When consulting my bookshelf recently I decided that the time had come to re-read Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, as my initial memories of the novel having first read it more than six years ago were hazy and my main take away from watching the film as a teenager had been: ‘wouldn’t it be great to have a body like Brad Pitt?’ Having tried and failed in the latter respect in my early twenties, I re-calibrated my expectations and set myself the more realistic target of obtaining a greater understanding of the source material.
My instincts that Fight Club was worthy of being re-read proved to be correct as what I found was a book that, despite being more than twenty years old, appeared to be addressing issues still very much a part of contemporary society.
The novel’s unnamed narrator and protagonist finds himself as many people today do, in a ‘bullshit job’ which delivers comfortable pay but no fulfilment, a situation that the character has attempted to navigate through consumerism. Unsurprisingly however, the horde of commodities the character has amassed has ultimately failed to deliver the meaning that he seeks, effectively reducing him to a grown-up boy trapped in an endless cycle of meaningless work to fund the purchase of his next toy for his condominium.
The character’s rejection of his plight and attempts to reclaim his long-departed masculinity lead him on a destructive path which grows darker and darker as the story progresses. In my eyes, the book is a vicious attack on consumerism and the idea – one that many marketers take great pleasure in peddling – that if we simply have enough money to buy ourselves enough stuff, all our problems will fade away. Fight Club provides an alarming example of the ills that can befall a person who misguidedly places in their faith in the totem of material wealth.