As arguably the most masculine writer since Ernest Hemmingway, Chuck Palahniuk has almost single-handedly made reading books cool again — at least among a certain demographic. Luring us in with stories about con men (“Choke”), gangbangs (“Snuff”) and the perils of masturbation (the cringe-inducing short story “Guts”), Palahniuk grabs us by the throat and forces us to reconsider our boundaries. He often keeps readers off-balance by screwing with expectations, like using second-person narration in “Diary”, borderline-inscrutable broken English in “Pygmy”, or by numbering his pages backward in “Survivor.” Reading a Palahniuk work can be challenging and sometimes repulsive, but it’s always entertaining as hell. And though it’s not his best novel (for me, that’s “Rant”), he’s still best known for his debut, a little book called “Fight Club.” Maybe you’ve heard of it.
Adapted into an excellent film by David Fincher in 1999, “Fight Club” has since become a significant part of our culture. There’s hardly a post-pubescent male alive who can’t quote at least a few lines from the movie and who hasn’t wished he was part of some kind of underground organization where men can get together to beat the snot out of each other.
Of course, as soon as we’re all caught up in how great it would be to rebel against the pussified American society and indulge our most primal testosterone-driven urges, we’re hit with the possibility of slipping into fascism, terrorism and the complete loss of individual identity. So, you know, pros and cons.
Watching “Fight Club” is as educational as it is entertaining. There are a lot of useful nuggets of wisdom given to us by Tyler Durden, the unnamed narrator and Marla, the woman we all want/don’t want. Here are a few things I’ve gleaned from my many viewings. Please use responsibly.
1. With a gun in your mouth, you only talk in vowels.
Although I’ve tried this myself (long story), and I could manage some W’s.
2. Days of the week can be determined by the color of your boss’s tie.
Tuesday is cornflower blue.
3. If you ever consider using steroids, think of Bob.
Poor Bob had “bitch tits” as a result of having his testicles removed thanks to all the juicing he’d done. Is this a worst-case scenario? Sure, but is it worth the risk?
4. Losing all hope is freedom.
Like Janis said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
5. Catching someone doing something morally repugnant (like crashing support groups) can make us feel very judgmental.
Especially when we’re doing the exact same thing.
6. When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.
Can’t get a word in edgewise? Just tell everyone you have cancer.
7. Laundromats can make for an easy and inexpensive source of new clothes.
You have to be quick, though.
8. Your life is ending one minute at a time.
Think about that next time you pray for Friday to get here.
9. On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.
This one’s repeated throughout the film, so take it to heart. We’re all gonna die.
10. An infant through a windshield is worth three points.
For those of you keeping score.
11. Life insurance pays off triple if you die on a business trip.
See? There’s an upside to just about everything.
12. Oxygen masks exist on planes not to help you breathe, but to get you high.
This is the first little tidbit given to us by Tyler himself.
13. Equal parts gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate will make napalm.
Don’t try this at home, dummy.
14. When passing people in tight quarters, give men the ass and women the crotch.
Etiquette is everything.
15. Airport baggage handlers are known as “throwers.”
Which should come as a surprise to no one.
16. It could be worse — a woman could cut off your penis while you’re sleeping and throw it out of a moving car.
So, there’s always that.
17. A duvet is not essential to survival in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word.
You really shouldn’t even know what a duvet is.
18. Never be complete. Stop being perfect. Evolve. Let the chips fall where they may.
Sure, but maybe don’t go all the way with this one.
19. The things you own end up owning you.
Really think about that one for a minute.
20. Those little dots in the right-hand corner of the screen that indicate it’s time to change the film reel are known as “cigarette burns.”
I already knew this because I had a job as a projectionist when I was in high school.
21. Splicing penises into family films and peeing in the lobster bisque at a fancy restaurant is funny in the right context.
It also makes dinner and a movie more of an adventure.
22. You can’t know that much about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight.
It’s true. There’s nothing like a good punch in the face to initiate some serious introspection.
23. Men will always gravitate toward a fight in a parking lot.
Even if — no, especially if — it’s just one guy beating the hell out of himself.
24. Without Jack’s medulla oblongata, he can’t regulate his heart rate, blood pressure or breathing.
Be honest: How many of you knew that before you saw this movie?
25. Sitting in the bathroom and having a personal conversation with your best friend while he soaks in the tub doesn’t have to be weird.
But it certainly can be.
26. As a generation of men raised by women, is another woman really the answer we need?
More often than not… yes.
27. You can swallow a pint of blood before you get sick.
But that’s still no excuse to pretend you’re a vampire.
28. When listing rules, state the most important one twice.
And just in case you didn’t get that…
29. When listing rules, state the most important one twice.
OK, I think we can move on now.
30. Self-improvement is masturbation and self-destruction.
Again, Tyler’s using a seed of truth to try and manipulate you. Be careful.
31. When a fight is over, nothing is solved, but nothing matters.
This one’s truer than most of us will ever realize.
32. When a girl calls and says she took a bottle full of pills, sometimes it can turn into a booty call.
I wouldn’t count on it, however.
