Meta Books

Like a lot of people with my age and mindset, I’m a huge fan of Fight Club, book and movie.  So naturally, when my daughter bought me a subscription for Fight Club 2 a couple of years ago, I was ecstatic.  I would have bought them anyway, but probably in digital format, instead of the nice, glossy interiors of real print.

Chuck Palahniuk takes Tyler Durden and company in a very different direction in this ten issue series.  If you’re expecting the movie redux, you’ll see lots of little references (not the ear!) but this isn’t a series about reclaiming our individuality and personal responsibility and breaking the mold.

It’s about Chuck’s relationship to Tyler and the culture that has embraced him so thoroughly.

The series gets meta very quickly, with Chuck himself making an appearance in the first issue.

Resolving Tyler is like trying to take Santa Claus out of the cultural landscape, Chuck tells us.  Why this upsets him so much is clear: his creation has taken on a life of his own, beyond Chuck, and he can no longer control Tyler or what he stands for.

He tries to kill him, to put him to bed with all his acolytes, but his acolytes won’t have it.  Tyler is their hero, not their villain and no attempt to reclaim him by the author will be tolerated.  Chuck is defeated by his own cleverness.

A lot of people panned Fight Club 2, but it seems that they missed the point.  It could never have been the movie or the book; it could only be what it is, and that’s an exploration of how characters can outgrow their authors.

Young Werther is the main example used in the book.  The story is really about the artist’s relationship to the art, and how success can be like giving birth to a child who forges his own path and doesn’t acknowledge you as anything other than parent once they explode into stardom.

It’s what we all hope for in the characters we create.

As an author, I thought it was brilliant, ripe for re-reading and exploration, the way the best stories always are.  Superficial stories thrill once and then done.  They bore on the second read.  Great ones change over time, providing nuggets with each pass that only serve to deepen bonds.  To deepen understanding.

In that perspective, Palahniuk’s made another masterpiece.  It’s the kind of work I can only hope to produce.  Cameron Stewart’s artwork only serves to take the whole thing to a new level.  It’s so in tune with what the story is trying to do that it communicates the intent as well as anything Chuck wrote.  Better in some cases, hence the position of pills and things to blot out Chuck’s pithy little catchphrases.

As for me and my work, maybe I’ll settle for a little less than injecting my own Santa into the continuum, and just go for making sure it’s the only job I need.

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