Some months ago, Annie and I listed for you the best of the best of book-to-film adaptations. One requirement for our lists was, of course, that we’d both read the book and seen its corresponding film. At that time, I had seen Fight Club, but hadn’t read the novel on which it was based. This past weekend, I finally got around to reading it and no doubt remains that it belongs at the very top of my list. It was a super fast read and so, so good. But honestly, if I hadn’t already seen the movie, I probably would’ve been quite confused while reading by the book. It is very stream-of-conscious and convoluted and dark. Oh, is it dark. While every bit as excellent as its cinematic counterpart, I actually think that it’s such a crazy, wildly out-there kind of story that it worked a little better as a movie than as a book. But probably only because Jim Uhls, the guy who adapted it to a screenplay, did such a phenomenal job. And David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter are all bad asses who further perfected it into the work of genius that it is.
This isn’t the first of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels that I’ve read and I doubt it’ll be the last. His style is intoxicating and if you liked the movie Fight Club, you’ll appreciate his prose as well. It’s bold, raw, attention-grabbing but never in the cheap, for-shock-value-only sense, and always, always pushing the boundaries of what is considered normal or appropriate by most standards. Marla Singer tells the man she knows as Tyler Durden: “I want to have your abortion.” If that doesn’t knock you on your ass, I don’t know what will.
A friend once told me she’d waited years to see the movie because it looked like such a dude’s flick. Brimming over with testosterone, lacking real depth, just a flimsy story providing an excuse to watch guys beat on each other for a couple of hours. Like watching professional wrestling, and she couldn’t force herself to sit through it, no matter how good its reviews were. Finally, she caught the beginning of it on HBO and very quickly realized there was more to it than its marketing campaign let on. And this is where the true genius of Fight Club lies. It’s a testosterone-filled, action-packed, quick, sharp thrill ride of a tale but also an insightful look at the state of our current culture. At the empty boredom our modern way of life inspires and the extreme solution one lost soul finds to combat it. “It’s only when we’ve lost everything that we are free to do anything,” Tyler Durden states and he’s right. In the wake of destruction, we find resurrection. Fight Club is simultaneously a call for the destruction of the societal norms that keep us conformists and a warning not to let the destruction go too far.
Palahniuk wrote a deeply dark, disturbing and brilliant novel. And for once, the film based on that novel not only captured the best of the book, but it enhanced it. Everything about it, the music, the dark, grimy scenery, the supreme acting and intense violence, it all served to take an already great story and somehow made it better.