Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk (2024)

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Chuck Palahniuk


Where would Jesus be if no one had written the gospels?

Eyes closed, we imagined our pain as a ball of white healing light floating around our feet and rising to our knees, our waist, our chest. Our chakras opening. The heart chakra. The head chakra. Chloe talked us into caves where we meet our power animal. Mine was a penguin.

I had to ask what Bob meant by huevos.

Huevos, Bob said. Gonads. Nuts. Jewels. Testes. Balls. In Mexico, where you buy your steroids, they call them "eggs."

I never went back to the doctor. I never chewed the Valerian root.

This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom. If I didn't say anything, people in the group assumed the worst. They cried harder. I cried harder. Look up into the stars and you're gone.

Walking home after a support group, I felt more alive than I'd ever felt. I wasn't host to cancer or blood parasites; I was the little warm center that the life of the world crowded around.

And I slept. Babies don't sleep this well.

Every evening I died, and every evening, I was born.

The old theatres that run a movie with two projectors, a projectionist has to stand right there to change projectors at the exact second so that the audience never sees the break when one reel starts and one reel ran out. You have to look for the white dots at the top, right-hand corner of the screen. This is the warning. Watch the movie, and you'll see two dots at the end of the reel.

Tyler makes slides out of the best single frames of a movie. The first full frontal movie anyone can remember had the naked actress Angie Dickinson.

By the time a print of this movie had shipped from the West Coast theaters to the East Coast theaters, the nude scene was gone. Once projectionist took a frame. Another projectionist took a frame. Everybody wanted to make a naked slide of Angie Dickinson. p*rno got into the theaters and these projectionists, some guys they built collections that got epics.

This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time.

A single frame in a movie is on the screen for one-sixtieth of a second. Divide a second into sixty different parts. That's how long the erection is. Towering four stories tall over the popcorn auditorium, slippery red and terrible, and no one sees it.

If a new car built by my company leaves Chicago traveling west at 60 miles per hour, and the rear differential locks up, and the car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside, does my company initiate a recall?

You take the population of vehicles in the field (A) and multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B), then multiply the result by the average cost of an out-of-court settlement (C).

A times B times C equals X. This is what it will cost if we don't initiate a recall.

If X is greater than the cost of a recall, we recall the cars and no one gets hurt.

If X is less than the cost of a recall, then we don't recall.

If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?

What Tyler had created was the shadow of a giant hand. Only now the fingers were Nosferatu-long and the thumb was too short, but he said how at exactly four-thirty the hand was perfect. The giant shadow hand was perfect for one minute, and for one perfect minute Tyler had sat in the palm of a perfection he'd created himself.

One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.

No one will ever say parasite. They'll say agent.

They don't say cure. They'll say treatment.

In Catch-Up Rap, someone will say how the agent has spread into his spinal column and now all of a sudden he'll have no control of his left hand. The agent, someone will say, has dried the lining of his brain, so now the brain pulls away from the inside of his skull, causing seizures.

For two years, Chloe's been crying in my arms during hug time, and now she's dead, dead in the ground, dead in an urn, mausoleum, columbarium. Oh, the proof that one day you're thinking and hauling yourself around, and the next, you're cold fertilizer, worm-buffet. This is the amazing miracle of death, and it should be so sweet if it weren't for, of, that one.


Then we can split the week, I say. Marla can have bone disease, brain parasites, and tuberculosis. I'll keep testicular cancer, blood parasites, and organic brain dementia.

"I used to work in a funeral home to feel good about myself, just the fact that I was breathing."

Home was a condominium on the fifteenth floor of a high-rise, a sort of filing cabinet for widows and young professionals. The marketing brochure promised a foot of concrete floor, ceiling, and wall between between me and any adjacent stereo or turn-up television... a foot of concrete was important when your next-door neighbour lets the battery on her hearing aid go and has to watch her game shows at full blast. Or when a volcanic blast of burning gas and debris that used to be your living-room set and personal effects blows out your floor to ceiling windows and sails down flaming to leave just your condo, only yours, a gutted charred concrete hole in the cliffside of the building.

