The author's afterword offers a better insight to the origins of the novel. It was a simple but well executed exercise in short story writing (thanks to a black eye the author received one summer), which earned it front-to-back treatment into a full-fledged book. Granted, it did not hit the #1 spot on The New York Times's bestseller list upon release, but when David Fincher came along, Fight Club became a household name—at least to oppressed, middle-class men with nothing to lose or fight for.
The film did wonders for Palahniuk's career, aiding in its takeoff and making his other books more notorious. The question is, was Fight Club, as a book on its own, really that great? Take into account that I have devoured the movie somewhere around 20 times in the past 10 years or so. Whether you liked it or not, the film is unquestionably a directorial masterpiece, but that is not our concern. In true bookworm fashion, let's dissect my edition's 218 pages and weigh its pros and cons.
It goes without saying, but, spoiler alert ahead.
Aside from the obvious Brad Pitt/Edward Norton/Helena Bonham-Carter association in my brain, I found it difficult to separate the movie's grittiness and imagery at first but gradually discovered that the book seemed far darker. Our nameless protagonist narrates the story but in such a way his speech is never in quotations. Only the other characters' (including Tyler Durden) spoken lines are quoted, making us navigate the story from within the mind of the narrator. I felt strongly that this aspect gave us more proximity to the characters than the third-person approach of the movie.
A lot of one-liners made it to the silver screen directly out of the pages, along with many of the scenes. The fragmentation of events is made even more in-your-face by the insomniac telltale of the narrator, dipped in a split personality disorder that is subtly revealed, much like in the film, but the impact wasn't as dramatic carried out linguistically.
Unfortunately, maybe because I know every frame of the movie, I was unfazed by most of the literary version. Although it is the original story of Fight Club, it's almost like it was a rough draft for a movie script. The language itself isn't poor—far from it—but the book cuts through events too fast sometimes. It's as though the movie was meant to be.
The major differences are some closer looks at certain characters, such as Marla Singer, whom I found to be more involved with the narrator in the movie than in the novel. Some one-liners were a bit different and the homemade explosives are described in more detail.
What David Fincher turned the written words into is nothing short of genius. In fact, rumor has it Chuck Palahniuk likes the movie's ending over the book's, which had an unexpectedly upbeat view of life that completely contrasted everything written up until then.
This is a good read, for sure, but it's eclipsed by the Hollywood adaption. I'll give it a 3 out of 5. I watched the movie first, and this is not one of those cases where the book is better—clearly, I favor the film. The originality of the story, which is not about a fight club but rather what's in the frame: social disparity, loneliness, romanticism, and frustration add to the score. What do you think? Is the read better than the film? You are not the safety of your Internet-procrastinating silence—comment!