33. A giant dildo on a woman’s dresser should not be considered a threat to you.
Although it should help you gauge her expectations.
34. When trying to hide from the cops, try dancing.
It works surprisingly well.
35. You should reject the basic assumption of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.
OK, although this is another one of those things I don’t think I can fully commit to.
36. The condom is the glass slipper of our generation.
Thanks for that one, Marla.
37. Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.
Are we clear on that?
38. The best fat for making soap comes from humans.
For those of you out there who non-ironically worship Tyler Durden… you know this is a reference to the Holocaust, right?
39. Take some glycerin, some nitric acid, some sodium nitrate and a dash of sawdust — you’ve got dynamite.
For trivia purposes only.
40. With enough soap, you can blow up just about anything.
Bet you didn’t know that before you saw this movie.
41. Without pain or sacrifice, we would have nothing.
So think about that when the going gets rough; just don’t burn your hand with lye to prove your own point.
42. Our fathers are our models for God. If your father bailed, what does that tell you about God?
Well, what if he stuck around?
43. God does not like you. He never wanted you. In all probability, He hates you.
That’s not what they taught me in Sunday School.
44. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
Wow. Earlier in the movie, I just had to lose hope to gain freedom. This really kicks it up a notch.
45. Leaving the original on the copier will always cause trouble.
Why do we only seem to make this mistake when we’re making non-work-related copies?
46. Threatening to murder everyone in your office won’t necessarily get you fired, and threatening to expose your boss for shady business practices while beating the shit out of yourself can land you a great stay-at-home gig.
Although it takes a special sort of person to pull this off.
47. Checking a woman for a lump in her breast makes for an awkward date.
Especially if you don’t remember ever having slept with her.
48. If people think you were born in a mental institution and sleep only one hour a night, they will call you a great man.
This should be a strong indicator that you might not be hanging out with the right crowd.
49. We work jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.
It’s the American way.
50. Our Great War is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.
This being a pre-9/11 film, the first part really only applies to us Gen-Xers. Part two, unfortunately, applies to us all.
51. It takes one hit to the gut and three hits in the face to truly understand someone’s point.
I bet Tyler and Bender from “The Breakfast Club” would really enjoy each other’s company. They have the same self-destructive tendencies.
52. Starting a fight with someone on the street is not easy.
Has anyone out there ever tried this? If you do, remember that your homework assignment is to lose.
53. If you can make men feel powerful, you can get them to do anything.
Why is it that so few of our bosses seem to understand this fact?
54. It can take a gun to your head before you start doing what you really want to be doing with your life…
… Which is a very sad reality.
55. You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.
I was with you right up till the end there, Tyler.
56. Telling someone they can’t have something gives them the strength to get it.
This is another managerial tactic of Mr. Durden’s, and it proves incredibly effective. If he didn’t hate money so much, he’d make a great CEO.
57. Joining anarchistic/fascist organizations requires a lot of black clothes.
So maybe swing by a Hot Topic before you drop off your résumé.
58. It takes a complete loss of identity to become a man.
Um… wait, are you sure about that?
59. You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.
My mom would disagree.
60. When your second personality starts spending more time with other people than he does with you, it can make you jealous.
Insecurities abound, even when it comes to our imaginary friends.
61. Sometimes you just feel like destroying something beautiful.
But that doesn’t mean you should always act on it. If you feel the urge, just step on a flower or something and leave poor Jared Leto alone.
62. It’s important to know what you would wish you had done if you were to die right now.
I was impressed that one of the guys said, “Paint a self-portrait.” That’s an interesting answer. Hey, buddy, what are you doing mixed up with these hooligans?
63. Hitting bottom is not a weekend retreat. It’s not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go.
It’s a good point, but I still don’t think it should apply to driving a car.
64. Running around in ski masks trying to blow things up is a good way to get somebody shot in the head.
This should go without saying, but since it didn’t seem to occur to our boys in Project Mayhem, it can’t hurt to spell it out.
65. What your name is doesn’t matter until you’re dead.
And by then, it’s too late to decide how it will be used.
66. If you’re looking for a way to change your life, you can’t do it alone.
This does not — I repeat, does NOT — mean you should create a crazy alter ego to help you.
67. If you’re about to get your balls cut off by a roomful of cops — under your own orders — it might be time to start reevaluating your life decisions.
68. Telling someone they’re going to get a “lead salad” is a weird way of threatening to shoot them.
Hard to believe that hasn’t caught on.
69. Running pantsless through the city brandishing a gun attracts surprisingly little attention.
This is another one of those things I wouldn’t put to the test, though.
70. Don’t fire a gun at your imaginary fan near 400 gallons of nitroglycerine.
That’s just common sense, really.
71. Alter egos tend to smoke a lot.
How many packs did Brad Pitt go through during that shoot? I mean, I know it was the 90s, but damn.
72. Remember: The gun is in your hand.
It makes a good mantra as long as the gun is metaphorical and not one you use to shoot yourself in the mouth.
73. Watching buildings explode while listening to the Pixies can be romantic if you’re with the right girl.
Or probably more accurately, the wrong one.