The first rule of Fight Club – you do not talk about Fight Club.
The second rule of Fight Club – you do not talk about Fight Club.
The eighth rule of Fight Club – if this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.
Honestly, I’m not even sure where this review is going. Right now, as I type, I’m pondering what to write about Chuck Palahniuk’s iconic book, “Fight Club.”
I read the book a long time ago and wasn’t sure what to think of it, though I understood that the readership was divided.
I also watched the film a long time ago. I remember finding it intriguing and dark at the time, but I think I was too young to grasp the whole picture.
Many years later, here’s the right moment to revisit the material and, hopefully this time, understand it better.
To many, the first association with “Fight Club” is the film… but before the film, there was the book that stirred it all up.
Since its publication, Chuck Palahniuk’s book has been surrounded by controversy, only deepened by the film adaptation. There’s no doubt that “Fight Club” is a little masterpiece. But, as such, it definitely won’t appeal to everyone.
The novel is narrated in the first person. The main character of the series is the Narrator (“Well duh, Captain Obvious, if it’s a first-person novel” – note from the subconscious), and that’s also his name. He’s your everyday man, the neighbor from the block who does a job that doesn’t inspire him, rather, it drains him, and who finds small pleasures in buying simple pieces of furniture. However, the stress of his job and frequent business trips (by plane) requiring time zone changes, combined with the “ordinariness” of his life, lead him to become chronically exhausted and have trouble sleeping, which causes him to suffer from insomnia and have less and less energy to cope with himself and life.
The doctor advises him to visit one of those support groups, like the one for testicular cancer, you know, “to see what real suffering is.”
Although our Narrator doesn’t have testicular cancer, he decides to visit one such group, and soon realizes that by listening to and sharing the suffering of others, somehow, it becomes easier for him to fight insomnia… until the moment when a girl named Marla appears at one of the meetings, reminding him that they are both pretenders in this group (and in other groups they visit). Our Narrator doesn’t like this, and, although they agreed not to meet at support groups, his insomnia returns.
So, at one point, our Narrator meets the mysterious Tyler Durden on a nudist beach. His charisma, free-spiritedness, and nihilistic view of the world fascinate our Narrator, and the two quickly become inseparable friends.
Soon after, an explosion occurs in our Narrator’s apartment, completely destroying everything he owned, prompting his friend Tyler to suggest he come live with him.
Marla also gets involved in their relationship, falling in love with Tyler and soon ending up in bed with him. The Narrator now has a rather neutral attitude towards Marla (even though Marla is fond of him), but he finds it strange why he never sees Tyler and Marla together, and why Tyler somehow keeps Marla at a distance.
However, this doesn’t much affect the relationship between the Narrator and Tyler, which seems to grow closer, to the extent that they literally know what the other is thinking.
Tyler Durden is an intriguing person. He only works at night, either as a movie projectionist or a waiter at exclusive events, serving the elite. But, he also commits petty sabotage at these events. For example, when no one is looking, he will, excuse me, let one rip on the meringues (“Say it nicely, to “fart,” it’s not a bad word” – note from the subconscious) or, uh, urinate in the soup (“Say it, that he pees…uh, we have to check if it’s rude to say pee…damn, I said it” – note from the subconscious) which definitely makes you think (beginning with whether it’s wise to order soup or meringues in a restaurant after reading this 😅).
At first glance, Tyler appears as a charismatic rebel against the system, albeit with a rather dark view of human life (that we are all a kind of human waste). He believes that only through destruction can a person come to understand themselves and be happy, and that people have become frustrated because they lack a “valve” in their life that gives them self-confidence, and they need to find a way to become masters of their own lives.
