Of all the books I’ve read lately that I’d seen the movie of first, Fight Club was the last one I expected to disappoint. There are only eight movies I would put above the Fincher directed Fight Club, and I know Chuck Palahniuk, for all his flaws, is good for the occasional book where his style actually works, instead of seeming tired. And for about the first half of the book, all was going as expected. I couldn’t not hear Edward Norton’s voice in my head narrating, or stop picking apart all the differences between the book and the movie, but I could still enjoy it as a separate work.
Then the twist came, which isn’t a twist for someone who’s seen the film, andFight Club turned into something even more preachy, in my opinion, than the film, which is saying a lot considering that’s always been one of the most popular complaints people have had about the film. If I’d read this first, perhaps the effect would’ve been dulled as it is with the film, thanks in large part to the twist being, well, a twist. Although I think I would’ve seen it coming no matter when I read the book, since Palahaniuk does a worse job of hiding it than Fincher, with the defining line between the narrator and Tyler Durden unclear from the beginning, another aspect of Fight Club which I found bothersome.
Mostly, I think my disappointment with Fight Club is a side-effect of my becoming disillusioned with Palahniuk. In high school, I thought for a time that he was both hilarious and profound. At some point, I stopped reading him, but continued to enjoy his work through the movies Fight Club and Choke. The past couple years, I’ve started, and very quickly stopped, three of his books:Pygmy, Haunted, and Survivor. The first two were unspeakably bad, and the third one was, to put it simply, dull. I thought they were exceptions, but it would appear now that they’re the norm. If I were to re-read the books of his I loved back in high school (Choke and Lullaby, namely), I’d probably be no more pleased with them than I was with Fight Club. Palahniuk’s just no longer my style of writer, and I don’t really plan on testing out that assertion. I’m sure I’ll read one of the two aforementioned books at one point or another, to see if they hold up, but that will be the extent of my relationship with Palahniuk from now on.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.