‘Dude, Fight Club totally ruled.’
No doubt you overheard this direct quote, possibly dozens of times if you saw the Chuck Palahniuk adaptation in theatres. I didn’t see it in theatres, and I heard it about 30 times more than I wished.
I remember vividly the first time I saw Palahniuk’s love/hate affair with nihilism. I was in high school, on a tennis trip in Arkansas. Much to the chagrin of my coach, I ordered Fight Club on pay-per-view from my yellow curtained, musty motel room. Afterwards, our team members bounced off each other, off the walls, off the beds, as if we had just mainlined a quart of pure cane sugar.
It wasn’t until further viewings, and probably a couple years of maturity under my belt, that the full ramifications of the movie were fully understood. Sure, it’s an over-the top ode to masculinity, an infatuation with chaos and anarchy that’s practically forced down your throat. But despite the legions of insta-anarchists the film spawned, culling direct quotes from the book or Wikipedia entries, the book still stands as a touchstone for a nihilistic generation bent on destruction as creation.
Before Palahniuk became a one-trick pony (exhibit A: Snuff. Just try to get through it without saying to yourself, ‘Haven’t I read this before?’) and before David Fincher made Fight Club the only movie adaptation to rival the quality of the original work; Palahniuk bestowed upon us his debut: Survivor. If you thought Fight Club was incendiary, check out Survivor. It has yet to be adapted to film, due mostly to a plane wreck that is just too provocative in this post-9/11 climate. While Fight Club illuminates class struggle and masculinity, Survivor is like an amphetamine fueled J.G. Ballard rant against consumerist culture and organized religion. Free will is also a major concern of the novel, as Tender Branson the protagonist, can purportedly see the future.
If, like me, you were once a huge Palahniuk fan, but like Tyler Durden in Fight Club have become grossly disillusioned with his latest fare, give Survivor a shot. Be ready for that signature style of Palahniuk’s before he beat it to death and used it as his template.