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Designer soap made of human fat, an anarchist's cookbook of volatile recipes, and the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it Chuck Palahniuk's outrageous, darkly comic first novel is a brutal reminder that we each have a part to play in the apocalypse.
Plagued with insomnia due to the cynical nature of his job (he investigates accidents for a carmaker in order to assess the cost-effectiveness of a recall), Fight Club's nameless narrator spends his evenings attending support groups for the terminally ill. Masquerading as a sufferer of various cancers, or as a victim of brain parasites, he discovers that losing all hope bestows a sense of freedom; Facing death, he feels more alive than ever before, and sleeps like a baby. Until Marla Singer also a shamming support group groupie ruins everything.
Marla not only invades his therapy sessions, but gradually insinuates herself into his private life as well, taking up with his housemate, the mysterious Tyler Durden. Tyler, a self-styled "minimum wage despoiler," works a succession of night jobs, taking perverse glee in sabotaging and blackmailing his employers. When, on a whim, the narrator and Tyler take turns punching out their frustrations on each other at a local bar, Fight Club is born.
"The first rule about fight club is that you don't talk about fight club."
Soon the disaffected drones of industry are spending their off hours beating each other to bloody pulp. After a night in Fight Club, they go back to their jobs bruised and battered, but with the liberating sense that they can handle anything. But FightClubis only the first stage of Tyler's anarchic master plan; Soon random acts of unkindness proliferate as mayhem and organized chaos spread across the country, culminating in a schizophrenic showdown on top of the world's tallest building.
The 2008 audio edition of Palahniuk's ground-breaking 1996 novel provides a timely opportunity to contemplate the direction of Generation X and the wider, popular culture over the past dozen years. The white, male, 20-something angst of the story's unnamed protagonist and his mysterious partner in crime, Tyler Durden, may now sometimes seem like slightly dated grunge rock. Also, the themes of domestic terrorism and insurrection certainly play differently in a post-September 11 world. Yet Palahniuk's power to provoke our collective sacred cows remains undeniable. The narrative-with its delusional twists and turns-presents serious challenges on audio. James Colby cleverly plays deadpan cool through much of the early plot exposition so that the chaos that eventually takes hold becomes all the more eerie and surreal. He pulls off the convoluted climactic revelations with emotional authenticity. The listening experience may be too jarring for general audiences merely hoping for a commute diversion. However, the release offers today's crop of young urban hipsters an opportunity to connect with the voices of a previous decade. A W.W. Norton paperback (Reviews, June 3, 1996). (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Brutal and relentless debut fiction takes anarcho-S&M chic to a whole new levelin a creepy, dystopic, confrontational novel that's also cynically smart and sharply written.
Palahniuk's insomniac narrator, a drone who works as a product recall coordinator, spends his free time crashing support groups for the dying. But his after-hours life changes for the weirder when he hooks up with Tyler Durden, a waiter and projectionist with plans to screw up the worldhe's a "guerilla terrorist of the service industry." "Project Mayhem" seems taken from a page in The Anarchist Cookbook and starts small: Durden splices subliminal scenes of porno into family films and he spits into customers' soup. Things take off, though, when he begins the fight cluba gruesome late-night sport in which men beat each other up as partial initiation into Durden's bigger scheme: a supersecret strike group to carry out his wilder ideas. Durden finances his scheme with a soap-making business that secretly steals its main ingredientthe fat sucked from liposuction. Durden's cultlike groups spread like wildfire, his followers recognizable by their open wounds and scars. Seeking oblivion and self-destruction, the leader preaches anarchist fundamentalism: "Losing all hope was freedom," and "Everything is falling apart"all of which is just his desperate attempt to get God's attention. As the narrator begins to reject Durden's revolution, he starts to realize that the legendary lunatic is just himself, or the part of himself that takes over when he falls asleep. Though he lands in heaven, which closely resembles a psycho ward, the narrator/Durden lives on in his flourishing clubs.
This brilliant bit of nihilism succeeds where so many self- described transgressive novels do not: It's dangerous because it's so compelling.