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Fight Club ()

Most folks are probably familiar with the basic plot of Fight Club by now, from the film if not the book: angry young white men, alienated from their meaningless jobs and empty material pursuits find release and meaning by beating each other up and being beaten in an underground bare-fisted boxing club. Initially one holds out hope that this is some kind of satire, a hope that is boosted early on in a passage that suggests the possibility of genuine social insight:
[I] knew my dad for about six years, but I don't remember anything. My dad, he starts a new family in a new town about every six years. This isn't so much like a family as it's like he sets up a franchise.

What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women.
There lies the basis for a decent book, with participation in the fight clubs representing a sorry parody of manhood. But the hope dies aborning as it becomes apparent that Mr. Palahniuk's message is instead a kind of anarcho-nihilist claptrap that he seems to take seriously. As the initial fight clubs evolve (or devolve) into something called Project Mayhem the narrator tells us that: "we wanted to blast the world free of history." And a bit later: "This was the goal of Project Mayhem...the complete and right away destruction of civilization." This is obviously asinine, but might be forgiven in a mere fiction. However, various interviews with the author indicate his personal philosophy is exactly this inane, for instance, -INTERVIEW: The Bogeyman: Portlander Chuck Palahniuk sings a dark lullaby. (Willamette Week, 9/18/2002 ) :
Oyster in Lullaby and Tyler Durden in Fight Club are basically terrorists trying to destroy our culture. Is this something you advocate?

If it means a better world eventually, I would say, "Of course!" Creating something new depends on destroying something existing.

Are you saying Osama bin Laden has the right idea?

No, I can't say he's doing the right thing. He's not going about it in a way I condone.
What more need you say about someone who has merely stylistic differences with Osama bin Laden than that he too is evil, just "going about it" in a different way.


Grade: (F)


See also:

Chuck Palahniuk Links:

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Chuck Palahniuk
    -The Cult:
    -PROFILE: I dare you: Chuck Palahniuk is best known for his cult novel Fight Club, but his new short story, Guts, is even more extreme - not violent so much as visceral. It is also an extraordinary piece of work. (Dan Glaister, March 13, 2004, The Guardian)
    -PROFILE: Bruise control: He gets knocked down, but he gets up again. Author Chuck Palahniuk talks to Stuart Jeffries about writing Fight Club, and his even darker novels (May 12, 2000, The Guardian)
The spark for Chuck Palahniuk's novel, Fight Club, came when the author got beaten up on holiday. "The other people who were camping near us wanted to drink and party all night long, and I tried to get them to shut up one night, and they literally beat the crap out of me. I went back to work just so bashed, and horrible looking. People didn't ask me what had happened. I think they were afraid of the answer. I realised that if you looked bad enough, people would not want to know what you did in your spare time. They don't want to know the bad things about you. And the key was to look so bad that no one would ever, ever ask. And that was the idea behind Fight Club."

Inspired by the camping trip, Palahniuk got into more fights. "I discovered that I'd never been in fights, and went, wow, that was sort of fun. That was a great release, and yeah, it hurts a little bit, but I lived through it. And it made me really curious about what I was capable of. And after that, if the opportunity arose, I didn't hesitate to get in a fight. So through the writing of the book, there was a period where I was in fights pretty regularly. My friends never wanted to go out with me, because I was always looking."

    -PROFILE: Blokes on the ropes: Blood, guts and fighting are Chuck Palahniuk's fascinations. The writer of Fight Club thinks that men need to reclaim masculinity - with their fists. (Dave Hill, November 8, 2000, The Guardian)
"Fight Club came out of something that all my peers talked about," he says. "It is that their fathers had never taught them what they needed to know about becoming men. And what I'm learning more and more is that these fathers had not been taught by their own fathers."

    -INTERVIEW: Interview With Fight Club Author Chuck Palahniuk (A DVD Talk Interview)
What is the one thing you truly want people to get out of Fight Club and your other books?

That we need to be more comfortable and more accepting of chaos, and things that we see as disastrous. Because it is only through those things we can be redeemed and change. We should welcome disaster, we should welcome things that we generally run away from. There is a redemption available in those things that is available nowhere else.

