bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #40: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

I know, I know. The first rule of fight club is we don’t talk about fight club. But I’m going to break it anyway, because I really, really liked the book, and I just read it for the first time.

I watched the film adaptation of Fight Club several years ago, and there was a very strong motivation for doing so in the first place. I think we can guess what that might have been.


Brad Pitt was a majestic beast, Edward Norton brilliant, and Helena Bonham Carter spectacular, but for some reason, I neglected the original book. But, since I’m on a great quest for American authors (especially men), it seemed to make sense to include Chuck Palahniuk. And I’m glad I read Fight Club.

In short: the narrator is living a rather dull existence, and he can’t sleep. He goes to several terminal illness support groups to feel something (and ultimately to find the nothingness he hopes death can bring him). But he meets a woman named Marla Singer, as well as Tyler Durden, a mysteriously compelling figure who starts a fight club with him, as well as a soap-making industry that turns its eye to more anarchistic endeavors.

It would be oversimplifying the novel to say that it’s about anarchy. Rather, I saw Palahniuk examining our relationship to authority, and the male perception of masculinity, masculine hierarchies, and gender, using violence as a rather extreme means to suss out how men feel about themselves and each other. I think for that reason, especially considering its publication in the 90s, Fight Club is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary American fiction, masculinity and fiction, or responses to violence in literature. This is my academic perspective.

My reader’s response was sheer enjoyment. Yeah, it’s not a super polished text. But I’m okay with that. It’s entertaining and at the same time a little uncomfortable. And I think that’s great. If you liked the movie, you should definitely try out the book. Or if you’ve been avoiding the book because you think it’s immature or overhyped, I’d really urge you to give it a chance.

2 thoughts on “bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #40: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

  1. This one has been on my TBR list since the movie, but for some reason the book has languished there, maybe because I did see the movie and I feel that the movie adequately captured the essence of the book? Is that an incorrect assumption?

    • That is a very correct assumption, and it’s the reason Fight Club languished on my own TBR list for so many years. As I was reading it, the movie was going through my head, especially Ed Norton’s narrator voice. So in that essence, I think the movie nailed the book. What the book made clear for me was *why* Tyler starts his “armies” and what sort of significance that holds for society. I think the movie glossed over that a bit and confused me. Or maybe this idea of social collapse is on my mind because it’s what I’m studying so I’m just hyper-aware of it…? I thought it was a very worthwhile (and short) read, although if you don’t read it, you’ve got the movie, and that’s more than okay too.

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