Storydome: Fight Club

Do you ever wonder what kind of dining set defines you as a person?

I am Jack’s swollen indifference. I work a job I hate, to buy things I don’t need, to fill up my filing cabinet of an apartment. I visit tragic support groups for people coping with terminal illnesses in order to treat my insomnia. And I hate Marla Singer, because her lies reflect my own lies. This is my life, and it’s passing me by one minute at a time. Enter: Tyler Durden. The most interesting single serving friend I have ever met.

I am Jack’s self-destruction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now time for our main event of the month! Fight Club hits itself as hard as it can in February’s ultimate match up!

Two stories enter, one story leaves when Fight Club steps into the Storydome.

The Contenders

The Book
Title: Fight Club
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Published: 1996
Pages: 208
The Movie
Title: Fight Club
Director: David Fincher
Released: 1999
Length: 139 Minutes
Starring: Edward Norton as Narrator
Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden
Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer

It should go without saying. There are SPOILERS ahead. 

Fight Club’s nameless narrator works as a recall calculator for some big automotive company. He flies all over the United States, losing an hour here, gaining an hour there, and winds up developing insomnia from extreme jet lag. A doctor tells him that he cannot die from insomnia, and that if he wants to see real pain he should visit a terminal support group. Long story short, he starts going to one every night and, surrounded by people who are dying, he learns to cry. Of course he is faking his illness, but if he never says anything people assume the worst about him. Somehow, the collective loss of hope he feels from the support groups he visits each night allows him to sleep finally; that is until he meets Marla Singer.

Marla is another faker just like him, the narrator calls her a tourist, and at every different group she is there, even the testicle cancer support group. Marla’s lie reflects his own lie, and with another faker in the room he can’t cry, and if he can’t cry he can’t sleep. Then, the narrator meets Tyler Durden, a man with an anarchic life philosophy who makes soap for a living. After their short introduction, Tyler asks the narrator a favor, and in one of the most famous lines from the movie and the book, Tyler tells the narrator. “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” From that one moment, Fight Club is born.

First of all, you can’t go wrong with either of these two. They’re both incredibly enjoyable.

The book reads quickly, told through the narrator’s point of view. There are these wonderfully written, uniquely descriptive lines that flow almost like poetry. A twisted, self-destructive, heroin induced poetry, but poetry none-the-less. The book features three of the most original characters I have ever seen, presented in the way that only Palahniuk can.

However, those same characters and those wonderful lines are in the movie too. In fact, you could make the argument that the lines work better in the movie. Edward Norton’s sardonic narration fits the tone of the story perfectly. His voice just sounds numb and indifferent, and from the opening scene you’re invested in his narration. The casting director deserves an enormous amount of credit for assembling the ideal cast. When you read about a character, you create an image in your head, and then sometimes when you see who was cast in the movie incarnation it doesn’t fit. This is not one of those cases! You might be saying that when you think of an anarchy-loving soap maker, Brad Pitt is not who you picture. Well, maybe it should be. To me, this is Brad Pitt’s defining role. Brad Pitt is Tyler Durden. In the book, Tyler Durden constantly spouts out this kind of anarchic propaganda. And when you hear Brad Pitt saying these lines, it sounds like genius philosophy.

And then there is that twist.

If you don’t know the story, I’m about to ruin the best part of it, but I warned you there are spoilers.

Tyler Durden and the narrator are the same person! Or to put it another way, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are the same guy.

I know, right?

There are times when a story gives you this huge twist, but it doesn’t work. The story doesn’t earn it, and as an audience you feel like it was just thrown in there, i.e. the movies of M. Night Shyamalan. This isn’t the case with fight club. When you first find out, you are completely surprised, but then you think about it and it makes perfect sense. In the book, by the time you get to the reveal, you might have already figured it yourself. Palahniuk gives a lot of clues, and there is plenty of foreshadowing. Then there is the oft-repeated line: “I know this, because Tyler knows this.”

In the movie, it can seem like this twist just came out of left field, but go back and watch the movie again. You’ll have spotted the twist about 5 minutes into the movie.

The endings are a little bit different and I think I prefer the movie’s — it’s the more satisfying of the two endings. I prefer the way the movie is open-ended. The narrator and Marla stand together and watch the city crumble around them. In the book, that sort of happens, but then the narrator winds up in an insane asylum afterwards. The book doesn’t have a bad ending, but where the movie ends is better, and it doesn’t hurt that the movie closes to The Pixies’ song, “Where is My Mind.”

This fight was entertaining as hell. Both the book and the movie are incredibly enjoyable, but there can be only one winner.

Winner of Storydome: The Movie, via unanimous decision

The best stuff in the book — the great lines and the wonderfully unique characters — the movie has all of them and thensome. In a fight where both stories stood on equal ground, it came down to the performances. No one won an Oscar for their acting, but maybe they should have. Both Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are able to take their characters beyond what is on the pages in the book, and they make them their own. Like I said, this is Brad Pitt’s defining performance. Let’s not leave out Helena Bonham Carter — Marla Singer is a horribly sad person, and most of her personal tragedy is her own fault, but you start to feel for her in the end. Carter captures the look of Marla Singer, and she carries this kind of sadness in her eyes throughout the movie. She isn’t spectacular, but she definitely captures Marla Singer. Which is important, because I never paid attention to how important her character was until I read the book. The story, at its core, is a love story between the narrator and Marla and it wasn’t until I read the book that that became clear to me.

Fight Club: the book is great the movie is better.

Disagree with my assessment? Let me know about it in the comments section.

I’ll be back next week, as a new story steps into the ring.

— Tim Fitzpatrick

Editor’s Note: Tim Fitzpatrick is an English major at Lewis University with a focus on creative writing. Tim is 26 and is only just now starting college. He has always enjoyed telling a good story, and he is at Lewis to learn to do that better.

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