I read Fight Club once before, in college, for a film class. It was right after the movie came out and we were to read the novel, then contrast it to the screenplay and write an essay about the adaptation process as we understood it. It was a painfully boring assignment. My overall lack of enthusiasm for course work lent itself to me not enjoying Fight Club the way that I did the second time around. I’m sure the fact that I was in my late teens and a complete shitface didn’t help either.
Thankfully I was able to shake off the way I had previously felt about this book before getting into it the second time around. The only thing I “took with me” was that I don’t remember the novel or the movie (although that doesn’t really count) as being noir at all. Keep in mind that when I read it the first time I knew nothing about noir.
I discovered (or I guess re-discovered) just how incredibly nihilistic the dialogue was. I had seen the movie maybe seven or eight times since 1999 and the dialogue almost seemed comical to me; like a caricature. But when I read the book, the same lines that once seemed ridiculous were all of a sudden incredible. If the book is the Mona Lisa then the movie is the Mona Lisa on roller-skates, eating a lollipop and chasing boys on the boardwalk. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoy the movie quite a bit – even if the directing has lost a bit of its lustre for me the acting is still top notch.
The story (for those that have been doing missionary work in places without the internet, books, TV, or movies) is about a nameless narrator and the calamitous hi-jinx he and his new found friend Tyler get themselves into. From starting an underground fight club that expands beyond what the narrator ever imagined, to making soap, to causing varying degrees of mayhem and chaos, he progressively gets himself deeper and deeper in a world he unwittingly helped create. For the most part the book and the movie are almost identical (aside form a few little differences like making soap out of Marla’s mom for example) but the ending is where the major difference is. Without wanting to spoil it, the book doesn’t keep the same “I sacrificed tons but everything is OK” ending. The novel does not end on an emotional high. It’s more of the same for our hapless raconteur: misery of his own making.
Everything about the book is infinitely better than movie. Every character is more desperate, mean, and pathetic. Every line of dialogue more soaked in hopelessness. There wasn’t a single time in reading the book where I felt like I had to make excuses for its shortcomings; as far as I’m concerned it had none (from a “me being entertained” perspective). It just delivered on every page.
As far as how this fits into noir is concerned I don’t necessarily feel like it is written with the same “style” as the other books on the list but I do feel like all the key elements are there regardless. Truth be told I enjoyed it too much to give a shit how it compares to other books. I loved it and the more I think about it (specifically the marvel that is Marla Singer) the more I enjoy it. Where else would you get classic lines like “I want to have your abortion” and “I used to work in a funeral home to feel good about myself, just the fact I was breathing”.
I don’t possess the skill to effectively describe how impressed I was with this book the second time around. Especially given the fact that I’m traditionally not a Chuck Palahniuk fan. All in all Fight Club blew away any expectations or preconceptions I may have had and delivered one hell of a story with a little noir in all the right places.