It's like a car accident... an absolutely horrific, brutal reminder of your own mortal state, but there's no way you could think of looking away. Here's why this iconic novel made its way onto my TBR for 2015.
Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk, follows the story of a generic worker bee narrator, as he falls under the sway of Tyler Durden, a charismatic and damaged young man with a plan for the future, and a new kind of club, holding secret boxing matches in the basements of bars. This direct violence gives way to greater machinations of destruction, spiraling outwards until it effects way more than just some beat-up guys after work. Soon, our narrator is forced to confront the question, who is Tyler Durden, anyways?
This prose was fantastic... I'm such a sucker for the stream of consciousness style, and this is probably one of the best examples I could draw from what I've read in recent years of it being really well-done. And the characterizations of every player in it was incredibly unique, too. I don't know if I've ever seen that many incredibly flawed, damaged and dangerous people gathered into one motley crew of a cast before.
To be honest, the first thing I did after I finished it was text my Dad, which just kind of seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Like, everyone's got to read Fight Club at some point? There are a couple of girls in my sorority, particularly my friend Taylor, who've been hounding me to read this guy's work basically since we found out we both like reading... isn't this some kind of social touchstone or something, regardless of age, gender, etc.?
The problem was, there were parts of it that were a little too gendered-out for me to fully appreciate the work as a whole. A part of those texts to my Dad, simply as a knee-jerk reaction to turning the last page of the paperback, was "This is why idiot suburban emo boys threaten to blow up their high schools." For the most part, it came off of as a big round of chest-beating, caveman chanting, which, yes, I get was a part of its satirical bent. Chances are, if something's being blown out of proportion, it's satire, but that didn't make it any less uncomfortable. I just couldn't take the testosterone... and you'd think that people who wanted anarchy so badly would have stopped making up so many damn rules.
It's definitely a novel of juxtapositions. There's all this despicable violence and grime and grit to it, so that you know you should turn away, but that's also what makes it so enthralling and un-put-down-able. Its violent take down of "special snowflake" ideology is brutally anti-individualistic, but almost every Tumblr kid I can think of has read, and loved, it, too. There's a fierce struggle in both the novel and its audience, brilliantly assimilated into the characterizations of its two male leads (*wink wink, nudge nudge*). So it's really no surprise that I'm so torn.
Final Verdict: At the very least, Fight Club should be required reading, because of its impeccable craftsmanship. Any additional ideas about its ideology you formulate yourself, you can go over with your therapist.