Fight Club: Chuck Palahniuk

101 things in 1001 days

*Spoilers: I have never had to do this before, but I’m worried I’ll ruin it if you want to read this book, so read if you know what happens or don’t mind knowing!’

Evening readers, today is another 101 things in a 1001 days, but it is also a book review. See, one of the points on the list is to ask twenty friends, to offer different books that I have to read and then review. Now, my friends did an incredible job and I have those twenty book stored up and ready to get my teeth into. The thing is you can get stuck in a rut as a book reviewer; I almost exclusively read books sent to me by authors. When I set up my reviews page I had no idea that six months later I would still be receiving books in their droves. Naïve Lizzy, didn’t realise when reading review blogs stating they could not receive books, it was because they were snowed under a mountain already. Although I am yet to ask authors to stop sending books if it continues I will unfortunately have too! To give myself a break, and stop myself getting into another reading rut, I have asked for some new inspiration, some new books, and a new lease of life to my list of 1001 days. The book I will be reviewing today is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. This was delightfully recommended by a fellow Keele student, and my nearly next door neighbour Otis. Otis is a rather special friend and is also an avid reader; if you ever have the pleasure of meeting Otis you should ask him what delightful pocket book he is carrying and then have a conversation about how good or bad it is. See, Otis a burgeoning writer and poet, is a bit of a bookworm himself and therefore I knew he would offer up something brilliant. Well, I wasn’t wrong, so thank you my dear friend, and from this onto the review!

‘The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club, the second rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.’ That very famous line; everyone’s heard of it right? Everyone’s seen the film right? Cough, no. I have so far not been exposed to the cult following of Fight Club. I always assumed that some day it would appear in my life but so far it has been avoided, and only now do I wish I had witnessed this more recently. I had assumed this was a run-of-the-mill book about men fighting, how wrong could one reader be. It really shows you should never have expectations before reading a book. Instead of my once again naïve beliefs, the book follows the unknown narrator, a poor chap suffering from insomnia. Unable to sleep for days at a time, he hates himself, his job as a product recall specialist for a car retailer and he hates his life saturated with nothingness. His life changes suddenly when he meets the madman Tyler Durden, a charismatic, obsessive, off-the-wall type character who is opposed to social structure and capitalism. They form an underworld fight club as an extreme type of therapy. See, before the narrator meets Tyler he has been attending self-help clubs for terminally ill individuals. It is only here that the narrator can find hope in his world of hatred. However, when a destructive character named Marla Singer infiltrates his safe nest and threatens to expose his lies that he is not in fact ill, he needs to find a new type of therapy. The Fight Club spreads with more and more men joining despite the strap line being as said above. However instead of being only for therapy, the club grows to encourage destruction and rebellion across the country and is renamed Project Mayhem; this club now focuses entirely on the destruction of society rather than as a therapy to the men.

The main premise of the book is a character creates a new and secret society set up to reclaim the instincts that have been lost due to a society obsessed with consumerism. The Fight Club ultimately allows men to transcend this addictive lifestyle and return to a raw and un-repressed state. However the club becomes an organisation obsessed with terrorist activity and becomes an oxymoron of what the club was set up originally to do, and therefore our unknown narrator becomes a victim to his problems once again. In terms of structure and length the book is easy to follow and is straightforward in its writing style. Told by a narrator it doesn’t wallow in overly descriptive passages meaning it moves with pace. The storyline does jump a little and at times I found myself a little confused however I think it is meant to make you feel a little helpless so you understand more the confusion the narrator is feeling in his life. I also loved how we are placed right into the action; as we read the first sentence we realise that we are on the top of a building that is about to explode and there is a barrel of a gun in the inside of our cheek; pretty powerful eh?

What I loved about the book was how ultimately downtrodden and depressing it was; the book is saturated with pessimism and morbid events. This book stinks of male dominance through the need for power and acceptance through glorified violence. I loved the characters and I loved the mixing and matching of relationships. Tyler is sarcastic, fanatical, outlandish and outrageous and his manic character profile is ultimately the downfall of the rather more inward narrator. *Spoiler!* We find out as the book continues that the narrator and the extreme Tyler are actually indifferent. As the narrator sleeps this extreme and peculiar character in the form of Tyler takes riot, blundering and causing havoc. As, the narrator realises that he has fashioned this new personality the extremes he will have to take to control this outlandish second persona will taint him forever. I also found Marla’s character incredibly heart-wrenching, confused, maddening and eccentric; I couldn’t help but fall for her as a character. I also recently found out that she is played by Helena Bonham Carter, who is my ultimate favourite actress and I now cannot wait to get my hands on the film because I know she will be incredible portraying this lost soul.

So basically, if you hadn’t noticed I loved this book; it is grimy, bleak, harsh, dismal, dour and also enlightening. It is at times macabre but I loved it because it made me think. The double persona didn’t come to me until quite late into the book and I found myself relaying the events again to see if I could have picked it up sooner. Upon realising my mind immediately snapped back to this quote;

‘the old theatres that run a movie with two projectors, a projectionist had to stand right there to change projectors at the exact second so the audience never sees the break when one reel starts and one reel ran out.’

and it hit me how obvious the author was making it. The plan is the read something completely different and then re-read Fight Club to gain a second perspective on the book. Apologies that this review is so much longer than my usual posts, I just had to get it all out in one go. Thank you so much to Otis for recommending this I really enjoyed this book and found it incredibly different to anything I have read in a long, long, long time. I cannot wait to see what my other friends have got in store for me as if they are as good as this I know I will have a lot of fun making my way through the list.

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3 Comments

  1. August 19, 2014 / 8:01 pm

    Welcome to the club. The book and the film are both outstanding. I only have one “suggestion” for you. Watch it more than once and keep in mind Tyler’s jobs whilst you watch. It makes you watch it extra closely.

  2. August 19, 2014 / 10:12 pm

    One of my all time favorite movies, and my first Palahninuk books!

  3. August 20, 2014 / 1:13 am

    Love this book and movie. If you love Helena Bonham Carter you’re in for a treat. Marla Singer is probably my favorite role for her!

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