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Book Club Picks > NOVEMBER 2010: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

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message 1: by Novel Tea Book Club (last edited Nov 27, 2010 09:31AM) (new)

Novel Tea Book Club  (NovelTeaBookClubModerator) | 38 comments Mod
The NTBC book choice for November 2010 was:

Fight Club by Chuck Palaniuk

We thought that the novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk was, much like the main character Tyler, a book of split personality. Fight Club did not shine for the members of NTBC, but it caused such a furour of discussion that it was worth the effort to read it.

Our members agreed that Palaniuk is a good writer. With Fight Club Palaniuk produced a book with an interesting take on the world around us. We enjoyed reading a novel from the "male perspective" as Palahniuk described it. We also appreciated the book as a reactionary product to novels such as The Joy Luck Club and the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.

However, we found the novel disagreeable overall. We suspect that the book was essentially created for a shock value that was meant to bring about Palahniuk's success as an authour. Many parts in the novel seemed to be overly gratitous and even ridiculous at times. We thought other parts of the novel were repetitive resulting in pages of boring text. As well, the majority of us almost immediately figured out the shocking secret that was eventually revealled at the end of the novel and as such, we added "predictability" to our list of grievences as well.

For most in the group the reading of Fight Club was not an enjoyable or moving experience. It is true that Fight Club has a certain rubber neck quality to it - you can't help but look even if it is the worst thing you have ever seen, but it not a profound work of fiction.

On a different level, getting away from the writing of Fight Club and more towards the idea of it, we thought that Fight Club reeked of the self indulgent nonsense that is so often spewed from unfocused middle class individuals in western society that have had every opportunity afforded to them but still do not know what to do with their lives. There is no doubt that Fight Club speaks to the lost boys of this group and gives them a voice for their frustrations. However, we felt Fight Club may also give them much wanted excuses for why they are unhappy and unfulfilled. Ultimately, we found the book and resulting film a sad model for men and a scary prospect for those who are destined to have realtionships with them.

Despite our grievances we would still recommend Fight Club other book clubs. Many readers will not enjoy this book, but it will cause a hell of an interesting discussion.

Our rating: 2/5 stars.


The first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.

Chuck Palahniuk's outrageous and startling debut novel that exploded American literature and spawned a movement. Every weekend, in the basements and parking lots of bars across the country, young men with white-collar jobs and failed lives take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded just as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter, and dark, anarchic genius, and it's only the beginning of his plans for violent revenge on an empty consumer-culture world

message 2: by Kokeshi (new)

Kokeshi | 48 comments Chuck Palahniuk's Biography
by Joshua Chaplinsky

Truth is stranger than fiction, at least for those blessed with interesting lives. The rest of us have no choice but to live vicariously through their stories. In the case of bestselling cult author Chuck Palahniuk, the embellishment of his exploits by fans has made it hard to tell exactly where reality ends and the storytelling begins. There are those who would have us believe he entered this world kicking and screaming, brandishing a pen, when in fact he comes from much more humble (albeit interesting) beginnings.

Born February 21, 1962, Charles Michael Palahniuk spent his early childhood living out of a mobile home in Burbank, Washington. His parents, Carol and Fred Palahniuk, separated and divorced when he was fourteen, leaving Chuck and his siblings to spend much of their time on their maternal grandparent’s cattle ranch.

The surname, Palahniuk, which is Ukrainian in origin, can be spelled and pronounced numerous different ways. According to Chuck, his paternal grandparents decided to pronounce it as a combination of their first names, Paula and Nick. But Chuck never knew his father’s parents. As recounted in an interview with The Independent, his grandfather shot and killed his grandmother after an argument over the cost of a sewing machine. Chuck’s father, who was three at the time, watched from under a bed as Nick Palahniuk searched the house for additional victims, before turning the gun on himself. In the article, Chuck is quoted as saying, "My grandfather was hit over the head by a crane boom in Seattle. Some of the family claimed he was never a violent, crazy person before that. Some say he was. It depends who you believe." The tragic event is depicted on the U.S. cover of Stranger Than Fiction.

Aside from what's revealed in his writing, not much is known about Palahniuk’s formative years. In 1980 he graduated from Columbia High School in Burbank, winning the award for “Most Wittiest” in the process. Some regard this award as the catalyst for his nascent interest in writing, but according to Chuck, that honor belongs to Mr. Olsen, his fifth grade teacher, who told him:

“Chuck, you do this really well. And this is much better than setting fires, so keep it up.”

