Sunday, 30 March 2014

Book Review: Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk

For my A2 English lit coursework I have recently studied Chuck Palahniuk's well-known novel Fight Club.

When I first learned we'd be studying this book and heard a brief overview, I was somewhat put off by the twisted plot of a psychopath who was unaware of his split personality. And I was still rather creeped out by it all as I read the book, but some sort of evolution ended up occurring as I read on, and I began to enjoy the madness, craving the inhumane happenings. By the end I actually kind of wanted to start my own 'Fight Club' and longed for the military-style routine that 'Project Mayhem' entailed.

Palahniuk has a real niche for plots featuring psychological distress, and although as a reader you'll always be a bystander, the first person narrative seems to allow you to make connections between yourself and the narrator. Where he thinks that he's completely sane, a reader can begin to question their own sanity and even wonder if their own continuous tiredness might be the effect of an insomnia induced alter-ego. It's the most bizarre concept, but I felt the need to question how well I knew myself.

The concept for 'Project Mayhem' derived from Palahniuk's own experiences with the Cacophony Society which I found really interesting to read about. The general idea of the group is that they play pranks and get drunk, which made me wonder if maybe the narrator was a closet alcoholic and that was part of the reasoning for him being unable to remember that he'd actually been up all night living the life of Tyler Durden.

'Fight Club' allows the reader to feel apart of this exclusive group, despite knowing that in reality it's very unlikely anyone would voluntarily get the shit kicked out of them. There's something enjoyably mysterious, especially when the first and second rules are 'you do not talk about fight club.' It's like all the readers of the book are invited in; maybe it was Palahniuk's way of testing how bad people are with secrets, watching to see the extent to which his book circulated. If that was the case then evidently, people talk too much.

Initially I wasn't a fan of the character of Marla, and I have a feeling Palahniuk may have positioned the reader to continue to dislike her as the novel progresses. I felt like at times she got in the way of what was actually happening; due to her it took me quite a while to realise that the narrator and Tyler were actually the same person. She is the only woman of any significance in the novel and I thought this was quite important. Palahniuk seems to be attempting to show male independence and dominance in this novel, and thus Marla's involvement seems to be mostly about Tyler asserting his authority.

Overall, I thought the novel was great, despite the way my fingers turned the pages nervously to begin with. The disjointed feel at the beginning evens out quickly as Tyler takes control of the narrator's life, and I think this is the factor that really allows you to get into it and put yourself in the position of the characters. From the moment the condo's burnt down we see the end of a consumerist era in the narrator's life, and it's clear that the action will begin from there on. Even at the very end of the novel, it appears 'Project Mayhem' will continue on, although it is somewhat annoying that we don't discover whether the narrator fully turns into Tyler Durden or if he consciously regains control. Anyhow, it's a thrilling, yet mundanely written book, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting something out of the ordinary within an ordinary setting.

Until next time.

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