The narrator, a young, single man plagued by insomnia, meets a charismatic nihilist named Tyler. One night, after returning home to find his apartment destroyed via a gas explosion, the narrator reaches out to Tyler for a place to crash. Tyler agrees under one condition. “I want you to hit me as hard as you can,” he says.
This leads to the pair forming a secret, late night fighting club where disillusioned men battle with bare fists and feet until one taps out. Palahniuk springboards from here into a biting satire of consumerist culture and modern masculinity.
Like most, I came to Fight Club from the movie. It’s a great movie that improves on already great material. Lines like:
The security task force guy explained everything to me.
Baggage handlers can ignore a ticking suitcase. The security task force guy, he called baggage handlers Throwers.
Home was a condominium on the fifteenth floor of a high-rise, a sort of filing cabinet for widows and young professionals.
Some lines can’t translate to film, like this Chandleresque bit of atmosphere:
The doorman blew his nose and something went into his handkerchief with the good slap of a pitch into a catcher’s mitt.
Or this bon mot:
We don’t go to dance clubs. Tyler says the music is so loud, especially the bass tracks, that it screws with his biorhythm. The last time we went out, Tyler said the loud music made him constipated. This, and the club is too loud to talk, so after a couple of drinks, everyone feels like the center of attention but completely cut off from participating with anyone else.
You’re the corpse in an English murder mystery.
Or this dig:
I never, no, never told anyone this, but before I met Tyler, I was planning to buy a dog and name it “Entourage.”
This is how bad your life can get.
Also unlike the movie, which sees Delaware as the narrator’s home state, the book’s geography proves elusive. Early on, the narrator flies home from Dulles and sets his watch back three hours, putting him on the west coast. He also meets with Microsoft (why, as a recall campaign coordinator?), so maybe Washington state?
The novel and book also differ on where the narrator meets Tyler. In the movie, they meet on an airplane during one of the narrator’s constant flights. In the book, they meet on a nude beach. While I appreciate the symbolism, this setting feels wrong. Tyler would go to a nude beach, not the narrator.
These slight changes elevate the film. They streamline the narrative, trim the fat, and expand on the themes, while retaining the literary choruses and sense of humor. An impressive feat.
I’d read the novel years ago, but this time, I opted for the audiobook. Palahniuk’s prose shines read aloud. His use of choruses and journalistic discipline of showing and not telling makes for an engrossing listening experience. A story better told instead of read. My one complaint? Jim Colby acquits himself well despite a creeping New England accent, but he’s no Edward Norton.
- 15 Jul, 202215%
- 16 Jul, 2022Finished