Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fight Club

I think it was two years ago. A friend gave me a DVD, calling it “A Brad Pitt”, go watch it. Well, I didn’t. The cover label felt as if the movie was some boxing gross hit by Mr. Pitt, and I didn’t watch it. A year later a very good friend with great artistic appreciation said, Amir, have you watched Fight Club? And I said I had the DVD and I didn’t. And he just yelled how could you NOT?! ... man, “I was Joe’s grinding teeth.”

I found the DVD again and watched it. I believe Fight Club could dominate the 2000 Oscars. Anyway I’m not to talk about the movie. Worthy it truly was, but the genius lies elsewhere. It was the movie first that introduced to me Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the Fight Club. Palahniuk is one of the many writers of our time who has stormed the literary world with his debut novel. Fight Club is evoking, multi-layered, inspiring, and revolutionary. Chuck has well proved his genius in his seven later novels, but the influence of Fight Club is evident in his later fiction. Well, I’m Joe’s complete lack of surprise.

Fight Club is the account of the final few months of the life of one nameless antihero, later called Jack by the author, who lives in late 20th century America. This antihero, who happens to be the narrator as well, is the prototype of ‘the consumer’ in the capitalist America. He works “a job he hates” to earn enough “to buy things he doesn’t need.” But well, like most of us, consumers as we are, Jack is not fulfilled and satisfied. He is not happy at all and he has no idea why. Jack, the most jaded antihero you could ever see.

The core of Jack’s jadedness is his lack of one true identity, and what he does through the novel is to find, or let’s say, to redefine one. What bothers Jack is the origin of his current identity which is determined by the culture in which “no one is truly white or black or rich, anymore. We all want the same. Individually we are nothing.”

The culture that determines Jack’s identity is based on ‘consumerism’ and Jack is a victim of it. Things he used to own, now they own him. The condo he used to own, now it owns him and, as he says, “... I wasn’t the only slave to my nesting instinct. The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue.”

Being tired of such a life style, and wanting to get away from it, the narrator sets off the journey of self-discovery. Well, Palahniuk is not going to lead his hero to salvation. Palahniuk is too realistic to do that. In the chaotic world of the hero, there is no way to salvation and deliverance. The narrator’s journey is not about “self-improvement”. It is about “self-destruction”.

Insomnia marks the beginning of the narrator’s journey as well as the end of it. When you have insomnia everything seems “a copy of a copy of a copy”. The narrator is not able to sleep, so with no where yet to rest his head, Jack waits, like these, on earth forlorn.

Insomnia marks the narrator’s restlessness, the beginning of his awareness, and last but not least, the birth of Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden: a copy of a copy of the narrator. Tyler Durden: the chaotic side of the narrator’s personality; the angry voice of his unconscious; the shrill cry of his split psyche, his hallucination, his friend and his role model. The beauty of Fight Club is that the unconscious of the protagonist is personified. It becomes a character who acts and his presence is felt. And what is Tyler really doing out there? Well, he needs Jack to do him a favour. “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” He is out there to start the fight club.

“Who I am in fight club is not someone my boss knows”, says the narrator. The fight club is the narrator’s first real effort to re-define his disintegrated personality, one which is not defined by the ‘consumer’ society’. Well, it is not just him and Tyler. Little by Little fight club becomes full of city dwellers who want to become “enlightened”, and “feel alive”.

In fight club the narrator is restlessly fighting to re-define manhood and masculinity. There he is learning the fact that he is “the middle child of history,” “raised by television, to believe that he will someday be a “millionaire, a movie star, a rock star.” But he won’t. What the narrator needs is the new ‘manhood’. One which is defined by savages, like in the mountains of Bolivia, where male villagers “beat the crap out of one another, drunk and bloody, chanting ‘We are Men...We are Men.’

Fight club is individual development. Well, at one point the narrator realizes that it is not enough. First one ‘builds up a tolerance to fight club’. Second, ‘something bigger’ is needed which could be expanded in social scales. Revolution is the answer. What is revolution to Palahniuk? Anarchy, destruction, or Project Mayhem.

Project Mayhem seeks to destroy history, destruct the whole civilization and to “force humanity to go dormant long enough for the earth to recover.” The goal is to teach each man he has “the power to control history”. The goal is to cause disaster which is “a natural part of evolution, toward tragedy and dissolution.” Long story short, “justified anarchy”.

After reading Fight Club one becomes aware of the role he is playing in the society. Is it not that we are all jaded and pathetic consumers who get away from depression and oblivion by roaming around in shopping malls and making sure that we use the latest iPhone and sit on the newest furniture? And once we get them we seek the next product or else start to feel depressed. Waking up our Tyler Durdens is not easy and not safe.

Fight Club; by Chuck Palahniuk: 9.0 / 10


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