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
The 2008 audio edition of Palahniuk's ground-breaking 1996 novel provides a timely opportunity to contemplate the direction of Generation X and the wider, popular culture over the past dozen years. The white, male, 20-something angst of the story's unnamed protagonist and his mysterious partner in crime, Tyler Durden, may now sometimes seem like slightly dated grunge rock. Also, the themes of domestic terrorism and insurrection certainly play differently in a post–September 11 world. Yet Palahniuk's power to provoke our collective sacred cows remains undeniable. The narrative—with its delusional twists and turns—presents serious challenges on audio. James Colby cleverly plays deadpan cool through much of the early plot exposition so that the chaos that eventually takes hold becomes all the more eerie and surreal. He pulls off the convoluted climactic revelations with emotional authenticity. The listening experience may be too jarring for general audiences merely hoping for a commute diversion. However, the release offers today's crop of young urban hipsters an opportunity to connect with the voices of a previous decade. A W.W. Norton paperback (Reviews, June 3, 1996). (July)
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