'Fight Club' is about a seemingly ordinary middle-class man, casually dubbed The Narrator, who becomes disillusioned with his life. On the surface, this is what it's about, but multiple ideas and themes, and they're challenging ones, start to appear in rapid succession the longer the reader goes on. There's satire of American culture, of the vapidity of consumerism, of the effects of social class, of the constrictions of Western civilisation as a whole, these are all open to ridicule. Because what seems like the tale of a dissatisfied insomniac at the commencement becomes something much more harrowing and entangled by the finish. Bear in mind that 'Fight Club' was Chuck Palahniuk's first contribution to literature, and, given its weighty concerns, he doesn't hold back. It's that special kind of book, at least to my mind, that can be read and pondered over many times, with each subsequent reading being richer than the last.
Waking up, I notice that there are more people in the room now. They're all pretty quiet, being content to mill around, grabbing something, putting something back, before finally leaving, never saying a word to anyone. I sit up, considering my options for the night. This is my first night in London, and the hostel I'm in just happens to be in King's Cross—one of the busiest and most populated areas of London. I climb down carefully from the top bunk of my bed and proceed to walk out, hearing nothing but the slightly irritating noise of snoring along the way. The presence of heavy sleepers in hostels is something I'll have to get used to, I think to myself as I continue walking, finding the door to reception.
It’s a nice day today, the ideal day to go out for lunch. David, thinking this as he awoke this morning, does exactly that. John left earlier for work, giving David more time to prepare for the day. Again, he chooses a flamboyant dress, but of a different colour and pattern. It’s time to leave, even though it takes him nearly an hour to put make-up on. Little kids with their parents pass David as he moves slowly down various Brunswick streets, hoping to find a reputable cafe to eat at. Nothing interests him save an unknown little place he ends up spotting by chance. 'This is where I’ll flaunt my stuff,' David says under his breath as he pirouettes ridiculously across the road.
David is walking into school. He’s carrying two bags: one holds his papers for school, the other books, CDs and what-have-you. There are also a few classical music books scattered here and there. He’s somewhat late for class, but his class waits for him. David has a good relationship with them. Two small headphones sit lodged in his ears, blaring out music from an Australian comedian’s comedy album.
To tell the truth, 1969's 'Portnoy's Complaint', which is one of the few novels I've read in Philip Roth's now hailed oeuvre, was something awesome to behold the first time I read it. I felt like I was coveting something forbidden and dark, almost to the point where I didn't want my parents to know what I was reading. From the dynamic first-person narration to the witty dialogue, the shameless profanity to the uncompromisingly irreverent atmosphere, I couldn't resist enjoying any of it. Add to this the highly striking characters, led in front by young Jewish man Alexander Portnoy and his awful neuroses, which is something his psychoanalyst has no choice but to bear confronting, and you have one of the most thrilling reading experiences I'd ever had as a teenager. So when I decided to read 'Portnoy' again only a day ago, these same qualities didn't hesitate to immediately come to the forefront again.
I thought I was standing on a moving cattle train, a train that had only just before been nearly empty at a moment where I had just finished a sixteen hour flight from Bandar Seri Begawan to the bustling industrial capital of England, London. There were so many people around me on my carriage I could hardly move. It was early in the morning, and they were all eager to get to work. I wasn't. Evidently, this was London, one of the oldest cities in the world, and I wasn't prepared for it.