There’s a chance you’ve seen, or at least heard of Fight Club from David Fincher’s epic cinematic effort but that only scratches the surface of Chuck Palahniuk’s dystopian musings on our modern world.
Of course, I’m breaking the first rule: I’m talking about Fight Club, the dark and satirical takedown of greed, consumerism and masculinity on the verge of the new millennium, that carries themes that almost seem more relevant in 2016.
Released 20 years ago last week, Fight Club is a post-modern masterpiece that stands strong even in the face of David Fincher’s exceptional adaptation.
Entwining themes of masculinity and capitalism; Palahniuk’s writing flows as a stream of consciousness through a nameless insomniac with a grudge against modern society. Through the lens of this unreliable narrator, we are shown a vision of society as it now stands – feminised, weak, isolated.
That is until Tyler Durden comes along. The two protagonists concoct a series of terroristic events to take back their masculinity, to destroy consumerism, and to wreak havoc on capitalist culture as we know it. However, ‘Project Mayhem’slowly spirals out of control – with Tyler taking things too far for our average joe Narrator. ‘Fight Clubs’ rule the underground, the wealthy pay for their own liposuction-ed fat back, and society at large is deconstructed one Ikea flat pack at a time.
The narrative is short, snappy, and loose – an expert example of minimalist prose. Palahniuk’s skill at penning rich philosophical ideas into seemingly random passages is refreshingly unique, and leaves room for as many varied interpretations as there are perfectly quotable lines. The Tyler-Narrator bread crumbs are a joy to discover, and traversing the fractured mind set of our protagonist holds a new sense of meaning when you dive into it first-hand.
But why should you read it today? With the American Dream as dead as ever – Fight Club holds as much relevance as it did 20 years ago.
Consumerism, greed and an ever changing view on what masculinity means in the modern world raise the same questions as in the 90s, if not more so.
Palahniuk offers a vision of what would happen should the worker bee fight back. Fight Club boils down the essence of consumer culture (the latest smartphone, the best car, the ultimate six blade razor with flashing lights and built in swizzle ball) to its petty core, making us question why such things are important in the first place.
Whilst the focus is on masculinity and the construction of the modern man – the message is intrinsic for both genders. The things you own end up owning you.
The themes of terrorism that run through the book seem almost more appropriate 20 years later also; with recent events bearing a resemblance to Project Mayhem’s destructive prerogative.
In a world where power and violence are the pillars of success and creating wealth, violence is the inevitable action of the counter movements. An awful message; but one that the author toys with when violence is the only emotional outlet available to men that have been reduced to corporate drones.
Mcdonalds, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Vodafone, the concept of ‘house name brands’ – all synonymous with human life. In the same way, mental and physical health is tackled by Palahniuk in an estranged manner: what does it mean to be happy and where do we derive this from? What defines us as people? What defines masculinity as male? This is more appropriate in 2016 than ever before with the rising discussions of mental health and gender; two topics considered taboo in previous years.
Whilst the book is splashed with black humour and sarcasm, its cynical nature and dark undertones shine through – especially at the end of the novel. If you want a read that questions everything you know about the space you inhabit, then Fight Club is the book you should pick up.Two decades from release and it still makes you think, makes you laugh, and makes you consider your true place in society.
I know this because Tyler knows this.
This article was originally posted to The National Student.