Me, while I'm heading west, asleep at Mach 0.83, or 455 miles an hour, or true airspeed, the FBI is bomb-squading my suitcase on a vacated runway back in Dulles. Nine out of ten times, the security task force guy says, the vibration is an electric razor. The other time, it's a vibrating dild*.

Imagine, the task force guy says, telling a passenger on arrival that a dild* kept her baggage on the East Coast. Sometimes it's even a man. It's airline policy not to imply ownership in the event of a dild*. Use the indefinite article.

A dild*.

Never your dild*.

Never say the dild* accidentally turned itself on.

A dild* activated itself and created an emergency situation that required the evacuating of your baggage.

The security asked my name and address and phone number, and then he asked me what was the difference between a condom and a co*ckpit.

"You can only get one prick into a condom," he said.

... the things you used to own, now they own you.

I just don't want to die without a few scars, I say. It's nothing any more to have a beautiful stock body. You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer's showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.

The first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.

The second rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.

You don't say anything because fight club exists only in the hours between when fight club starts and when fight club ends.

... that's the third rule of fight club, when someone says stop or goes limp, even if he's just faking it, the fight is over.

Only two guys to a fight. One fight at a time. They fight without shirts or shoes. The fights go on as long as they have to. Those are the other rules of fight club.

After a night at fight club, everything in the real world gets the volumn turned down. Nothing can piss you off, your word is law, and if other people break the law or question you, even that doesn't piss you off.

Nothing is static. Even the Mona Lisa is falling apart. Since fight club, I can wiggle half the teeth in my jaw. Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer. Maybe self-destruction is the answer.

And the seventh rule is if this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.

Last week I tapped a guy and he and I got on the list for a fight. This guy must've had a bad week, got both my arms behind my head in a full nelson and rammed my face into the concrete floor until my teeth bit open the inside of my cheek and my eye was swollen shut and was bleeding, and after I said, stop, I could look down and there was a print of half my face in blood on the floor.

I shake the guy's hand and say, good fight.

This guy, he says, "How about next week?"

I try to smile against all the swelling, and I say, look at me, How about next month?

"I want you to do me a favor. I want you to hit me as hard as you can.

I looked around and said, okay. Okay, I say, but outside in the parking lot.

So we went outside, and I asked if Tyler wanted it in the face or in the stomach.

Tyler said, "Surprise me."

I said I had never hit anybody.

Tyle said, "So go crazy, man."

I said, close your eye.

Tyler said, "No."

Like every guy on his first night at fight club, I breathed in and swung my fist in a roundhouse at Tyler's jaw like in every cowboy movie we'd ever seen, and me, my fist connect with the side of Tyler's neck.

I found stacks and stacks of Reader's Digest in the basem*nt, and now there's a pile of Reader's Digest in every room. In the oldest magazines, there's a series of articles where organs in the human body talk about themselves in the first person: I am Jane's uterus. I am Joe's Prostrate. I am Joe's Gallbladder. I am Joe's Raging Bile Duct. I am Joe's Grinding Teeth. I am Joe's Inflamed Flaring Nostrils. I am Joe's White Knuckles. I am Joe's Enraged, Inflamed Sense of Rejection. I am Joe's Clenching Bowels.

Sometimes you do something, and you get screwed. Sometimes it's the things you don't do, and you get screwed.

After Tyler and Marla had sex about ten times, Tyler says, Marla said she wanted to get pregnant. Marla said she wanted to have Tyler's abortion.

Marla looks at Tyler looking at her dild*, and she rolls her eyes and says, "Don't be afraid. It's not a threat to you."

Put a gun to my head and paint the walls with my brains. Just great, I say. Really.

My father always said, "Get married before the sex gets boring or you'll never get married."

"You know, the condom is the glass slipper of our generation. You slip it on when you meet a stranger. You dance all night, then you throw it away. The condom, I mean. Not the stranger."

