Saturday, October 17, 2009

Book Review by Aimee: Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk

"You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all a part of the same compost pile." - Fight Club, pg 134.

I think Chuck Palahniuk is a little bit genius.

Having seen the movie Fight Club at LEAST 5 times in recent years, I fear it will be entirely mainstream and incredibly unliterary to refer to the movie in relation to the book and cross-compare the two. But I'm going to do it anyway. For me personally, the movie is so spectacular in its visualness, and Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are completely rad in it, that it slightly edges out the book. And yet, how can this be, since having now read the book, I can see the movie's glory derives entirely from the book's succinct and underwritten scenes of awesomeness?

I hope I haven't lost you.

Fight Club follows the entirely unapologetic, emotionless (and at times highly unreliable) thinkings of a nameless narrator, a yuppie officeworker who is dragging himself through a meaningless existence. His so far unsuccessful search for meaning in life leads him to participate in cancer support groups, even though he doesn't have cancer himself. But even that corner of the earth is tipped off balance when he finds there is another 'faker' in the group, the dark and raggedly seductive Marla.

Not long after this Marla introduction, on a strangely fatalistic whim, the narrator also invites Tyler Durden into his life and his world is transformed. With Tyler, he is a part of the highly secret fraternity known only as "Fight Club" where men physically rip into each other one on one, giving into primal urges that have been suppressed by society's reign.

Operating by the club's secret code, the narrator quickly becomes addicted to the pain of the fight - which is both a release and a relief from his otherwise numbed and unfeeling persona. As the narrator embarks on Project Mayhem with his fellow members under Tyler's totalitarian rule, the plot thickens and twists in ways you might never have imagined and you'll be horrified and amused by the results in equal measure til the very end.

I can't say much more about the plot than that or otherwise I'll spoil the twists.

Pardon the pun, but Fight Club sure packs a punch. It's an excessively dark humour, and has some fantastic quotes you are sure to remember with a secret, evil smile for years afterwards. Palahniuk somehow manages to write an ironic commentary on societal conformity, without alienating boy OR girl readers. And no sentence is wasted - it's a swift and surprisingly stingy read at 207 flimsy paperback pages.

Similar in tone to American Psycho, I can totally see why this book developed into such a phenomenon from the time of its release. It walks a neat tightrope between showcasing beauty in Destruction, and warning of the modern man's disconnect. There's a weird jittery calmness to the book's narration that keeps your brain alert, as if the book itself may swing a fist at your face or might chance a knee to your groin if it thinks you'd react at all- so don't work yourself into a frenzy while reading if you can help it. It might be difficult to contain yourself, though, and it'll make no difference whether you're a perfect princess or a rugby player - you'll be caught up in the bloodlust and the other crazy antics of the Fight Club boys either way.

I really can't rave enough. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie I suggest you do so NOW. Any worries you might have about it being too "gory"- well, the movie really isn't that bad and the fighting scenes take a backseat to the psychological meanderings of Edward Norton's character and his run-ins with people in his daily life. If it's any consolation you'll get to see a fair bit of Brad Pitt with his shirt off. Worth it, yah?

I also can't suggest which one to watch/read first. I watched the movie and then read the book but it didn't spoil it in the slightest. I imagine it'd be the same if you approached it from the opposite end. I still marvelled at the book story though I knew the movie script by heart. And I hope I won't be spoiling too much by saying that the two endings are entirely different. Of course, both endings rocked my socks.

Sadly, I wouldn't be a valued member of the elite secret society. Mainly because I've already broken the first rule of Fight Club: which is, Never Talk About Fight Club.

Damn it. I must be destined for mediocrity.

4.5 stars for Fight Club (the book).


Briony said...

Do you know what? I had never seen Fight Club before about two months ago. (In fact, I saw Choke before I saw Fight Club) I'm not entirely sure how I hadn't seen it before, but I'm glad I have now.

I also haven't read any of Chuck Palahniuk's books, but I will definitely get onto it.

Linda said...

Fight Club is one of my favorite movies. Chuck Palahniuk is one twisted man. I never read Fight Club but I read Choke and Survivor. He certainly does know how to create a plot twist.

M. said...

I thought the quality of Palahniuk's writing dropped off sharply after his first three novels (Fight Club, Survivor, and Invisible Monsters), but that hasn't made me any less fond of Fight Club in either its novel or movie form. It is a treat.