What’s The Appeal of Fight Club?

Marla Fight Club

Marla from Fight Club. Good grief, I loved her.

Not so long ago, I, along with what seemed like every other young man in the country, was reading Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club. When they weren’t reading it, they were watching David Fincher’s movie adaptation. I watched it so many times that I over-saturated on it and haven’t seen it for about 8 years now, kind of like the way I gorged on Nirvana when I was first starting to play the guitar and Nevermind came out.

I read Fight Club again recently. I still enjoyed it, but I’ve got a lot of affection for Palahniuk. The only piece of fan mail I ever wrote was to him, and I got a letter and a box of gifts back from him in response, including a panda bear, a switchblade comb, some pirate coloring books, and chocolate cigars–my wife was pregnant at the time I sent the letter. At the top of the letter he wrote were the words YOUR POWER PANDA IS ENCLOSED!!!!

Awesome. But that’s tangential to Fight Club.

I have no idea if it is as popular as it used to be. When I was still working circulation at the library, it would get checked out or requested occasionally.

The movie is rarely on the shelves.

Back when I first read it, I felt like it had been written for me, to me. Now that I’m no longer angry, and I no longer pretend that I’m part of some lost generation that is obliged to wallow in the blackest cynicism, and now that I am not quite so young, I wonder at the appeal of Fight Club?

It spawned lots of imitators–in two separate towns I lived in, there were silly instances of dumb kids fighting each other in church buildings with giant boxing gloves.

The horror! The non-rebelliousness! The not-subversiveness!

And of course, it spawned legions of imitators in the book world. This was fine with me. I ate up everything I could find that I’d now file under Palahniuk-lite. Will Christopher Baer, Craig Clevenger, anyone and everyone who wrote about cynicism and consumerism in a minimalist style. Yes, those are massive generalizations and I don’t mean to suggest that I don’t (or didn’t, since I probably won’t be revisiting most of this stuff)  find their work enjoyable.

I did.

This most recent time that I read FC, it didn’t speak to me in the same way. I’m not the same person, so it’s not the same book. This is one of the reasons I think everything worth reading should be read at least one more time with more adult eyes.

Dunce Two, you were there at at least one of those many, many viewings of Fight Club that I sat through. What was the appeal?

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “What’s The Appeal of Fight Club?

  1. Well, I don’t think we were paying that close of attention to the plot or philosophy behind the film. All we cared about was the idea of these “normal” guys sneaking off to do something fundamentally tough and secretive and guy-ish, and that appealed to us. All I took away, philosophy-wise, was a just a general sense of “I don’t give a f*&%!” And that’s how I (liked to pretend I) felt a lot of the time.

    You read those books/watch those films now, you can’t miss the agenda behind them, the abjectly cynical message, and that does not jive with the mellow, monkey-suited outlook of the decade-older versions of our mainstream selves.

    I don’t think the idea is dead. Or the appeal. In the time since the release of the film, ultimate fighting and mixed martial arts have gone from a sort of taboo/backyard thing to mainstream, almost on par with other professional sports like boxing and football. I think the thrill of fight-club caliber violence has come out of the shadows and into the limelight.

    Sometimes now, more than ever, I feel like “I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.”

    The first rule is that you don’t talk about it, but if someone invited me today to go throw down, bare knuckles, in a leaky-piped basement somewhere, I wouldn’t say no. But maybe that’s just me.

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