    -INTERVIEW: The Bogeyman: Portlander Chuck Palahniuk sings a dark lullaby. (Willamette Week, 9/18/2002 )
    -REVIEW: of Chioke by Chuck Palahniuk (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Choke (Tim Adams, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk (Steven Poole, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Lullaby (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Lullaby (Virginia Heffernan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Diary by Chuck Palahniuk (Ali Smith, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Diary (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Diary (Laura Miller, Salon)

    -INFO: Fight Club (1999) (
    -FILMOGRAPHY: David Fincher (
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Fight Club (1999) (
    -REVIEW: of Fight Club (James Bowman)
    -REVIEW: of Fight Club (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)
    -REVIEW: of Fight Club (James Berardinelli)
    -REVIEW: of Fight Club (ALAN VANNEMAN, Bright Lights Film Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Fight Club (Jethro Rothe-Kushel, The Film Journal)

Book-related and General Links:


This book was vile filth, as were his follow up novels. Every single oneof them just got worse and worse until, voila, the crappiest, most inhumane novel to come along in some time " Haunted" hit the shelves. This book isnt even well written, not to mention that the content is disguting. Chuck Palahniuk is deathly afairsd that eventually, no one will care about his "shocking" brand of litterature and he will simply slide back down into ignominity, where he belongs. Thankfully, that time has come.

- jmleadpipe

- May-10-2005, 20:35


"[B]ased solely on my viewing of the film, and the contents of your review page..." - Michael Herdegen - Jun-06-2004, 12:47

It was high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, 'always do what you are afraid to do.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson

- Michael Herdegen

- Jun-08-2004, 01:02



You haven't read the book have you? None of the things you think you learned from being beat up repeatedly and beating others are things he talks about.

- oj

- Jun-07-2004, 18:11


The first time someone punched me in the face, it was enlightening; It taught me that sometimes people will punch you.

Palahniuk apparently gained insight from his experience of getting beaten up, and the subsequent behavior of his co-workers.

Picking fights with those who don't wish to fight, being a bully, is not a positive thing, but Palahniuk's habit of prowling around looking for people looking for trouble is just a primative version of Golden Gloves boxing matches.

Truly, Palahniuk's insight was the re-discovery of the primative within. 'Fight Club' is instantly understandable to most 19th century men. Look at the legend of Mike Fink. Also, this:

"The unlikely epic of what is now known as the Bowie knife began on a sandbar in the Mississippi River, across from the rough-and-tumble town of Natchez, Mississippi, in 1827. A cast of characters assembled there on September 19 for a formal duel between Samuel Levi Wells and Dr. Thomas H. Maddox. Among the group supporting Wells was a slave trader, land speculator, and Louisiana planter named James Bowie.

Maddox and Wells stood eight paces apart, left side facing left side. They fired twice, missed both times, and shook hands. As they were leaving the dueling grounds, however, their companions decided it was a fine time to settle a few old scores. A grisly melee ensued. As the original duelists watched, one man fired at Bowie. Bowie drew a large knife and took chase, during which he was shot through the chest. In the next few moments, Bowie was clubbed with a pistol and shot twice more. While he was down, two assailants attacked with sword canes. Bowie slashed one in the gut. The other man stabbed him through the hand and body. Still impaled, Bowie grabbed his opponent’s coat, lifted himself off the ground, and sunk his blade heart-deep.

At the end of the “horrid outrage,” as one newspaper account billed it, Bowie was bleeding from no less than seven wounds. He wasn’t expected to live. He did, of course, for another nine years, until he perished in the even more confounding mists of the Alamo. But from the Sandbar Fight rose his reputation as a knife-fighting master that grew to mythic proportions.

From then on Bowie’s every altercation was fodder for the press. Various reports have him engaged in hand-to-hand combat dozens of times. Once, it was reported, he was attacked in Texas by three hired assassins. With his terrible blade he decapitated one, disemboweled the second, and split to the shoulders the skull of the third."

Brawling, grappling, wrestling, and plain killing are not commonly practiced in America anymore, nor held in high esteem, and that's a net good. However, we've also lost some of the exhilaration of physical exertion, and measuring one's self against another man.

- Michael Herdegen

- Jun-07-2004, 18:01


When's the last time someone punched you in the face? It's not enlightening.

- oj

- Jun-07-2004, 08:06


All he's saying is, loosen up.

Humans tend to get caught up in looking at the trees, and don't see the forest anymore.

Sometimes being unwillingly forced to change or react leads to better things.

- Michael Herdegen

- Jun-07-2004, 03:11


Chaos isn't freedom.

- oj

- Jun-06-2004, 12:57


It's interesting that you feel so negatively about Palahniuk, since, (based solely on my viewing of the film, and the contents of your review page), you and he are on the same side of the freedom/security continuum.

"[W]e need to be more comfortable and more accepting of chaos, and things that we see as disastrous. Because it is only through those things we can be redeemed and change. [...] There is a redemption available in those things that is available nowhere else." An extreme view, but on your end of the scale.

In any case, what he really found by getting beat up, and then becoming a brawler, was the fun of competition, the intensity of struggling for survival, and the release of all-out physical effort.

- Michael Herdegen

- Jun-06-2004, 12:47