"The animal control place is the best place to go," Marla says. "Where all the animals, the little doggies and kitties that people loved and then dumped, even the old animals, dance and jump around for your attention because after three days, they get an overdose shot of sodium phenobarbital and then into the big pet oven.

"The big sleep, 'Valley of Dogs' style.

"Where even if someone loves you enough to save your life, they still castrate you." Marla looks at me as if I'm the one humping her and says, "I can't win with you, can I?"

About my boss, Tyler tells me, if I'm really angry, I should go to the post office and fill out a change-of-address card and have all his mail forwarded to Rugby, North Dakota.

Another thing I could do, Tyler tells me, is I could drive to my boss's house some night and hook a hose to an outdoor spigot. Hook the hose to a hand pump, and I could inject the house plumbing with a change of industrial dye. Red or blue or green, and wait to see how my boss looks the next day. Or, I could just sit in the bushes and pump the hand pump until the plumbing was superpressurized to 110 psi. This way, when someone goes to flush the toilet, the toilet tank will explode. Ar 150 psi, if someone turns on the shower, the water pressure will blow off the shower head, strip the threads, blam, the shower head turns into a mortal shell.

Tyler only says this to make me feel better. The truth is I like my boss. Besides, I'm enlightened now. You know, only Buddha-style-behaviour. Spider chrysanthemums. The Diamon Sutra and the Blue Cliff Record. Hari Rama, you know, Krishna, Krishna. You know, Enlightened.

"Sticking feathers up your butt," Tyler says, "does not make you a chicken."

Only after disaster can we be resurrected.

"It's only after you've lost everything," Tyler says, "that you're free to do anything."

"At the store, they have one-hundred-percent recycled toilet paper," Marla says. "The worst job in the whole world must be recycling toilet paper."

The moment Marla is out of the door, Tyler appears back in the room.

Fast as a magic trick. My parents did this magic act for five years.

"The clear layer is glycerin. You can mix glycerin back in when you make soap. Or you can skim the glycerin off.

You can mix glycerin with nitric acid to make nitroglyerin.

You can mix nitroglycerin with sodium nitrate and sawdust to make dynamite.

You can blow up bridges.

You can mix nitroglycerin with more nitric acid and and parafin and make gelatin explosives.

You can blow up a building, easy.

With enough soap, you can blow up the whole world."

Think about the animals used in product testing. Think about the monkeys shot into space.

"Without their death, their pain, without the sacrifice," Tyler says, "we would have nothing."

"What's it say, already?"

Tyler looks at Leslie and says, without even picking up the note, "I have passed an amount of urine into at least one of your many elegant fragrances."

Albert smiles. "You pissed in her perfume?"

"No," Tyler says, "but she doesn't know that."

"Getting fired," Tyler says, "is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we'd quit treading water and do something with our lives."

"I need to put something in your freezer."

The last thing I want is Marla moving in, one piece of crap at a time.

"This is not crap," she says. "This is my mother you're talking about so just f*ck off."

I asked, what was she going to do with the white stuff.

"Paris lips," Marla said. "As you get older, your lips pull inside your mouth. I'm saving for a collagen lip injection. I have almost thirty pounds of collagen in your freezer."

Long story short, Marla looked in the freezer. Okay, there was a little scuffle, first. I try to stop her and the bag she's holding gets dropped and breaks open on the linoleum and we both slip in the greasy white mess and come up gagging... and I'm saying over and over, it wasn't me. It wasn't me.

I didn't do it.

"My mother! You're spilling her all over."

We needed to make soap, I say... It wasn't me.

It was Tyler.

Marla screams, "What are you talking about? Where is she?"

We made soap out of it. Her. Marla's mother.

"Soap? You boiled my mother!

Tyler boiled her mother.

"You boiled my mother!"

"When a man is hit by lightning," Tyler says, "his head burns down to a smoldering baseball and his zipper welds itself shut." Tyler lies back and asks, "If Marilyn Monroe were alive right now, what would she be doing?"

