It was the Fall of 1999 and I was a junior in high school. I’d stayed after school for some reason, was waiting to get picked up by my mom, and was sitting outside on the concourse in front of the school cafeteria – probably reading a book – when a student walked up to me. I didn’t know the guy, but he started talking about a movie that just came out called “Fight Club”. He said it was amazing, and proceeded to describe the twist ending while reveling in the violence and nihilism of the film. I’d never heard of it before – and, again, I didn’t know him – but the movie didn’t seem like something I’d want to see.
Fast forward a couple years and I was in college. My girlfriend at the time owned the DVD and absolutely loved the movie. We watched it, and I found that I enjoyed it more than I expected – though it also unsettled me immensely.
That’s kind of been my general feeling about the story ever since. It was a well made movie (I mean: David Fincher), but grungy in the most uncomfortable ways. This movie was a used syringe at a bus stop. A discarded condom in a hotel bathroom. It was the fever dream of disaffected teenage boys in an era that sat firmly betwixt a post-Columbine angst and a pre-9/11 feeling of ennui. I was of a generation whose trauma was going to played on the six o’clock news, and we were going to be held accountable for forces of which we had no understanding, let alone control.
In comes this movie that, in some ways, gets at the very heart of the jaded Millennial worldview. Unsurprisingly, it meant different things to different people – and a great many of them seemed to miss the point.
Is there anything more emblematic of now than a story about a self-destructive anti-social misanthrope looking to rebel against contemporary America by….being hypermasculine and joining a violent cult built around someone with delusions of grandeur? Columbine, al Qaeda, Gamergate, Joe Rogan, Maga, Andrew Tate….all are visible in this story.
I am Joe Rogan’s anti-wokness.
I am Jordan Peterson’s fatuous and byzantine language.
I am Donald Trump’s outsider status forcing the GOP to conform to his neo-Fascism.
I didn’t like this book. Also, I loved this book.
First of all – I greatly enjoyed the writing. Palahniuk’s writing style is minimalist. His writing is not florid. Neither is it wasteful. And he has “call backs” to words and phrases that he repeats throughout the story. I really enjoyed those.
I’m not a member of Generation X, which was the target of this book. I’m a Millennial. I would qualify as one of the “snowflakes” described in this book (this is where the disparagement comes from). I’m rooted fairly comfortably in the “anti-capitalist” camp – but I couldn’t be less of a nihilist, and I’m not an anarchist. I did not like the feeling of this book. I didn’t like the perspective from which it came. Tyler Durden, to me, isn’t a hero. He’s not the father figure he was to the Narrator. He’s a monster.
But, “not liking the perspective of the narrator” can also be said for my reaction to Lolita, which I recently reviewed and gave 5 stars to. So it’s hard to justify giving this 1 star for how thoroughly turned off I was by the philosophy espoused by the characters, here. But Palahniuk – good as he is – doesn’t have the lyrical beauty of Nabokov, so I don’t think this book should get 5 stars.