Fight Club

By Chuck Palahniuk; W W Norton & Company; @ 1996; 218 pages.

Call me a child of the short attention span generation, but 218 pages is about as long as I like my novels to be. I get the experience, and it ends at about the time I want it to.

This is a book club book for me. I voted for the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami but didn’t get my way. That’s OK—it’s a lot longer—Fight Club was my second choice. I’d seen the movie, but it’s been years.

I’ve read Palahniuk before—he’s a Northwest writer, revered by the students in my writing classes when I was in school. The only other book I’ve read by him was Rant. How do I describe Rant? Hmm, “insane” is the first word that comes to mind. The second is “creative.” It’s been my experience that Palahniuk is edgy. He makes me a little uncomfortable. At the same time, I’m impressed by his imagination and delivery. He’s definitely a writer who stands out.

Fight Club begins very near the end with the protagonist losing all his worldly possessions. I like this structure. It definitely sustained my interest.

“The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.”
That’s also the second rule.

Our protagonist has a severe sleeping disorder. Until he found fight club through a friend, he was visiting various support groups. This is an example of Palahniuk’s extraordinary (twisted?) creativity, so for anyone who hasn’t read him, I’ll stop there.

As our protagonist incorporates fight club into his schedule, his life view changes:

“Maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer….Maybe self-destruction is the answer.”

“You aren’t alive anywhere like you’re alive at fight club. When it’s you and one other guy under that one light in the middle of all those watching. Fight club isn’t about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn’t about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything. There’s grunting and noise at fight club like at the gym, but fight club isn’t about looking good. There’s hysterical shouting in tongues like at church, and when you wake up Sunday afternoon you feel saved.”

I thought our protagonist’s relationship with Marla, the woman who stole his support groups, was hilarious (-ly dark). Very funny.

Marla and his friend Tyler become lovers, further irritating our protagonist.

“’If you lose your nerve before you hit bottom,’ Tyler says, ‘you’ll never really succeed.’
Only after disaster can we be resurrected.
‘It’s only after you’ve lost everything,’ Tyler says, ‘that you’re free to do anything.’”

I love Palahniuk’s pacing, part of which is accomplished by random haikus. (5,7,5)

Flowers bloom and die
Wind brings butterflies or snow
A stone won’t notice

Fight Club started as a short story “just an experiment to kill a slow afternoon at work.” (The original story is chapter 6 of the book.) Palahniuk says he was just writing The Great Gatsby updated a bit. He needed a technique. “Instead of walking a character from scene to scene in a story, there had to be some way to just—cut, cut, cut. To jump. From scene to scene. Without losing the reader. To show every aspect of a story, but only the kernel of each aspect. The core moment. Then another core moment. Then, another.”

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8 thoughts on “Fight Club

  1. This is one of my favorite books. Saw the movie first, then read the book (something i normally hate) and was very surprised how true it held to the book. So much of the book was met with “YES! That’s right!” Maybe it was the right book at the right time for me, but the commentary on materialism and such was spot on. Great review.

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