I say, goodnight.

The headliner hangs down in shreds from the ceiling and Tyler says, "Clawing at the lid of her coffin."

"Well," Big Bob says, "I've got good news."

Where is everybody?

"That's the good news," Big Bob says. "The group's disbanded. I only come down here to tell any guys who might show up."

"The good news," Big Bob says, "is there's a new group, but the first rule about this new group is you aren't supposed to talk about it.


Big Bob says, "And the second rule is you're not supposed to talk about it."

Oh sh*t. I open my eyes.


I tell her how in college I had a wart once. On my penis, only I say dick. I went to medical school to remove it. The wart. Afterwards, I told my father. This was years after, and my dad laughed and told me I was a fool because warts like that are nature's French tickler. Women loved them and God was doing me a favor.

Marla says those warts that are God's French ticklers give women cervical cancer.

"Disaster is a natural part of my evolution," Tyler whispered, "toward tragedy and dissolution."

"I'm breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions," Tyler whispered, "because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit."

"The liberator who destroys my property," Tyler said, "is fighting to save my spirit. The teacher who clears all possessions from my path will set me free."

I told how I'd been peeing in the soup, farting on creme brulees, sneezing on braised endives, and now I wanted the hotel to send me a check every week equivalent to my every week's pay plus tips. In return I wouldn't come to work anymore, and I wouldn't go to the newspapers or to the public health people with a confused, tearful confession.

Sure, I said, I might go to prison. They could hang me and yank my nuts off and drag me through the streets and flay my skin and burn me with lye, but the Pressman Hotel would always be known as the hotel where the richest people in the world ate pee.

Tyler's words coming out of my mouth.

And I used to be such a nice person.

"I am trash," Tyler said. "I am trash and sh*t and crazy to you and this whole f*cking world," Tyler said to the union president. "You don't care where Iive or how I feel, or what I eat or how I feed my kids or how I pay the doctor if I get sick, and yes I am stupid and bored and weak, but I am still your responsibility."

In the Assault Committee of Project Mayhem this week, Tyler says he ran everyone through what it would take to shoot a gun. All a gun does is focus an explosion in one direction.

Each committee meets on a different night:

Arson meets on Monday. Assault on Tuesday.

Mischief meets on Wednesday.

And Misinformation meets on Thursday.

Organized Chaos. The Bureaucracy of Anarchy. You figure it out.

By this time next week, each guy on the Assault Committee has to pick a fight where he won't come out a hero. And not in fight club. This is harder than it sounds. A man on the street will do anything not to fight.

Tyler handed the gun around. It was so heavy for something so small, as if a giant thing like a mountain or a sun were collapsed and melted down to make this.

The first rule about Project Mayhem is that you don't ask questions about Project Mayhem.

The second rule of Project Mayhem is you don't ask questions.

The third rule in Project Mayhem is no excuses.

The fourth rule is no lies.

"A gun," Tyler said, "is simple and perfect."

"The trigger," Tyler said, "frees the hammer, and the hammer strikes the powder."

"The explosion blast a metal slug off the open end of the shell and the barrel of the gun focuses the exploding powder and the rocketing slug," Tyler said, "like a man out of a cannon, like a missile out of a silo, like your jism, in one direction."

Since most of my face never gets a chance to heal, I've got nothing to lose in the looks department. My boss, at work, he asked me what I was doing about the hole through my cheek that never heals. When I drink coffee, I told him, I put two fingers over the hole so it won't leak.

Tyler asked what I was really fighting.

What Tyler says about the crap and the slaves of history, that's how I felt. I wanted to destroy something beautiful I'd never have. Burn the Amazon rain forests. Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up to gobble the ozone. Open the dump valves on supertankers and uncap offshore oil wells. I wanted to kill all the fish I couldn't afford to eat, and smother the French beaches I'd never see.

I wanted the whole world to hit bottom.

Pounding that kid, I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn't screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground.

