#CBR5 Review #40: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

I know, I know. The first rule of fight club is we don’t talk about fight club. But I’m going to break it anyway, because I really, really liked the book, and I just read it for the first time.

I watched the film adaptation of Fight Club several years ago, and there was a very strong motivation for doing so in the first place. I think we can guess what that might have been.


Brad Pitt was a majestic beast, Edward Norton brilliant, and Helena Bonham Carter spectacular, but for some reason, I neglected the original book. But, since I’m on a great quest for American authors (especially men), it seemed to make sense to include Chuck Palahniuk. And I’m glad I read Fight Club.

In short: the narrator is living a rather dull existence, and he can’t sleep. He goes to several terminal illness support groups to feel something (and ultimately to find the nothingness he hopes death can bring him). But he meets a woman named Marla Singer, as well as Tyler Durden, a mysteriously compelling figure who starts a fight club with him, as well as a soap-making industry that turns its eye to more anarchistic endeavors.

It would be oversimplifying the novel to say that it’s about anarchy. Rather, I saw Palahniuk examining our relationship to authority, and the male perception of masculinity, masculine hierarchies, and gender, using violence as a rather extreme means to suss out how men feel about themselves and each other. I think for that reason, especially considering its publication in the 90s, Fight Club is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary American fiction, masculinity and fiction, or responses to violence in literature. This is my academic perspective.

My reader’s response was sheer enjoyment. Yeah, it’s not a super polished text. But I’m okay with that. It’s entertaining and at the same time a little uncomfortable. And I think that’s great. If you liked the movie, you should definitely try out the book. Or if you’ve been avoiding the book because you think it’s immature or overhyped, I’d really urge you to give it a chance.


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