After high school, Chuck attended the University of Oregon, graduating with a BA in journalism in 1986. He entered the workforce as a journalist for a local Portland newspaper, but soon grew tired of the job. He then gained employ as a diesel mechanic, spending his days repairing trucks and writing technical manuals. It was during this time that Chuck experienced much of what would become fodder for his early work, including working as an escort for terminally ill hospice patients and becoming a member of the notorious Cacophony Society. Said to be the inspiration for Project Mayhem in Fight Club, The Cacophony Society was dedicated to experiencing things outside of the mainstream and performing large-scale pranks in public places.

In his mid-thirties, Chuck decided to try his hand at writing fiction. A friend suggested he attend a workshop hosted by Tom Spanbauer, minimalist guru behind the art of “Dangerous Writing.” The resulting short story, Negative Reinforcement, appeared in the now defunct literary journal Modern Short Stories in August 1990, and is Chuck’s first known published work. The Love Theme of Sybil and William followed in October.

Chuck’s first attempt at a novel, If You Lived Here, You’d be Home Already, was also written while attending the workshop. The 700-page monster of a book was Chuck’s attempt at emulating Stephen King, and was rejected across the board (although parts were later recycled for use in Fight Club.) Unfazed, Chuck dabbled with even darker material, writing a manuscript called Manifesto, which would go on to become Invisible Monsters. As with If You Lived Here, agents just couldn't embrace the dark tone in Chuck's work, and while his voice as a writer got some recognition, nobody was willing to take a chance on him.

That all changed when Chuck "gave up" on the mainstream and decided to make his next manuscript even darker. Written in stolen moments under truck chassis and on park benches to a soundtrack of The Downward Spiral and Pablo Honey, Fight Club came into existence. Within months, Gerry Howard (then editor at WW Norton) convinced the higher-ups to take a chance on the fledgling writer, and Chuck soon had a book deal with a major publisher. But it wasn't until 20th Century Fox took notice that Chuck nabbed an agent in Edward Hibbert (best known as Gil Chesterton, the food critic on Frasier,) who would go on to broker the deal for Fight Club the movie.

Directed by David Fincher, the adaptation of Fight Club was a flop at the box office, but achieved cult status on DVD. The year of its release, the film was Fox’s top selling disc, and critics everywhere finally began to embrace it. The film’s popularity drove sales of the novel, resulting in multiple re-printings over the next few years.

Due to this success, Chuck was given free reign, creatively. He put out two novels in 1999—religious satire Survivor, and the rewritten Invisible Monsters—and has written almost a book a year since. Choke, published in 2001, became Chuck’s first New York Times bestseller. All of his novels thereafter have had similar success.

Chuck’s work has always been infused with personal experience, and his next novel, Lullaby, was no exception. Chuck credits writing Lullaby with helping him cope with the tragic death of his father, who was murdered in 1999 by the jealous ex of a woman met through a personal ad. A major theme of the book is power, and Chuck has gone on record as saying it was inspired by sitting in the court room, in judgment of the man who killed his father. That man was found guilty and sentenced to death in 2001.

With the trial behind him, Chuck threw himself into his work. 2003 would go down as a banner year, but not many people realize it began with a small literary conference in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. The three-day event gave fans unprecedented access to the author and his work, and was presided over by Chuck himself. The schedule consisted of exclusive readings, Q&As, book signings, dissertations- all devoted to Chuck. Not one to revel in the spotlight, Chuck selflessly used this forum to promote the art of storytelling, and to encourage a generation of young readers to evolve into writers. The entire affair was thoroughly documented by a crew from in the film, Postcards From the Future: The Chuck Palahniuk Documentary.

Both Diary and the non-fiction guide to Portland, Fugitives and Refugees, were released later that year. While on the road in support of Diary, Chuck began reading a short story entitled Guts, which would eventually become part of the novel Haunted. Guts instantly became one of Chuck’s most infamous stories, due in large part to the graphic nature of its content- extreme masturbation gone awry- and the fact that it caused people to faint at his readings.

Over seventy faintings have been reported, one of the most severe occurring during a reading at Columbia University, where a man fell to the ground and awoke screaming. The incident was caught on tape and is featured in the Postcards From the Future documentary.

It was also around this time that Chuck publicly came out as a gay. For a long time it was assumed that Chuck was married, and some members of the press even perpetuated the myth that he had a wife, but he set the record straight via an audio message posted on

In the years that followed, things seemed to settle down for Chuck. He continued to write, publishing the bestselling Rant, Snuff, Pygmy, and most recently, Tell-All. To this day, he still attends Tom Spanbauer’s workshop, and they are the first people to read anything he writes. Chuck is a vocal proponent of the minimalist writing style, and credits Spanbauer and his mentor, Gordon Lish, as major influences, along with Amy Hempel, Denis Johnson and Bret Easton Ellis.

In regards to his own writing, Chuck has stated that he writes each chapter of his novels as if they were a short story. He feels every one of his novels should be able to be condensed into a short story and still work.

