Mini classic review: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club follows the experiences of an unnamed protagonist struggling with insomnia. Inspired by his doctor’s exasperated remark that insomnia is not suffering, the protagonist finds relief by impersonating a seriously ill person in several support groups. Then he meets a mysterious man named Tyler Durden and establishes an underground fighting club as radical psychotherapy.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

I have a complicated understanding of Fight Club. I both enjoyed the book and severely disliked it, and I still can’t completely wrap my head around why. It’s not even the nihilistic world view that I have a problem with, because I love The Catcher in the Rye — I have a feeling it’s the writing I couldn’t quite enjoy.

Fight Club has many interpretations, ones that are often fought over as, every few years, another article or Twitter thread comes out saying ‘Everyone misunderstands Fight Club,’ but my interpretation of the book is that it’s a satire on consumerism and American masculinity. However, it doesn’t really have anything substantive to say about either — in fact, it seems to romanticise the men’s behaviour rather than criticising it.

The men involved in fight club have completely given up on bettering their lives — the unnamed main character literally goes to a cancer survivors meeting to feel something, to feel better about his own life — while complaining about structural violence that impacts men. But — that’s all they do; they complain. A lot of the issues these men have is due to people in positions of power, and yet their discontent focuses on the supposed emasculation of men. I just find this so uninteresting.

And yet, the unnamed main character is still an engaging one and I was still intrigued by his journey. And I have to say, the ending and revelation caught me completely off guard. Fight Club is a complicated book — I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a must read, but wouldn’t go out of my way to completely stop someone from reading it either.

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