures, he is able to live his life unbothered, and can seek out what he truly wants to do. Essentially, he found complete meaning and control over his life regardless of society constraints. He did his by giving them all up. Fight Club portrays two unique and extreme version of life in terms of meaning and fulfillment in life.
Worker Bees can leave
Even drones can fly away
The queen is there slave
– Fight Club Haiku
The movie is also excellent as well. It follows the book almost exactly, but adds or changes a few scenes for dramatic effect, so it makes it better as a movie. Dialogue is taken right from the book word for word at times. The movie is a little less dark as the book. For instance, Marla says “I want to have your abortion.” This kind of stuff you won’t find in the movie, as well as, the narrator talking about the hole in his cheek that never heals. The ending was more Hollywood happy ending type of crap in the movie. All and all, for a movie, it’s as good as it can get for a book adaptation. Which one should you read first? I would say which format you like better overall. If you a movie person, watch the movie first. If you a book person, read the book first. They are pretty much equal in quality. In-addition reading the afterword in the book was interesting. It took Chuck 3 months to write the book and got paid 6 thousand dollars for it. The book was a failure at launch; he said 3 people would often come to his book tour dates. But eventually, the hidden gem was discovered and starting winning awards for literature. Then of course became a box office hit with A list actors. I think it’s interesting how such an excellent book can languish in obscurity possibly indefinitely because the right people didn’t read it and make it mainstream.
It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
Watching the movie as a kid, and reading the book as an adult has really opened my eyes to the choices I have in life and how to find meaning and fulfillment in it. I once thought I would go to university and get an office job and start a family in my mid 20’s. After graduating into The Great Recession, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I desperately wanted an office job. But after letting go of what had been ingrained into our heads by society I found my happiness and meaning in life. It helped me make the decision to immigrate to South Korea and give up all the crap that was in my head before. I can live happily and carefree, and not feel pressured to get that ‘corporate gig’ and be ‘successful’. It encouraged me to peruse wild, dubious dreams, such a becoming an author.
This book tackles societal taboo’s such and questioning consumerism and not wanting a ‘successful career.’ It challenges the ingrained notions about what life is meant to be. I found it very powerful as a child and continue to as an adult. It touches upon the deepest questions of humanity such as what’s the point of life? How do I find meaning in my life? Is society right? The book is original, deep and intellectual story told through a dark and fascinating plot. It has changed the course of my life and helped me accept that everything in life is not meant to be what society wants to shove down your throat. It has helped me realize the true power I have over life. A meaningful and exciting life is just waiting for me to reach out in grab it. The only thing holding me back is me.
Written by Dongbaek Sasang
“The Goal was to teach man in the project that he had the power to control history. We each of us, can take control of the world.”
-Tyler Durden in Fight Club