Monday, 4 July 2011
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
For some reason I am finding it very hard to settle down to writing my response top Fight Club. Maybe because I am totally uncertain as to my response. Maybe because I didn't have my trusty pen to hand to jot down the quotes that struck me as I read. Looking through these often clarifies my thinking.
Anyway, rather than let it fester undone any longer I am going to tackle it TODAY. (4/7/11)
The first thing that struck me about Fight Club was that the narrator (or author) was pretty unreliable.
He goes into some detail about the methodology of film projection, talking about how in times past two dots would announce the upcoming reel change to the projectionist and are known as cigarette burns, what happens when a movie is sprocket run (the light' 'shines through the sound track and instead of talk, you're blasted with the helicopter blade sound of whop whop whop as each burst of light comes through a sprocket hole') and other details. He then spoils it all by telling us that film runs/ran at 60 frames a second when it actually runs at twenty four frames a second. The narrator has a friend Tyler Durden who splices single pornographic frames into other films and although they are unaware of seeing these frames the audience is upset by them. ("People feel sick or start to cry and don't know why. Only a hummingbird could have caught Tyler at work.")
This is the novel, really. The world is broken up into so many little pieces that it's lost all real meaning and the few glimpses of 'reality' that are spliced into the film cause angst but even the angst is dissociated, floating free. So something needs to cause reality to be 'sprocket run' so some light can come through.
We started on top of a building that's about to be blown up - and not just any building but the tallest building in the world. "You can topple anything. It's weird to think the place where we're standing will only be a point in the sky." "Somewhere in the one hundred and ninety one floors under us, the space monkeys in the Mischief Committee of Project Mayhem are running wild, destroying every scrap of history." There is an imagined future in the book where humans hunt big game through the decaying canyons of the city. (This reminded me of a recent conversation with my brother who was reading The World Without Us.)
The narrator goes to support groups for people with terminal illnesses. This allows him to access emotions that he can't otherwise access and this is the only relief he gets from chronic insomnia. This 'haven' is damaged when another interloper, Marla, turns up at a number of the same support groups including one for testicular cancer.
His job takes him flying all over the country and "Home was a condominium on the fifteenth floor of a high rise, a sort of filing cabinet for widows and young professionals." When his home is completely destroyed by an explosion his greatest plaint is for some of his food collection "Oh not my refrigerator. I'd collected shelves full of different mustards, some stone ground, some English pub style. There were fourteen different flavours of fat free salad dressing, and seven kinds of capers." As he notes this was "a house full of condiments and no real food."
He is completely adrift from his life.
Then he meets Tyler Durden and becomes even more adrift. Together they create a Fight Club where young men suffering similar anomie can go to feel something. The concept snowballs and everything changes.
The book has subjects close to my heart, the loss of meaning in the world, the amorality of business, the powerless of the salarymen, a desire to return to a time before 'civilisation' but at the same time I felt that I never quite liked it as much as I thought I would / should. Perhaps it's embrace of the meaningless nature of the world left it a little adrift from my emotions. The characters also seemed more cyphers than characters, although this had a certain 'truth' within the book it also served to keep my engagement with it at arms length.
It did, however, suggest Ireland is a potential hotbed of anarchism: "You're in Ireland the summer after you left college, and maybe this is where you first wanted anarchy. Years before you first met Tyler Durden, before you peed in your first créme anglaise, you learned about little acts of rebellion.