Sunday, 19 April 2015

2 Sunday Nerdy Sunday - I’m Infectious Human Waste. No Wait, I’m a Bloke Writing About Fight Club

Sunday, Nerdy Sunday sees steven harris rambling about Fight Club WARNING - May not make any sense...

Astonishingly it will soon be four hundred years since Chuck Palahniuk first published Fight Club. No, not four hundred, nineteen. Which is almost twenty. I ought to wait until it actually is twenty to write about the novel (and subsequent film) I suppose but I’ve started now and you know what Sundays are like – once you’ve started something Jesus demands you finish it. Then Buddha comes round to act like the good cop. Then other deities turn up and start raiding your fridge. Just my house? I never should have moved to Asgard.

The first rule of writing about nineteen of Fight Club is there are no rules concerning writing about nineteen years of Fight Club because I’m such a ground breaker that nobody else has done it. So there IS a rule. Nobody else is allowed to do it. Go away and pretend E.L. James is something more than a hack twat writing ill-researched, hideously unrepresentative BDSM shit. If you hate yourself. I love myself therefore I have an alter-ego who might look like Brad Pitt from the late 90s or who may look more like Tom Baker from the 1970s. Notice how I like to mention Tom Baker in my Sunday columns? So what if I do? He smells of tulips and awe.

A lot of people saw the film of Fight Club before they came to pick up the book. I am one of these people. Sometimes when we do it the ‘wrong’ way like this we discover that the original novel was okay but that the film studio made something bigger, grander, sexier, more meaningful out of their source material. Sometimes we discover that a film we had thought perfectly adequate on initial viewing actually does not represent the novel very well at all and we surge round to the director’s house with pitchforks and a rent-a-mob crowd of moronic villagers to murder them.

Once in a while we find that the film was perfect and that the novel is perfect even though the two may not be entirely in accordance with one another. It was always going to be hard to film a book which is narrated by a character who never names himself. It was never going to be easy to overcome the fact that the only weak point in the novel is the moment when said unnamed narrator discovers he and Tyler Durden are the same person (oh sorry, should I have told you there was a spoiler in that sentence? The book’s been around for nineteen years for fuck’s sake and the movie is only three years younger. Where the hell have you been? Apathetic bloody species. I’ve no sympathy at all.)

It was never going to be easy to finish that paragraph so I’ve started another to say sorry I couldn’t finish that paragraph very easily.

Now here’s yet another. The book and the film are separate entities. Of course they are: one is a procession of words parading left to right, left to right across pages of paper, the other is a film. A Hollywood film no less. David Fincher may have been a relative newcomer in terms of being the man at the helm of a big production with Bradley of the Pitts in it but man was he the right choice. His jump-cuts, subliminal exposures and forensic rushes into the soul of a character via CGI sequences of their cardiovascular system or their intestines spawned a thousand imitators in the same way that Tarantino’s re-appropriation of 40s and 50s noir tropes and dialogue became the new Jerusalem for wannabe Tinseltown up and comers. Quite why Fincher remains relatively unfeted yet Tarantino copyists like Guy Ritchie are arse-kissed until their butt cheeks take on the texture of overripe peaches I am to learn. (Yes, I did just steal syntax from Shakespeare. If you can tell me which play I’ll buy you an imaginary Kitkat. Or murder you with napalm made from orange juice and fertiliser).

So I’ve given you a spoiler and I won’t give you any others. Or not many. If you somehow happen to have not seen the movie or read the book then you must immediately self-destruct. Your mission, should you choose to accept that I’m now referencing an entirely different type of onscreen ‘entertainment’, is to destroy the banks and smash the fuck out of some corporate art while you’re at it.

A final reflection before I piss off back to bed with Marla. The novel and the movie end differently. I have had stand-up arguments with a couple of people over this fact down the years, both of them maintaining that the film is weakened by pandering to Hollywood’s desire to blow the shit out of stuff. They’re wrong. The film is a film and as such requires a different kind of denouement. This is also why the final scene sees Marla and unnamed not-Tyler man hold hands in a romantic gesture also lacking from the book. It’s fine, it’s allowed, it actually works.

And, er, excuse me, Pixies as a lead-out track? Genius. How many twenty-something pillocks who previously only liked Bryan Adams suddenly realised there was a world of Sub Pop wonder and discordant guitars just waiting to be discovered? More than ten, I’ll wager.

The novel has no explosions at the end. The explosions fail. The relationship between Marla and unnamed not-Tyler man continues to be uncertain, unquantifiable. Well Palahniuk is gay, perhaps he wanted the most important relationship in the piece to be a strange homo-erotic connection between a man and himself? (What do you mean you didn’t know Chuck is gay? Please go and crawl back under the cardboard box you live in, the one in the middle of the M25).The explosions fail in the novel because this endgame leaves readers with so many unanswered questions, a quality more modern novels should possess. As a movie-goer I do like things rounded off after 90 or 120 minutes. Moving pictures often demand we leave the theatre feeling reasonably complete. Novels, on the other hand, should live within our psyche forever, nagging away at us with countless possibilities and suppositions.

In Fight Club’s final chapter we are left wondering whether not-Tyler is dead and facing a reckoning with God. Or is he in a nuthouse about to be sprung and released back into a world of mayhem by erstwhile devotees? Or has none of it happened and he’s just nuts, whether in a house for nuts or not? Or at least three other scenarios if you lack imagination – several hundred if you’re a grown-up boy genius like me.

Rarely do I love the film and the book with equal fervour. Ordinarily one soars above the other in my soul and I begin to look upon the other format as one would look at the ugly new baby of a neighbour – we smile and make the right noises, somehow refrain from saying “Christ almighty, what a vile little monster!” With Fight Club there is no need for this separation of self. Unless I want to separate myself and wrestle half naked men in a sweaty cellar. Which I probably do. When I emerge from this closet I’ll know for sure. I think.

steven harris is adverse to putting his name in capitals because names aren't that important. Also, lower case is sexy. steven writes all sorts of stuff including fiction, poetry, songs, opinion pieces and shopping lists. He does not write on lavatory doors any more. his blog has writing in it and can be located at He lives in Devon with an imaginary cat called Kafka.

Follow him on Twitter as @theplanetharris

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