Sunday, 21 June 2015

Book #17

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Every weekend, in basements and parking lots across the country, young men with good white-collar jobs and absent fathers take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded for as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter and dark, anarchic genius. And it's only the beginning of his plans for revenge on a world where cancer support groups have the corner on human warmth.

This review should just read you don't talk about fight club to save everyone some time. I have resolved to press on with my somewhat disappointed commentary.

The novel epitomises everything that is wrong with book to film adaptations. I couldn't read it without imagining Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham-Carter as the characters, or comparing the scenes in the film to what I was reading at the time. There were some absolutely excellent, hard-hitting moments in the book which (and doesn't this always happen?) weren't translated to the big screen. Worst of all, Hollywood changed the finale; Palahniuk penned a perfect ending to this novel, which underlined the fact our narrator wasn't now able to do what he truly wanted because of Tyler Durden and Project Mayhem. Despite these good points, I'm tempted to suggest the film was better than the book.

I found the prose to be completely monotone in style, and less than engaging. I realise the choppy repetition was deliberate to convey our narrator's tired and apathetic world view, however it irked me very quickly and did nothing to make me want to read on. I'm sure I skimmed more pages than I should have. Palahniuk did the characters no favours; the only one who was presented as a wholly rounded person was Marla, who was a lot smarter and sassier than the cliched goth in the film would have you believe. The narrator and Tyler were completely two-dimensional, and my love for Big Bob wasn't the same on paper.

Palahniuk's comments on consumerism and masculinity are ones to think about here. In order to cope with their growing disillusion towards their small jobs and (supposedly) meaningless lives, these guys meet up once a week to beat the crap out of each other. When this ends up feeling less than enough, the clubs evolve into Project Mayhem, an anarchist movement hellbent on destruction. Does that sound masculine enough for you? These men are searching for something meaningful in our materialistic consumer-led society, and the only way they can manage to do so is through sheer violence and organised chaos. If violence was the answer here, then why was the only unwritten rule of fight club 9th Rule: No women allowed?

Yes, I understand the message Palahniuk is trying to convey here, but I just can't get on board with it. I can feel the tension in working in a job you hate, to buy pretty crap you don't need because the media has told you to do so. Yes, I want to find something a bit more enlightening to do with my life. No, I'm not happy in the system. YES I have had days where I've wanted to slam my fist into someone's jaw. But let me put this to you: could another, more articulate, author have spurred my attention and motivation more effectively? Absolutely.

I've read a number of Palahniuk books now, and I'm still not on board with the cult craze he profits from. You can say I'm too old and cynical, or you can say I just don't get it. I think it's purely because I've experienced much more talent in other types of work. He only presents to me a numb sort of reading experience, and I read to the final page out of grim resolve rather than enjoyment.

I am Jenna's lack of enthusiasm.

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