Fight Club has always been one of my favourite films, and for me the best thing about a film is always finding out that there’s a book. I was intrigued to read it as I wondered how that story would read as a book and what the book would have that the film left out.
The book is about a man who has no name (the Narrator) who meets Tyler Durden after his apartment is blown up and creates an underground club in which they fight other men. This then escalates into Project Mayhem, which are sort of social terrorists. One example of the various “Homework Assignments” that they do is putting bumper stickers on cars that say things like ‘I drive better when I’m drunk’ or ‘Make mine veal’.
Project Mayhem spreads all across America and there’s loads of groups. What I found most striking about this book for me is that thousands of men would just obey Tyler’s every command blindly. You weren’t allowed to question Tyler’s methods (The first rule of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions) and they just go along with whatever he says. Go blow up an office building and draw an big smiley face on the side of the building? Okay! Go cut someone’s balls off? Okay!
Tyler tries to make the point that we are all slaves to advertising and consumerism, but these men he recruits or ‘Space monkeys’ as the Narrator calls them, just become slaves to Tyler. Does that mean that they were just sheep looking for something better to follow? Tyler comes along and tells them that what they worship is wrong and that he knows the way, but they don’t question whether his way is better or not. Does Tyler really want to save these people from society or just exploit the fact that we need to follow something for his own ends?
SPOILER ALERT! Major plot point spoiled here so look away now.
Maybe it’s because I already knew this, but it seemed obvious to me that the Narrator and Tyler are the same person from pretty early on. The line ‘I know this because Tyler knows this’ really stuck out for me as a clue to his split personality. Tyler mostly works at night, and the Narrator doesn’t sleep.
But where did Tyler come from? Why was he created? I think he came from the fact that the Narrator really wasn’t happy with his life. He had convinced himself that his little condo full of Ikea furniture and a good job meant that his life was perfect, it was complete. You realise later one that he wasn’t happy with his life. He may have had what seemed to many as the perfect life, but I think he resented that he didn’t have much else other than his Ikea furniture and his job.
There’s a difference between what people want and what people need. Most people know what they want, they know they want a nice car, the latest phone, a beautiful partner. For the Narrator, he wanted what he had, but what he needed was saving from mediocrity. He really hated what he had, he was bitter that he never got to do more, ‘I wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all the French beaches I’d never see.’ He needed enlightenment. Maybe deep down he knew that, but knew he wouldn’t be able to find it in himself and thus created Tyler to do it for him, to force him to save himself.
It’s definitely a book to read if you need some motivation to do something with your life. Tyler’s spiel about how ‘advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.’ really hits you. It kind of makes you sit back, look at your life and make you think, ‘Why do I need all of this stuff? Who told me I needed it?’ Are we really just slaves to consumerism? When I finished reading it I felt like getting rid of all my possessions and go live in the woods somewhere.
After writing this, I lost my phone at work and I thought that it was the spirit of Tyler Durden saving me from my material possessions. I got it back though so screw you Tyler, I like my material life.