July 18, 2004

Fight club

The first rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club. The second rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club. The third rule is when someone says stop, or goes limp, the fight is over. Two men per fight. One fight at a time. No shoes, no shirts. The fights go on as long as they have to. And the eighth rule of fight club is, if this is your first night, you have to fight.

In a word, cool. Chuck Palahniuk could write about anything, and still make it sound cool. Not that what he's written here is not important, but reading this you'll remember the writer more than the book. I'll definitely get more of his books soon.

I've seen the movie, read the script for the movie, and now I've read the book. The movie is slightly different from the book, but it's great too. And I've got to warn you, if you read any further, you'll know most of the plot. Don't, if you want to read the book/watch the movie unbiased.

As far as I can tell, Palahniuk writes about the sheer numbness of conformity, and the desperation that comes with it. In the book we never get the name of the main character [I'm pretty sure it's Jack in the movie]. The narrator is a Recall Campaign Coordinator, it's basically his job to investigate crashes of his comapny's cars, and to deceide whether it's cheaper to recall a faulty car or to keep them out on the streets.

A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? You take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

And he's started to suffer from disassociative personality disorder [split personality], he creates the character of Tyler Durden. And Tyler is what the narrator wants to be himself; fearless, without a care in the world, the ultimate rebel. Of course, he does not realise till the end that he and Tyler are the same person. Tyler being the way he is, is a born leader of men. They together start Fight Club, where two guys basically beat the shit out of each other. Tyler's the leader here, and slowly starts controlling the men more and more. In the end, Fight Club matures into something called Project Mayhem.

The fifth rule about Project Mayhem is you have to trust Tyler.

The narrator ultimately feels left out, everyone keeps asking him whether he knows Tyler Durden. When Project Mayhem starts, Tyler seems to disappear from his life. And with his panic rising, he finally realises after some time that Tyler is a figment of his imagination.

Tyler is a projection. He's a disassociative personality disorder. A psychogenic fugue state. Tyler Durden is my hallucination.
"Fuck that shit," Tyler says. "Maybe you're my schizophrenic hallucination."

The book is also about the need to be loyal, the power that comes with leadership. Of human instincts that go back to our tribal days. The book is a sordid mess, but you can't help reading it. Tyler slowly matures into a dictator-type person, changes his followers into suicidal maniacs. Tyler want's to see the whole civilization collapse on itself, you have to hit bottom first. And he fast-forwards the narrator's fall to the bottom.

On a side-note, there's one really funny aspect to the book. Somewhere in their ruined building, the narrator finds stack of old Reader's Digests. There he finds articles about human organs in the first person, and he uses this mode of speech in many situations after that, to describe how he feels. Consider:

I am Joe's Cold Sweat.
I am Joe's White Knuckles.
I am Joe's Smirking Revenge.
I am Joe's Enraged, Inflamed Sense of Rejection.

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