Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fight Club - A Book Review

#1 - The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.

#2 - The second rule of Fight Club is, you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

I guess I’m breaking the first two rules of Fight Club by writing about it, but then again, I really can’t stop myself. I’ve been a possessed man, ever since I’ve picked up this book. It has changed the way I think, act or react. Such is the effect Fight Club can have on its readers. I think, for any book to be able to do that, speaks wonders for itself; because after all, isn’t that what a book is supposed to do? Grip and engulf the reader in itself and take him on a journey he’s never been on, show him sights he’s never seen before and make him experience things he’s never otherwise had a chance to!

Fight Club is that sort of a book. Not very voluminous, the book is merely 200 odd pages, but that is all that the author, Chuck Palahniuk needed to make his point about the world that we live in today, and he manages to hit just the right spot! Fight Club stands out and is a work of pure genius because it manages to specifically and accurately hit its targets (such as mindless consumerism, the sublimation of violent urges, the transformation of men into pale imitations of their fathers, etc.) manifesting itself into a great book, and not just another social commentary.

Fight Club is centered around a nameless narrator, who works for an automobile company. He is extremely unhappy with his life, his work and about how he’s almost forced by society, to conform and be just like everyone else. He hates how he, along with most people in the world, is being manipulated by the consumerist nesting instinct that saturates his life and has thoughts that all of us have felt at some point or the other.

“You buy furniture. You tell yourself this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple of years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug.
Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own; now they own you."

Things turn around when he meets Tyler Durden. Tyler stands for all the things that the narrator has always believed in, but never quite had the guts or the vision to back them up. Tyler is a captivating man, who is part crazy, part genius. He lives an anti-consumerist lifestyle, is opposed to capitalism, the social structure and the pop culture surrounding our lives. Together, they start an underground ‘Fight Club’, as a technique of extreme therapy. Soon other men join them and Fight Club spreads. The narrator then realizes that Fight Club is just the first step for the bigger plans that Tyler has – to encourage acts of rebellion and destruction and focusing on nothing less than the destruction of society itself and start, what Tyler calls “a new, better world order.”

Along the way, he also happens to meet Marla Singer, a junkie, who he happens to loathe and hate initially; only to eventually fall in love with her. I once read somewhere that every story in the world is actually a love story in one way or the other. If so, Fight Club is the most disturbing love story I’ve ever read, and yet, the most interesting one too.

As most of us know, Fight Club has also been made into a memorable movie, featuring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter, and is one of those very rare book-to-movies which have been quite incredible in both their forms. Barring the few changes here and there, the movie has stayed true to the soul of the book. But, if I had to take a call, I’d pick up the book given how it manages to mess with your head, even days after you’ve kept it aside. Such is its hypnotic, twisted nature, such is its parallel, unconnected, fleeting writing style, such is its mockery of our world and the system, and such is the magnetism of its characters and their quirks that it haunts you for a long, long time. If you’ve truly managed to grasp what the book has to say, you’re either going to love it or hate it. But, one thing’s for sure - You’re never going to be the same ever again.

It’s deep, dark, demented and disturbed. Chuck Palahniuk takes you to a world where there are no-holds-barred, no curtains and nothing to hide. And the sights and sounds are not always pretty, which is what makes it even more enthralling and real. Be prepared to be caught off-guard, to be shocked and to be amazed at the capacity of the human mind to push its limits. Obviously, a subject like this deserved a rough, edgy treatment, and Chuck Palahniuk does exactly that. Words are not minced; ideas are not suppressed and bursts of violence, along with a lot of explicit material, form an integral part of the story. But here, it seems to go with the flow of the book, and hence, only makes the narrative even more exhilarating.

If it were not for the constraints of limited time, space and reader’s interest, I’d go on and on, but fact remains- No amount of words can do justice to Fight Club. It’s not just a book, it’s an experience. The only thing you really need to enjoy the book is an open mind. If you’re telling yourself that you’ve seen the movie and you don’t need this, trust me, you do. Perhaps, even more so. Go ahead and pick up one of the most radical books of our times- the book which prompted a hundred actual Fight Clubs to mushroom across the United States and made making rules “cool” again, and breaking them too. I can’t think of a better way to end this than to leave you with some memorable lines from the book.

“For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone.  I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans.  And account for every drop of used motor oil.  And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and land-filled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born.”

“You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile. You’re not how much money you've got in the bank.  You're not your job. You're not your family, and you're not who you tell yourself…You're not your name...You're not your problems…You're not your age…You are not your hopes."

“We don't have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression.”

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