Fight Club

Written by: Chuck Palahniuk

Distributed By: W.W. Norton & Company

Click Here to Buy it Now: Fight Club: A Novel

Reviewed by Ismael Manzano


     Many of you have seen, heard of, or are, in some way familiar with the movie Fight Club starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, but did you know that before it was a movie, Fight Club was a book?  I didn’t.  Not until I was trolling through the aisles of a local bookstore, looking for something interesting to read.  I came across the title, and thought it just another post-movie merchandising gimmick.  I had never seen or heard of Chuck Palahniuk.  Would you know it, I check the copyright date and found that it predated the movie.  That was all it took; I bought the book and started reading it on the ride home. 

     As did the movie, the book follows the main character, (whose name is never said—let’s refer to him as Joe), an insomniac with a depressing job, a cushy apartment and a long life with no foreseeable changes staring at him.  His insomnia is staved off only when he visits support groups for terminally ill people and can emotionally hit rock-bottom. 

     Enter Marla Singer, a suicidal, crazy, but otherwise healthy goth chick who also frequents almost every one of Joe’s support groups.  Her obvious lies make it impossible for him to pretend that he belongs in the support groups and hence, his insomnia returns.  His job as an analyst for a major car company has him traveling all around the country, and it’s during one of these trips that Joe, sleep deprived and fed up with his life, meets Tyler Durden, an enigmatic man with headstrong views and a penchant for mischief. 

     When Joe comes home from one of his business trips to find his apartment exploded from a freak accident, he calls upon his new friend Tyler for help.  It isn’t long before Joe is living with Tyler in his rented house on an abandoned street, a house which is the antithesis of Joe’s old apartment.  Where Joe’s place was organized, neat and reflective of his personality, Tyler’s house was disheveled, completely wrecked and reflected nothing.  The two got along great.  Tyler introduces Joe to a world beyond what he is used to, pushes him to his limits of understanding and challenges his views on what was considered normal or acceptable. 

     Together they create the first fight club, a place where men can be themselves, devoid of the trappings of the world and the standards of living that has imprisoned so many.  In fight club, there was only the fight, only the thrill of combat, only the act of aggressive release.  People found their true nature in fight club, they found the them that was buried beneath the expectations of the world.  Had it ended there, Joe would have been happy, left with a greater understanding of himself and a renewed sense of self-worth, but unfortunately, Tyler Durden had other plans. 

     Not only did Tyler eventually hook up with Marla, much to Joe’s dismay, but he also turned fight club into a country-wide social terrorist movement, bent on unraveling the preconceived notions of what is considered to be normal for men.  In short, he created Project Mayhem.  Soon, their house on Paper Street is filled with soldier of Tyler’s cause, and every day the newspapers report bizarre occurrences caused by Project Mayhem members.  But with Tyler’s rein on his ‘space monkeys’ now absolute, and Joe’s influence over Tyler waning, everything begins to spin rapidly out of control.  And when Joe learns that secret of Tyler Durden, he must find a way to stop him before its too late.  But how can Joe stop a man who knows more about him than he knows about himself, a man with an army of loyal drones at his beckon call?

     If you’ve seen the movie Fight Club, you already know the ending, and pretty much everything about the book, which doesn’t skew too far from the movie.  But whether you’d seen whether you’d seen the movie or not, this book is a unique view into the mind of a soul lost in the trappings of the world today and his struggle to find a sense of purpose and individuality. 

     As for the writing, it’s uncomplicated, but highly interesting, and flows quickly, if not at times, sporadically.  The best way I can describe it is to say that reading the book feels like sticking your head in a blender, but in a good way.  There were a few parts where the prose could have been fleshed out a little for clarity’s sake.  Like when Marla had Joe looking for a lump—had me wondering exactly what was going on and how much of what was being narrated was actually happening.  But I’m sure the author’s intent was to give that sense of vertigo, as it reflected beautifully, the confusion and disarray of the protagonist. 

     Regardless of that small flaw, the book is one I would recommend to anyone looking for something unique and totally separate from the norm. 

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