Fight Club is a rare instance in which the distinctly faithful movie adaptation is superior to the original novel, but both are quite good. For a first novel, Fight Club is pretty awesome. It showcases a plot dynamic and an authorial voice that predominate throughout Palahniuk’s first handful of books. That voice includes what seems like an endless supply of sardonic wit.
Palahniuk’s implied critique of modern therapeutic culture is incisive, as is the proposed alternative of liberating destruction. Note too that the class analysis to which this book is subjected is often off-base. The protagonist is not a blue-collar proletarian. He is very much a white-collar bourgeois, initially trapped in his glossy catalog consumer milieu and his soul-draining actuarial work of determining allowable margins of death and harm from faulty products. But, by the author’s own admission, the kernel of the book is the problematics of gender, for which economic and psychotherapeutic dilemmas are a mere backdrop.
Occultist magicians may profit from considering the story to illustrate the protagonist’s progress from Dominus Liminis to and through the Adventure of the Abyss.
Edited to add: It has latterly occurred to me that this book might be an updated rewrite of Hesse’s Steppenwolf, with Hermine significantly re-gendered as Tyler Durden. [via]
First review: for those, who (like me) have previously followed Palahniuk’s work with great interest and have read several of his other books. This one is a winner. It does use the anagnoresis formula that he refined in his early novels, but it does so better than ever. It also involves the praeternatural dynamics of stories like Lullaby and Diary, but this time the approach is science-fictional rather than fantasy-occultist. The “oral history” conceit plays to Palahniuk’s strengths of idiosyncratic voices, unreliable narration, and epigrammatic punch. If you’ve read and enjoyed other Palahniuk books, you know you don’t want me to tell you the plot, but the key themes include epidemiology, perception of time, control in urban societies, and messianic mythopoeia.
Second review: for the uninitiated. This book will take you for a wild ride. If you want a nice linear plot development where each piece immediately makes sense by being added to the ones that have come before, don’t bother. In fact, the author exhibits the entire story on page four, in a sort of one-paragraph Shakespearean prologue replying to the question of how the speaker got such a good deal on an airplane ticket. But don’t get too comfortable in the first hundred pages, because when you leave the small-town setting, you won’t be in the world you had likely imagined. And you’ll have no idea what’s really going on until the last 20 pages out of over 300. What you will have is more sardonic humor, gutwrenching pathos, and profound ideas than you can shake a stick at. If you can take that sort of bewilderment, then by all means you should.
Third review: for my brother and sister Magicians. You never thought the Secret Chiefs could be like this! I’ll see your Mahatma and raise him a Phil Dick and two David Cronenbergs. “Sun and moon give time the form of day and night. Sushumna is the eater of time. This is declared to be a secret.” (Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.17) [via]
Palahniuk is the author of Fight Club, and Survivor is his second novel. The wit, sagacity, and implacable unlikelihoods of Fight Club are all still in full force in Survivor, which counts down from page 289 to 1 with blinding speed. And like Fight Club, the later book seems quite dedicated, in its nihilistic po-mo way, to the premise that “Unto thee shall be granted joy and health and wealth and wisdom when thou art no longer thou.”
I have read critics refer to Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land as a “satire.” It’s not; it’s a romance. Survivor is in fact the satire that Stranger isn’t. Stranger’s Michael Valentine Smith was the survivor of a shipwreck on Mars, “rescued” to face his ultimate martyrdom as the prophet of the Church of All Worlds. Survivor’s Tender Branson was “rescued” from a suicide cult based in Nebraska. And it is his voice that tells the entire story, through the medium of a crashing airplane’s flight recorder.
This book is an unimpeded flight—a terminal descent—to the punchline of the Universal Joke. [via]