And that is exactly what I plan to do, seeing as Fight Club itself is only the smallest of ideas in this insanity-inspiring novel.
Overview: Fight Club is an establishment conceived by the protagonist(unnamed) and one Tyler Durden for disaffected strangers to meet and use extreme physical agression as a vent for their dissatisfaction.All its members have a common contempt for societal organisation and yet are forced to deal with high society through their jobs and everyday lives. This gives birth to the more retaliatory idea of Project Mayhem, the fundamental concept behind which, is that all existing social sturcture must be broken down before one that is satisfactory to “all” can be built. This book examines the worst of humanity, but somehow manages to be entirely too believable and therein lies its real allure.
The first several chapters of Fight Club that deal with the foundation of it and the atrocities that everyday people are capable of, while being graphic and disturbing, bring nothing particularly new to the table. A few chapters into the story, it becomes apparent that Palahniuk is a genius for his writing style- the brilliant use of repetition, the dark/sardonic humour and the non-linear progression of the story..all of which add to the general chaos. But ‘fight club’ the concept i.e., the idea of ‘externalizing’ a problem -not to solve it necessarily, but to redirect the individual’s attention to another demanding but physical problem- is not especially original. So, while I enjoyed the style of writing, I kept asking “Where is the ‘dark, anarchic genius’ that the description promises?”. A few more chapters in, and I began to get my questions answered.
“You do the little job you’re trained to do.Pull a lever.Push a button.You don’t understand any of it, and then you just die.”
“My father never went to college so it was really important I go to college. After college, I called him long distance and said, now what?My dad didn’t know, so he said get a job.When I got a job and turned twenty-five, long distance, I said, now what? My dad didn’t know, so he said, get married.I’m a thirty-year-old boy, and I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer I need.”
From these excerpts and several others, it seems that existentialism drives the original, more simplistic fight clubs. The arguments that Tyler offers against consumerism and uneven distribution of wealth are plainly extemist, but what makes them so fascinating is that (oddly enough) they do offer some insight into the conception of the Democracy. The common man’s resentment for this (perceived?) communal elitism accounts for his willingness to partake in fight club, but of course, it gets much bigger than that.
“… another new fight club rule is that fight club will always be free. It will never cost to get in. “We want you, not your money. As long as you’re in fight club, you’re not how much money you’ve got in the bank. You’re not your job. You’re not your family, and you’re not who you tell yourself. You’re not your name. You’re not your problems. You’re not your age. You are not your hopes. You will not be saved. We are all going to die, someday.”
“It’s only after you’ve lost everything, that you’re free to do anything.”
“Maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer, maybe self-destruction is the answer.”
“Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need.”
“Disaster is a natural part of my evolution, toward tragedy and dissolution.”
The anarchy aspect really sets in with an offset of Fight Club, Project Mayhem- the Arson Committee (Mondays), Assault Committee(Tuesdays), Mischief Committee(Wednesdays), Misinformation Commitee(Thursdays)- all founded upon the same derision towards mainstream society.
“What Tyler says about the crap and the slaves of history, that’s how I felt. I wanted to destroy something beautiful I’d never have. Burn the Amazon rain forests. Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up to gobble the ozone. Open the dump valves on supertankers and uncap offshore oil wells. I wanted to kill all the fish I couldn’t afford to eat, and smother the French beaches I’d never see. I wanted the whole world to hit bottom. Pounding that kid, I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground.”
Project mayhem transforms Fight Club from a place of mindless escapism to a sinister organisation with a very defined object of hatred–consumerism. It is made possible through its members’ sense of failure for not having achieved success (which, unsurprisingly, they choose to define based on the very same consumerist values they oppose), and is the unifying factor that gives Fight club the numbers it needs to truly tear apart the fabric of society. I have to confess, though, that I’m not entirely convinced that this alone would give Fight Club the kind of membership (in terms of numbers) that it is described as having towards the end of the book, wherein the protagonist literally cannot get away from them.
*The protagonist: He is difficult to comprehend for about 2/3rds of the book, and it seems as though all the strange things he describes and the unusual narrative style are meant to be palatable simplybecause he is a bit twisted, but the last third of the book clears it up beautifully. We also never learn his name, which is interesting because this truly makes him ‘everyman’, struggling to find fulfillment. He is a person of no significance– until Fight Club.
Bottom-line: Poignant, satisfying plot-wise, great writing style and brimming with ideas. Must read.
*I actually wrote this at least a week ago, and then completely forgot about it.
* Belated Christmas wishes to everyone! ( And happy New Year in advance– just in case!)