Until the Kindle for Mac app was released, I’d never actually read Fight Club, but I’d always just figured it was amazing. I mean, the film version sounds like Chuck Palahniuk at his best. It sounds like Survivor, and Invisible Monsters, and Choke. Fight Club is one of the movies I turn on just to listen to the writing, it’s practically an audio book. The film version of Fight Club is edgy, and smart, and entirely plausible in a violently surreal way. Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden is fucking brilliant, and totally fuckin’ cool. You want to be him, or at least hang out with him. It’s obvious why Edward Norton’s Narrator created him for an alter-ego. The film’s ending, all those corporate offices crashing down, Norton’s Narrator and Helena Bonham Carter’s Marla Singer holding hands while everything burns, it’s beautiful and perfect. They’re two fucked up people, but they found each other and in that moment, they’re happy.
If I had to pick a single word to describe Fight Club as a novel, that word would be “juvenile.” If I had to pick a second word, it’d be “tedious.” I found reading it to be painful. Palahniuk is so over-the-top, so obviously trying to shock people, that the novel reads like a ridiculous farce. The Narrator isn’t likable, he reads like a bitter seventeen year-old walking around in a thirty year-old body. We get more of his back-story, but his story isn’t endearing. Throughout the novel, one doesn’t get the sense that he’s evolving, growing up, learning anything from his experiences. He isn’t learning anything from Tyler because Tyler isn’t teaching anything genuinely valuable, he’s just an angry kid throwing a violent tantrum at the world. The Narrator and Tyler are just different degrees of bitter teenager, Tyler being more prone toward violence. Pitt’s Tyler is definitely irreverent, absolutely an Anarchist, but when he speaks it’s intelligent. He makes sense, in a dark sort of way. The same can’t be said of Tyler’s book-bound counterpart.
The novel contains various themes; losing everything makes one free to do anything, material possessions are an empty measure of one’s worth, paternal abandonment, destruction as a form of creation, all interesting for one to consider. Unfortunately for the novel, these ideas are buried under a ridiculous story in which Tyler is making soap from stolen lard liposuctioned from Marla’s mom’s ass, lard Marla was saving to use for her own future lip and ass enlargement injections. A story in which Tyler and Marla constantly refer to each other as “buttwipe.” A story in which Marla and a bunch of cancer patients, some in wheelchairs, race to the top of a building to stop Tyler from killing himself. Fight Club as a novel smacks of immaturity and blatant attempts to shock readers with useless, crude dialogue. I’m sure at seventeen, Fight Club would have been taboo and amazing, but I’m not seventeen, and I’ve experienced too much to be able to relate to so much fluff.
The film version of Fight Club manages to distill the best elements of its source-material into a thought-provoking, intelligent story that’s ultimately beautiful in all its darkness. Maybe I’d feel differently if I’d read the novel first, but I doubt it.5 comments
So, I recently finished reading Choke by Chuck Palahniuk and it totally reminded me again how brilliantly Palahniuk can write. Though, it being one of his earlier works, I also worry that his best stuff is behind him. Palahniuk has an amazing knack for creating complete lunatic, fuck up, low-life characters who are still likable and relatable. At least, I find them relatable. Choke’s protag is Victor Mancini, a sex-addicted liar who may or may not be the Second Coming of Christ. Victor’s a med-school dropout working as an indentured servant at an historical theme park. His mother’s a senile social anarchist who spent most of his childhood in and out of prison, kidnapping him from various foster homes. If Victor’s not busy having sex with women from sex addicts anonymous, he’s pretending to choke at local restaurants. His saviors befriend him, hear his troubles, they send him money. Victor needs the money, indentured servant, sex addict, med-school dropouts don’t pull down enough to keep their moms in high-end nursing facilities. Victor also likes the idea that he gives people a story to tell, that he creates heroes one meal at a time. At the nursing home, the demented old women mistake Victor for men who wronged them in the past and he cops to every sin from incest to dog murder. It’s much easier for Victor to be someone else, with each confession providing closure until senility reopens the wounds. Victor’s best friend, Denny, another sex addict, collects rocks for every-day he doesn’t masturbate. He says he wants his life to about something rather than be about not doing something one day at a time. Still, the rocks are just a fix for a fix.
