Preview: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk

I had a dream the other night which freaked me right out, I thought I would share it ...


So I'm at college (in my dream that is) and the tutor is blah blah blahing on. One of the other students cracks under the pressure of being forced to listen to this endless monologue about something relating to human anatomy, stands up and stands cartwheeling around the room. Her t-shirt starts flashing different colours as she goes, red then orange, then bright blue. Students all over the room follow suit and start rebelling being subjected to this mind-numbingly boring lecture and begin yee-haaing about inviting seagulls in through an open window, leaping about like stags, hurling books so hard into the air they literally take flight and begin flapping around the room with the seagulls. There's a fair amount of mayhem ensuing.


And what am I doing? I'm sitting there, continuing to listen to the tutor drone like a dying wasp about the driest subject on the planet. My eyelids are growing heavy, my head is beginning to loll, my body is drooping until I'm spilling onto the desk and out like a light, sound asleep, complete with drool.


Meanwhile in a parallel universe ... I had my usual dream about all my teeth falling out. It all begins innocently enough with a wobbly incisor but soon every tooth in my head is cramming into the front on my mouth attempting desperately to make a bid for freedom through my mouth as I try in vain to hold them all in with my hands and sheer grit. I know everyone is looking at me and I know it's only a matter of time before I'm toothless, red faced and unsure of what my next move should be. I'm paralysed with uncertainty, what does one do in a situation such as this? Call a dentist? A doctor? Just stand very still and hope for the best? Panic sets in .... Then I wake up. My tutor is shaking me awake from my slumped position on my desk. I come-to groggily, as if waking from a very deep sleep. There's a crick in my neck where my head was lying at an odd angle on the hard wooden table top.


I look up to face the thunderous face of my tutor. Guess sleeping in class is a no-no then? I look around and all the other students are still galloping round the room, causing havoc, throwing things, swinging from the light fittings. And then it dawns on me .... I'm still dreaming. I've woken up from a dream-within-a-dream, Inception style. And huge sense of relief washes over me. I wasn't really sleeping in class! I just dreamed that I dreamed while sleeping in class!


This was one of the most bizarre dreams that I have ever had (and I have some pretty whacked dreams), I just couldn't get it out of my head. I was literally thinking about the thing all day. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Fight Club, for me, was a little like my dream. One the most fucked up, crazy, round about layered piece of fiction I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It both delighted me and irked the crap out of me at the same time. And it stayed with me for a long time after I finished reading.


The characterisation is not great, the plot runs out of steam somewhat and the prose gets a little grating but it's original, it's snappy and it's engaging. It is a very interesting portrayal of modern consumerism and how badly being stuck in the rat race can really mess your head up. Of course, there's the usual Palahnuik ramble where he seems to forget what's going on and what's what, but he does hop back onto the point and the story does reach a reasonably satisfying conclusion. I like a bit of crazy, I like unique and I like the unexpected and on this front, Palahnuik does usually manage to deliver, it's a bonus that Fight Club is a bit more complete and rounded than some of his other novels (Choke ... ahem .... What happened there, hmm?).


Aside from Tyler the characters fall a little flat as far as actual personality goes in my opinion. However ... I do believe is was, at least partly, the point. Tyler is the narrator's alter-ego, every bit as bold, shiny and fascinating as the narrator is dull, tired and dissatisfied with existence. I reckon complaining that the narrator is one-dimensional would be missing the point as he is supposed to be polar opposite to Tyler and everything Tyler is not. So we'll leave that one alone .... Marla though ... I know it's a very masculine book, full of masculine men doing masculine things but could Marla not have been written with a little more vigour? Yes, we have strong men, but we also have strong woman on this earth (Ying and Yang and all that ...) and portraying a woman as strong, interesting and full of life does not make a man less so. There's no need to write women as cardboard cutouts just to make your men seem more manly.


I give Fight Club four stars because there are elements of it that bother me, but in general I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoyed my dream .... Surprised and delighted!