Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk (1996)

I discussed Ginsberg’s “Howl” with my class of college juniors and seniors a few weeks ago. At one point I asked them if there existed a cultural product–TV show, movie, video game, book, play, poem, whatever–which speaks to/for their generational moment as “Howl” did for Ginsberg’s. Not only could they not come up with anything, they seemed not to really understand the question. One young woman said that everyone she knows has read the Harry Potter books. I said I wasn’t really talking about popularity per se; rather, I was wondering whether they could think of any works which they felt embodied the spirit of what it means to be a young adult in the first decade of the 21st century. Nothing. Then one student proposed that contemporary cultural products don’t really work like that anymore. There is no music everyone listens to, no movies everyone sees, no web site everyone visits. All marketing now is niche marketing. Some niches are larger and some are smaller, but none are universal. And perhaps artists have responded to that new reality by no longer trying to make “voice of my generation”-type works, since there’s no sense of generational unity anyway. I was impressed and pleased with the quality and subtlety of the argument and the ensuing discussion. Then one student said, “Fight Club,” and all the rest said, “Oh yeah. ‘Fight Club.’ ‘Fight Club’ is awesome.”


  1. Or IS it?

    I found the book really boring but I guess it was worth reading so as to find out what all these kids are talking about.

    What really surprised me was that my female students were so enthusiastic about the book, since its universe seems to contain almost no place for women at all, and what little space is available for women would not be a very pleasant one to occupy.

  2. Fight Club isn't even applicable to the current generation of college undergrads. That book is swiftly approaching its 15th anniversary—when most of those students were, what, five?

    As cliché as this may be, the one cultural/artistic entity that works hardest to express young adults, and as a result sort of defames and deforms them, is MTV—the ease of consumption, the awareness of disposability and artifice, the ineffectualness of its politics, the encouragement of melodramatics and products (I suppose everything Palahniuk bemoaned with Fight Club).

    By the way, you know they were talking about the movie, right?

  3. And yet–Fight Club is awesome. I watched it on On Demand about six months ago to reassure myself that I kind of hated it, and by the third viewing had to admit that I pretty much love it. Without even liking it! Not two days ago a thought drifted across my head: “whoever dressed Brad Pitt in Fight Club should have gotten the Oscar.”

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