Chuck Palahniuk was recently quoted in the Independent as saying “The modern Left is always reacting to things, once they get their show on the road culturally they will stop being so offended.”
It’s with these comments in mind that it occurs to me: perhaps it’s time, not to hate Chuck, but to revisit one of his most famous books, Fight Club. It seems from the quote in the Independent that Chuck is suggesting the modern Left has no culture to speak of, and that’s why we’re always getting offended — and perhaps so livid over the unexpected Trump victory.
Perhaps I’m reading him wrong but the idea that the modern left has no culture IS indeed quite shocking and offensive to boot. Yet, to be offended seems to prove Chuck correct.
But I digress, we shouldn’t judge Chuck’s body of work based on his insensitive comments because when all is said and done, Palahniuk’s Fight Club is still a pretty stellar book which the movie lives up to. In some ways, the movie might be better, but that’s besides the point.
In short, Fight Club is worth a read, especially in the aftermath of the 2016 election, because sometimes fiction helps us reflect on our personal flaws better than we’d otherwise be capable of. The characters from our favorite novels are sometimes more real than the people around us, and sometimes, if we’re lucky — we see a character in a book and realize that character is us and that we need to make a change.
I think Fight Club is particularly relevant after the election because it’s basically about a character whom is so desperate to escape from an unpleasant reality that he begins stalking support groups in order to feed off other people’s suffering in order to feel alive — to discover his self worth. It’s a cool book with a memorable protagonist, but without Edward Norton and Brad Pitt to humanize the role, the reader may be surprised to discover that this memorable character is little more than a masochistic emotional vampire.
The main character is at first contented to live his parasitic existence as a sinister wall flower, slogging through the work week and waxing poetic when it comes to his nihilistic world view, and then soaking up the misery of others at the support groups until this abnormal routine is interrupted. From there things get worse, with our herovillain eventually (SPOILER ALERT) manifesting Tyler Durden in order to literally beat himself and other people up in order feel alive. From there… Things REALLY spiral out of control.
In the finale, the primary personality attempts to stop his alter ego because he realizes that he’s created a monster; that he is a monster. I recommend the book because there is much to be enjoyed, and much to be learned. If we read closely, we may find reason to look within ourselves and beware the monsters we may manifest if we too consciously leap through hoops to avoid reality.
Lastly, in words immortalized by Palahniuk’s Fight Club: “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.” I find not an insult, but a call to appreciate what we have, strangely an invitation to attempt empathy towards those we disagree with, and even perhaps a starting point to find common ground.