Book #69: Fight Club (1996)

fightclubauthor: Chuck Palahniuk
language: English
length: 335 minutes (5 hours 35 minutes)
finished listening on: 2 August 2014

Ah, Fight Club. I already have a bit of an odd love-hate relationship with the movie: at first when I was a teenager I quite liked it, but since then, while I still think there are a few interesting ideas in there, overall I think the philosophy is tripe and overly libertarian. I’m also coming to realize how misogynistic it also is.

Fight Club the novel is pretty much the same. Many people have noted that the film actually did a better job of telling the story than the novel did, in one of the rare reversals of the usual state of affairs. I think I agree with that, at least to some extent. I got very angry listening to this book, because of the sheer volume of to me offensive philosophy.

It’s long been assumed, and this was my impression from both the movie and the book, that Fight Club is satirical, making fun of the idea that these men’s masculinity was so threatened by the idea of women making advances in society that they had to make a hypersecret club devoted to their morally decrepit idea of what it means to be a man, but I’ve seen comments recently that Palahniuk really intended his novel to be exploring men’s issues, which makes me hate the book just a little bit more. The main character even acknowledges that Tyler Durden’s platitudes are exactly that, and doesn’t believe in their validity himself.

As a book about mental illness, however, it is really well done in my opinion. I can’t speak for the exact illnesses portrayed in the book myself, things such as insomnia or dissociative identity disorder. I’m not sure from my own perspective whether these are shown realistically, exactly, but I do think that the main character’s downward spiral is portrayed very accurately, and this was the book’s main saving grace. It’s also a mercifully short book.

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