Chuck is also known for doing extensive research. He says that research is his favorite part of the writing process and is the fuel that drives his novels. He has been known to consume entire books and distil that information into a single descriptive line. He writes in public, spending hours people-watching as he does. If you have a passing conversation with Chuck on the street, there’s a good chance it ends up in one of his books. According to Chuck, “I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”

But it is better to give than to receive. Chuck has used his experience and success to help his fellow writers. So far two of Chuck’s workshop peers- Chelsea Cain (Heartsick) and Monica Drake (Clown Girl) - have gone on to successful writing careers of their own, due in part to Chuck’s assistance. In 2003, he wrote a blurb for the paperback edition of Craig Clevenger’s The Contortionist’s Handbook, and promoted it on tour as one of the best books he’d read in a decade, after which, awareness of Clevenger’s work skyrocketed.

Chuck also enjoys giving back to his fans, and teaching the art of storytelling has been an important part of that. In 2004, Chuck began submitting essays to on the craft of writing. These were 'How To' pieces, straight out of Chuck's personal bag of tricks, based on the tenants of minimalism he learned from Tom Spanbauer. Every month, a “Homework Assignment” would accompany the lesson, so Workshop members could apply what they had learned.

Then, in 2009, Chuck increased his involvement by committing to read and review a selection of fan-written stories each month. He would then provide detailed feedback and criticism to aid in the revision process. The best stories will be published in a forthcoming anthology, with an introduction written by Chuck himself.

It has been almost fifteen years since the landmark publication of Fight Club, and Chuck shows no signs of slowing down. He currently divides his time between two homes- one in Oregon and one in Washington State- both of which he shares with his partner of seventeen years and their two dogs. When he is not on tour, Chuck is constantly writing. His next novel, Damned, is due out in 2011.

message 3: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Campbell (marca1971) | 19 comments This appeared in the Globe this morning. I have heard about these clubs in Britain and the United States but here is our home grown version of things. The funny thing is they break the first rule of Fight Club: "Don't talk about fight club" by posting the fight clips to the web. I sometimes think if they obliged kids to leave their mobile phones at home there might be less incidents like these at school - nothing like a camera to make someone behave like a jackass!

message 4: by Kokeshi (new)

Kokeshi | 48 comments Marjorie wrote: "This appeared in the Globe this morning. I have heard about these clubs in Britain and the United States but here is our home grown version of things. The funny thing is they break the first rule o..."

I seriously doubt these kids have read Fight Club and I doubt they feel any sort of angst against a "feminized world." As such, I would say that their actions are based more on the violence within the Fight Club movie in conjunction with the quality entertainment of Jackass: The Movie.

message 5: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Campbell (marca1971) | 19 comments I wonder if the author's comments were taken out of context at the end of the article. But have to agree with Kokeshi re whether they had read the book or not.

message 6: by Kevin (new)

Kevin McGill | 2 comments Kokeshi wrote: "Marjorie wrote: "This appeared in the Globe this morning. I have heard about these clubs in Britain and the United States but here is our home grown version of things. The funny thing is they break..."
Agree Kokeshi! At most, the kids watched the movie, and keyed in on the anarchist elements. They didn't understand what Chuck was trying to say. We must engage in life fully, lest we degrade into passivity or anarchy.

message 7: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Campbell (marca1971) | 19 comments Kevin: absolutely agree with both of you. I would never accuse these happy slappers of having read a book. In point of fact I would argue they heard the idea of a fight club discussed rather than even seeing the film - that would also involve some kind of cultural colouring outside of the lines. I think it is more to do with the technology and the fact that they can then post to Youtube and Facebook which makes the whole thing appeal. If there is a generation more in need of waking up and living I'd like to see it!

message 8: by Kokeshi (new)

Kokeshi | 48 comments I agree that it doesn't say much for reading original sources or understanding them. Of course, I suspect that the media jumped right on this story and took it to a different (higher/lower) level.

message 9: by Kokeshi (new)

Kokeshi | 48 comments I wonder if there are any other novels that have experienced an "alternate existence" as Fight Club has?

message 10: by Kevin (new)

Kevin McGill | 2 comments Marjorie wrote: "Kevin: absolutely agree with both of you. I would never accuse these happy slappers of having read a book. In point of fact I would argue they heard the idea of a fight club discussed rather than e..."

Preach it!

message 11: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Campbell (marca1971) | 19 comments Kevin wrote: "Marjorie wrote: "Kevin: absolutely agree with both of you. I would never accuse these happy slappers of having read a book. In point of fact I would argue they heard the idea of a fight club discus..."

LOL...sorry [getting down, furtively, off of the soap box]!

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