RAD Book Club review: Fight Club

08 Jun 2017

We met last Tuesday to discuss Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, in which an unnamed insomniac protagonist narrates his experiences in support groups, his relationship with Marla, Tyler, and the creation and running of Fight Club.

The whole group liked the book, although for different reasons. Some of us appreciated the way seemingly separate elements, sometimes presented in juxtaposition in the narrative, come full circle to provide powerful meanings and images. Its weirdness, unpredictability, even quirkiness, kept us all interested. Whilst it was excessively shocking and violent at times, it was also infused with humour and surprising comic effects. Some of the stylistic elements became repetitive at times, although we felt that the structure of the narrative greatly helped in creating a sensation of unreality.

Issues around masculinity, violence, isolation, father figures, consumerism and fear of death dominated our discussion.

Marla’s character seemed to us to be acting as the bridge between Tyler and the narrator, between fiction and reality in the book. Practically the only female character mentioned in the book, besides Chloe and Marla’s mother, we saw Marla as a contradictory person swinging between love and fearlessness, between suicidal tendencies and a (dark) lust for life.

Fight Club seemed to us to have been created as a safe place where emasculated, fatherless men who felt betrayed and misrepresented in and by society could fight each other with rules set up by them. Initially a liberating movement which provided exciting experiences to enthusiastic individuals mainly isolated in society, Fight Club soon became the place where euphoric participation came to signify conversion, where defiance against orderly, possession-based, money-focused, image-obsessed society was transformed almost into hatred.

We also discussed the functions of identity in society and the way we as human identify with other people, images, or experiences, particularly how we participate in things larger than us, attach ourselves to ideas and beliefs, and create myths and idols that animate and justify our actions. Following on the issue of identity, we recognised that in Fight Club, a man could be himself or he could fight anyone he liked.

We had the impression that the fear of death permeates the book (support group, suicide attempts, deaths and so forth) and that it is mainly expressed through the main characters’ almost existentialists attitudes: Tyler, does not care about the consequences of his actions, which ultimately would mean revolutionising society, whereas both the narrator and Marla seem to change from pessimism and self-destruction to love and hope in almost religious terms. We also talked about the language used in the last chapter, in which the narrator shoots himself, but were unable to agree on what/who dies: Tyler, the narrator, both, or none.