Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Fight Club is a tale of one man's journey toward enlightenment and down a path of revolt and destruction. An unnamed protagonist takes on a second personality when he sleeps, and this new personality, Tyler Durden, launches first a series of underground fight clubs and later a plan for mischief that evolves into a full-scale war of inducing mayhem in everyday life. Our unnamed protagonist eventually gets wise to his body-sharing predicament, and tries (unsuccessfully) to tame Tyler's wily and often rather wicked ways. In the end, the best he can seem to do is put Tyler in a sort of hibernation as he exists in (what I think is) a mental ward. Determined to keep the world (and the woman he loves, Marla) safe from Tyler, his daytime self chooses to accept his medically altered state which, in turn, keeps Tyler at bay. (At least for now. dun dun Dun!!)
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

This was not my first time reading Fight Club. I liked it a very little bit less than the first time I read it, but I still found it to be a (mostly) enjoyable read. I do think it's a bit of a 'man's book for men' read (see below for more thoughts on this) but the sarcasm and wit are undeniable, if the violence a bit extreme for my taste. A few ponderings, in no order:

- On the battle for self-help groups:
Not-Tyler starts going to self-help groups (for diseases he does not have) after one of his doctors suggests attending an insomnia self-help group. He finds a sense of fulfillment at these groups, and proceeds to cycle through groups for various serious illnesses each day of the week. He first meets Marla, his eventual lover, at one of these groups. Here's his first thought when he sees her there (and knows she's faking it, too):

"This is the one real thing in my life, and you're wrecking it." I love this line. The 'real' thing in his life is going to self-help groups for illnesses he doesn't have. haghaghagh.

Here's the conversation they have when he tries to get Marla to leave:
Not Tyler: "Then we can split the week, I say. Marla can have bone disease, brain parasites, and tuberculosis. I'll keep testicular cancer, blood parasites, and organic brain dementia."
Marla: "What about ascending bowel cancers?"
Not Tyler: "The girl has done her homework."

ahghaghaghaghagha. what about PoinTED sticks? have we done cherries? Whole AND segmented!

- Insomnia
"Three weeks without sleep, and everything becomes an out-of-body experience."

Esther's first inklings of her breakdown start with insomnia in The Bell Jar, so I thought it was interesting that Not-Tyler has a similar first symptom. I have a chronic sleep disorder, so I know what it's like to feel tired, but I can't IMAGINE going 3 weeks without sleep. Can you? 

"This is how it is with insomnia. Everything is so far away, a copy of a copy of a copy. The insomnia distance of everything, you can't touch anything and nothing can touch you."

- Lists and why we (or at least I) love them
Generally speaking, I'm a big fan of lists in books. I like the precision of them. This article gets at why we love lists - I like this line in particular: "Lists create an easy reading experience, in which the mental heavy lifting of conceptualization, categorization, and analysis is completed well in advance of actual consumption - a bit like sipping green juice instead of munching on a bundle of kale." Goooo, green smoothies! Get Real, Get Raw!

Here's a list for you to enjoy: The Rules of Fight Club

1. The first rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club.
2. The second rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club.
3. Only two guys to a fight. 
4. One fight at a time.
5. Fights are without shirts or shoes.
6. Fights go on as long as they have to.
7. If this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight. 

Based on these rules, I don't think I'll be seeking out a fight club anytime soon. I'd rather not watch, and I'd rather not fight. MMkay? Thanks. Oh, and I'd like to keep on my shirt. 

Marla's one of my favorite characters, though I felt she was underdeveloped compared to Tyler/Not-Tyler. She has a flare for the dramatic, as is evidenced by the conversation that Tyler accidentally has with Marla when Not-Tyler refuses to answer the phone:

Tyler: So she was staying home tonight, right?
Marla: She was doing the big death thing. I should get a move on if I wanted to watch.

Not-Tyler: They've never met so Tyler thinks it's a bad thing that Marla is about to die. haghahg. I know, suicide is no joke, but I found this line pretty funny. I also love that she calls it "the big death thing". 

- Man's book
A woman stopped me on the metro to say how much she enjoyed this book, and told me that her friends told her it was a man's book, but she disagreed. I'm not sure where I fall. I think the threat (and sometimes actualization of that threat) of cutting off men's privates is squarely in the "dude's greatest fears" category, and while it's never stated outright, the implicit 8th rule of fight club seems to be "Men only." Granted, a male female fight under most circumstances would be pretty skewed, but I couldn't help but notice the total exclusion of women from the storyline (with the exception of Marla, whose character, as I mentioned previously, felt underdeveloped compared to the men). That said, I don't think all books need to be written for both genders - likely there are only a handful of men who LOVE Jane Austen, and I would guess that far more men love Ulysses than women (these are just Guesses, people, so don't get offended if you fall in the opposite category ;0)) - but I think especially in the 21st century, a decently balanced gender representation would be nice, while not required. At the very least, a bit more development of Marla would have pleased me.

-Project Mayhem vs. terrorism
Part of why I couldn't appreciate the 'Project Mayhem' piece of Tyler's plans was that it felt so obviously akin to terrorism. This book was published in 1996, so while the threat of terrorism was present, it was nowhere near so palpable and widely disseminated as it is today. Reading this section might have felt less unpleasant and more fictional then, but it felt a bit too real for my taste in today's world. Case in point:
"They all know what to do. It's part of Project Mayhem. No one guy understands the whole plan, but each guy is trained to do one simple task perfectly." oh, OK, so basically a terrorist cell? awesome.

Another list, for your brain's pleasure - Project Mayhem Weekly Schedule:
Arson meets on Monday.
Assault on Tuesday.
Mischief meets on Wednesday.
And Misinformation meets on Thursday.
Organized Chaos. The Bureaucracy of Anarchy. You figure it out.
Support groups. Sort of.

- Project Mayhem, in a nutshell
While, as I mentioned, I had some concerns about the fictional/real-world side of Project Mayhem, I did enjoy these quotes:

"We wanted to blast the world free of history"
"It's Project Mayhem that's going to save the world."
"A prematurely induced dark age."

- I am Joe's Overwhelming Sense of Apathy
One of my favorite recurring themes is a reference Not-Tyler makes to a book of medical descriptions that captions photos with lines like, "I am Joe's Swollen Foot" and the like. Here are a few of my favorites: 

After Not-Tyler has been printing Fight Club rules at work and showing up repeatedly with his face bashed in:
They're building a case against me (at work).
I am Joe's Complete Lack of Surprise.
I've been behaving miserably. haghaghahgahg. 

After Not-Tyler is spurned by Tyler (when he doesn't realize they're the same person) in favor of Marla:
I am Joe's Enraged, Inflamed Sense of Rejection.

- Who do we wake up to each morning?
I love the title of this blog - it reminded me of a passage from Proust:

from The Guermantes Way (Volume 3 of Remembrance of Things Past)
"So how, then, searching for our thoughts, our identities, as we search for lost objects, do we eventually recover our own self rather than any other? Why, when we regain consciousness, is it not an identity other than the one we had previously that is embodied in us? It is not clear what dictates the choice, or why, among the millions of human beings we might be, it is the being we were the day before that we unerringly grasp." I know, META, right? ;) Let's see who we wake up as tomorrow!

As you know, I read this book out of order (WhOOPS!) so I'm moving on To the Darkroom. Happy snow day to those in the Northeast, and happy Tuesday to everyone else!

1 comment:

  1. I wondered how you could read these two books so quickly - must be the snow! Nice cross-references to other classics.