Palahniuk likes to write certain themes into every novel, like, losing everything to truly appreciate anything, or how hitting absolute rock bottom simply means there’s nothing left to fear, both of which I love. He also writes a great deal about things being just a fix for a fix. One addiction to fix another. Denny and the rocks. Victor taking responsibility for so many sins just to feel needed. I really understand such themes and I feel better knowing that other people have that same understanding. I think about the idea of a fix for a fix quite a lot, ever since the hole in my throat and and the tube in my stomach. The trache fixes my breathing and takes away my voice leaving thoughts and worries to fill my head until I can’t sleep, until I miss every drug I ever had. Brandy to slow everything down. Reading, watching movies, writing as much as possible so the brandy doesn’t feel necessary. Amazingly hot soup, astonishingly hot coffee, fantastically cold cereal go into my feeding tube because eating has become more about sensation than taste. The oral pleasure of sweet cocoa replaced by the sensual pleasure of heat from steamed soy milk as it passes through a tube to my stomach, to my chest, to my face. Fixes for fixes. Palahniuk’s writing, especially in Choke, Survivor and Invisible Monsters is so spot on as to make things that I think about more clear and less frightening. I feel less alone.
Definitely read Choke, it’s darkly hilarious and quite provocative.6 comments
So, first, while reading Choke I learned that I’ve been spelling “trache” incorrectly as “trach” for the last year-and-a-half, which is definitely embarrassing. Speaking of traches, I was supposed to get a new one this morning at 7 AM, but due to a scheduling snafu I have to wait until Friday morning. I hate the waiting, it’s the sort of thing a fellow just wants done and over being that it definitely has to be done…
Lately I feel a claustrophobic, I need high ceilings…1 comment
I just finished Chuck Palahniuk’s latest, Snuff. I’m not quite certain how I feel about it. While reading it, it wasn’t my favorite of his works, yet the last four chapters kind of won me over. Snuff is the story of Cassie Wright and her attempt to break the world’s record for the most sex partners in a single work of pornography, 600 to be exact. The story is told from the perspective of three fellows waiting in line for a go at Cassie and the “talent wrangler,” the woman in charge of the 600 fellow gang-bang.
My first problem was that I just find the sex industry astonishingly depressing, and not in a fun Dawn of the Dead sort of way. Secondly, I couldn’t really like or relate to any of the characters. I suppose it’s a good thing that I have nothing in common with a bunch of porn fiends, but what I usually love about Palahniuk is that I do tend to identify with or feel empathy toward his characters. That said, it’s a short book and the last four chapters are amazing, so I have no regrets.11 comments
Yesterday I finished Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Basically, it’s a story of a man, Richard Mayhew, who after saving the life of a young girl, ends up being erased from existence in his own world and forced to journey to a parallel world. The girl’s name is Door, she’s from London Below, a shadow version of Richard’s London Above. After her entire family is murdered for reasons unknown to her, Door desperately flees her would-be assassins by opening a magical portal to London Above. Enter Richard, who happens upon Door bloodied and semi-conscious lying on the sidewalk near Richard’s flat. Nobody bothers to help her because people from London Below barely register in the minds of people from London Above. Yet, Richard can see her, which is the start of all his troubles.
Neverwhere is a great concept set in lush and interesting world. Unfortunately, Richard and Door are two astonishingly flat protagonists who pale in comparison to the book’s far more rich lesser characters. The story itself, while “fun,” is definitely a little formulaic. Luckily, Neverwhere is one of Gaiman’s first novels and they do get much better.
My current book is Chuck Palahniuk’s newly released Snuff.3 comments