I think I tried to read Fight Club almost every other time I went to the bookstore. The book is so short, I thought that eventually I’d be able to finish it. But I never did. This was largely due to the fact that I had seen the movie (several times) and knew that it followed the book pretty closely. But that didn’t mean I shouldn’t read the book. My advisor teaches this book in his undergraduate class, and hearing him talk about the book on many occasions made me want to read the book even more. After finishing the 800-odd paged tome of A Game of Thrones, I was happy to find Fight Club at the local library. I devoured it in two days.
I wish there was a way to go back in time and read the book before watching the movie. Alas, my reading of the book will always be tainted with prior knowledge about how things end. Perhaps, just perhaps, I think I read the novel more closely because I knew what was going to happen. I wasn’t breezing through in a hurry to get to the climax. I enjoyed the strange way in which Palahniuk sets up his story, his characters and their crazy world.
The unnamed narrator is an insomniac who goes to support groups because they make him cry, their problems more real than his, and this helps him sleep. But Marla Singer, who goes to support groups with no real ailment, just like the narrator, bothers him. He can’t frequent the support groups anymore and goes back to his sleepless ways. Thankfully, he meets Tyler Durden on one of his various cross-country trips. Tyler is a rebel in the truest sense of the term, a rule-breaker, an anti-establishment believer. In an attempt to (maybe?) let off steam, the narrator and Tyler get into a fight, which slowly morphs into a club. An underground meeting group for middle-aged, white-collared, frustrated men. There are rules, but they are simple. The narrator doesn’t need his support groups anymore. He moves in with Tyler, and they run their fight club, and for a while everything seems to have fallen into place with the narrator. But then Tyler meets Marla and they begin sleeping with each other, Tyler isn’t satisfied with just fighting, and starts to employ “space monkeys” to carry out “homework assignments” that encourage nihilism and anarchy. The narrator feels drawn farther and farther away from his friend and his world spirals out of control.
Fight Club is a heady read that is hilarious in certain parts. Palahniuk may not have known how the book ends when he started writing it, but his narrative is very confident and forceful. The narrator’s world hangs between a crazy, sleep-deprived fantasy land and a gritty, boring, dry reality. With him, we sway between these two worlds, trying to figure out fiction from fact. The novel makes us question the pointlessness of our own lives, and the lives of everyone around us. Is the narrator you? Or are you the narrator? Is he your best friend? Could you be his? Maybe, just maybe.
Lastly, once you read Palahniuk, you would want to read more of his works. I know I will. I am Jill’s complete sense of amazement.