The only person who gets called Ballardesque more often than Chuck Palahniuk is, well... J.G. Ballard. So, does Portland, Oregon's "torchbearer for the nihilistic generation" deserve that kind of treatment? Yes and no. There is
a resemblance between Fight Club
and works such as Crash
and Cocaine Nights
in that both see the innocuous mundanities of everyday life as nothing more than the severely loosened cap on a seething underworld cauldron of unchecked impulse and social atrocity. Welcome to the present-day U.S. of A. As Ballard's characters get their jollies from staging automobile accidents, Palahniuk's yuppies unwind from a day at the office by organizing bloodsport rings and selling soap to fund anarchist overthrows. Let's just say that neither of these guys are going to be called in to do a Full House
script rewrite any time soon.
But while the ingredients are the same, Ballard and Palahniuk bake at completely different temperatures. Unlike his British counterpart, who tends to cast his American protagonists in a chilly light, holding them close enough to dissect but far enough away to eliminate any possibility of kinship, Palahniuk isn't happy unless he's first-person front and center, completely entangled in the whole sordid mess. An intensely psychological novel that never runs the risk of becoming clinical, Fight Club is about both the dangers of loyalty and the dreaded weight of leadership, the desire to band together and the compulsion to head for the hills. In short, it's about the pride and horror of being an American, rendered in lethally swift prose. Fight Club's protagonist might occasionally become foggy about who he truly is (you'll see what I mean), but one thing is for certain: you're not likely to forget the book's author. Never mind Ballardesque. Palahniukian here we come! --Bob Michaels
From Publishers Weekly
Featuring soap made from human fat, waiters at high-class restaurants who do unmentionable things to soup and an underground organization dedicated to inflicting a violent anarchy upon the land, Palahniuk's apocalyptic first novel is clearly not for the faint of heart. The unnamed (and extremely unreliable) narrator, who makes his living investigating accidents for a car company in order to assess their liability, is combating insomnia and a general sense of anomie by attending a steady series of support-group meetings for the grievously ill, at one of which (testicular cancer) he meets a young woman named Marla. She and the narrator get into a love triangle of sorts with Tyler Durden, a mysterious and gleefully destructive young man with whom the narrator starts a fight club, a secret society that offers young professionals the chance to beat one another to a bloody pulp. Mayhem ensues, beginning with the narrator's condo exploding and culminating with a terrorist attack on the world's tallest building. Writing in an ironic deadpan and including something to offend everyone, Palahniuk is a risky writer who takes chances galore, especially with a particularly bizarre plot twist he throws in late in the book. Caustic, outrageous, bleakly funny, violent and always unsettling, Palahniuk's utterly original creation will make even the most jaded reader sit up and take notice. Movie rights to Fox 2000.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.