Together with the Narrator, he establishes Fight Club, a place where a select group of people gather in the evenings to fight (or more accurately, beat and knock out each other’s teeth) one-on-one, until one of the fighters collapses or gives up (and here, you can’t be just a spectator; to be a member of the club, you have to fight). And then, with those same bruises, cuts, broken teeth (or something worse), you go to work the next day, completely psychologically relieved, without fear of your boss or surroundings, proudly wearing your injuries like medals. Imagine the guy who serves you in a restaurant, courteous, polite, and considerate, a delight of service. And then that same guy beats you up in Fight Club in the evening, knees you in the jaw, and then smashes your face into the ground, your broken teeth tearing your cheek. Brutal and disgusting? Welcome to Fight Club.
Also, Tyler is very “well-read” and “educated” regarding soap production (which later becomes one of his sources of income), as well as in making various types of explosives from materials that are relatively easy to obtain in your surroundings.
Over time, our Narrator realizes that Tyler Durden is not quite what he seems. Although at first glance he appeared as a charismatic rebel and a small revolutionary, Tyler is, in fact, a kind of evil fanatic who believes that God is not important (and does not believe He loves us) and that only through (literal) destruction and death can complete freedom be achieved. Not to mention that behind his rhetoric and psychological tricks and manipulations hides a severe complex-ridden and egocentric narcissist. His destructive visions go so far that the Fight Clubs (which have spread like wildfire through numerous cities), through his speeches, began to recruit these same “fighters” for “Project Mayhem“, grouping them to perform sabotage across the city, culminating in a massive explosion, in which Tyler will kill himself and become a “saint”, but will also kill the Narrator. And the members of the Fight Clubs, who have become like a sect, fully convinced of the correctness of Tyler Durden’s goals, will help him in this.
And our Narrator realizes that he must urgently stop Tyler Durden before he falls victim to him, as will Marla likely become a victim.
However, the Narrator seems powerless to stop Tyler. The club members look at him blankly when he tells them to stop listening to Tyler, then laugh and nod in approval. And as the moment when “Operation Mayhem” is to culminate approaches, they even begin to hold great respect for the Narrator. Even Marla doesn’t understand why the Narrator speaks so badly of Tyler. And innocent people die.
It seems like Tyler is always one step ahead of the Narrator.
Leading to a sick culmination.
And that’s it. NOTE: A major spoiler follows, which I do not recommend to people who have not read the book/watched the film, as this is a crucial detail for this work, but I think it needs to be touched upon. So, read at your own risk. 🙂
The Narrator and Tyler Durden are the same person.
The Narrator actually doesn’t realize (until near the end of the novel) that stress and insomnia were, in fact, triggers for him to develop a split personality, as some sort of alter-ego of which he is unaware. In other words, he suffers from a mental illness, dissociative identity disorder.
Having written quite a bit, let’s wrap up the review, with a focus on the writing style and the meaning of the novel.
The writing style is, ironically, simple, raw, rough, without many descriptive details, but full of sayings and thoughts of Tyler Durden that range from deep philosophical musings to the mere ramblings of a disturbed person. In any case, Tyler’s and the Narrator’s thoughts, as well as the Narrator’s observations of his surroundings, will definitely leave no one indifferent (and I’m pretty sure it will disturb many).
As for the essence of the novel… what can one say except that Chuck Palahniuk has quite accurately captured the consciousness of society. Decadence, chaos, despair, feelings of inferiority among people, the desire for rebellion, neglecting oneself, exhaustion at work, the inability to have an honest conversation with friends, to know when to ask for help, believing that (self)destruction is the solution to all problems, how we are actually exalted yet worthless beings… all these themes will never lose their relevance. With the development of information technologies, and the potential consequences they bring (alienation, anonymity, the ability to spread misinformation and delusions via the internet), this novel is also a way to reflect on the direction our society is heading. And to hope that you won’t meet a Tyler Durden in any form. And as you know, such personality types will always exist in every era and should be watched out for.
All in all, a novel that should be read at least once in a lifetime.
And what I particularly liked about this novel, something I haven’t said about other novels… the cover in the “Laguna” [the publisher] edition is very well done, I was pleasantly surprised, it really captures the title and essence of the novel. 🙂
And you, dear reader, what is your view of Tyler Durden’s worldview?
(Originally reviewed: 03/11/2019)