I know I’ve come late to Chuck Palahniuk and my only knowledge of “Fight Club” was the film, which I loved. Reading the novel was sort of my introduction to Palahniuk. I’d heard of him, heard a lot of things about him but never actually gotten around to reading him. What made me want to read him was a list of “writer’s tips” that a friend of mine had sent me. I figured I’d start with something I was familiar with. “Fight Club” was that book.
Obviously a satire in a lot of ways, there is quite a lot going on here which really made me sit up and take notice. The film is very faithful to the novel but there were things in the book that either the film didn’t cover or I just missed, one of those things being the commentary on my generation (formerly known as “Generation X” now known as “Middle Aged”). Seeing that the novel had been originally published in 1996, it’s not hard to see why this book resonated with so many people. Palahniuk definitely touched a chord with those born in the 1960s. This is apparent in this quote: "We are God's middle children....with no special place in history and no special attention". or "We're the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we'll be millionaires and move stars and rock stars, but we won't. And we're just learning this fact. So don't fuck with us.", or this: "We don't have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but what we do have is a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression." He captured the mood of the times perfectly, especially for those who felt out of place, disaffected, lost & rudderless. I suppose that was part of the point of this book, other than the obvious commentary on the nature of masculinity for a “generation of men raised by women”. There are a lot of allusions to the “feminization” of the culture, particularly evident in the protagonists “nesting instinct”.
A nihilistic message to be sure, with the Fight Club’s proto-fascist leanings, ideas of discipline and support group-like mentality. It is masculinity run amok, in a sense, with a message of having to utterly destroy (either society or self) in order to rebuild. It is also a wicked condemnation of consumer culture, where "people work jobs they hate so they can buy things that they don't need." I don’t know whether or not this is the author’s own personal view or not but it’s not hard to see why this book struck a chord with so many at the time--and will continue to do so, so long as there are those who feel outside of things.
Palahniuk’s writing style is very bare bones, very minimal, but powerful nonetheless. Part Noir, Part dystopian nightmare, it’s the “Noir” element of the story that really pleased me, something I didn’t really pick up on while watching the film.
This may all be old news to many but it’s the first time I got the chance to see what he had to offer. I was impressed.