For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil.

And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born.

I wanted to breath smoke.

I wanted to burn the Lourve. I'd do the Elgin Marbles with a sledge-hammer and wipe my ass with the Mona Lisa. This is my world, now.

"Recycling and speed limits are bullsh*t," Tyler said. "They're like someone who quits smoking on his deathbed."

"Don't get any bullets," Tyler told the Assault Committe. "And just so you don't worry about it, yes, you're going to have to kill someone."

Arson. Assault. Mischief and Misinformation.

No questions. No questions. No excuses and no lies.

The fifth rule about Project Mayhem is you have to trust Tyler.

"I'm here to see Tyler. Tyler Durden. He lives here. I'm his friend."

The space monkey says, "I'm sorry you're too... ," and he pauses, "you're too young to train here."

Marla says, "Get screwed."

"Besides," the space monkey says, "you haven't brought the required items. Two black shirts. Two pair of black pants-"

Marla screams, "Tyler!"

"One pair of heavy black shoes."


"Two pair of black socks and two pair of plain underwear."


And I hear the front door slam shut. Marla doesn't wait the three days."

It's one scary f*ck to see guys like our mechanic at fight club. Skinny guys, they never go limp. They fight until they're burger. White guys like skeleton dipped in yellow wax with tattoos, black men like dried meat, these guys usually hang together, the way you can picture them at Narcotics Anonymous. They never say, stop. It's like they're all energy, shaking so fast they blur around the edges, these guys in recovery from something. As if the only choice they have left is how they're going to die and they want to die in a fight.

"What you have to understand, is your father was your model for God. If you're male and you're Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out and dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?

"What you end up doing is you spend your life searching for your father and God.

"What you have to consider is the possibility that God doesn't like you. Could be, God hates us. This is not the worst thing that could happen."

How Tyler saw it was that getting God's attention for being bad was better than getting no attention at all. Maybe because God's hate is better than His indifference.

If you could be either God's worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose?

We are God's middle children, according to Tyler Durden, with no special place in history and no special attention.

Unless we get God's attention, we have no hope of damnation or redemption.

Which is worse, hell or nothing?

Only if we're caught and punished can we be saved.

... another new fight club rule is that fight club will always be free. It will never cost to get in. "We want you, not your money. As long as you're in fight club, you're not how much money you've got in the bank. You're not your job. You're not your family, and you're not who you tell yourself. You're not your name. You're not your problems. You're not your age. You are not your hopes. You will not be saved. We are all going to die, someday."

"You had a near-life experience," the mechanic says.

You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don't need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don't really need.

We have to show these men and women freedom by enslaving them, and show their courage by frightening them.

"Napolean bragged that he could train men to sacrifice their lives for a scrap of ribbon."

"Fat," the mechanic says, "liposuctioned fat sucked out of the richest thighs in America. The richest, fattest thighs in the world."

Our goal is the big red bags of liposuctioned fat we'll haul back to Paper Street and render and mix with lye and rosemary and sell back to the very people who paid to have it sucked out. At twenty bucks a bar, these are the only folks who can afford it.

Listen, now, you're going to die, Raymond K. K. K. Hessel, tonight. You might die in one second or in one hour, you decide. So lie to me... Fill in the blank. What does Raymond Hessel want to be when he grows up?

A vet, you said, you want to be a vet, a veterinarian.

That means school. You have to go to school for that.

It means too much school, you said.

You could be in school working your ass off, or you could be dead. You choose...

So, I said, go back to school. If you wake up tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back to school.

Raymong K. K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you've eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your entire life.

I call Marla from my Seattle hotel room to ask if we've ever done it.

Long distance, Marla says, "What?"

Slept together.


Have I ever, you know, had sex with her?



"Well?" she says.

Have we ever had sex?

"You are such a piece of sh*t."

Have we had sex?

"I could kill you!"

Is that a yes or no?

"I knew this would happen," Marla says. "You are such a flake. You love me. You ignore me. You save my life, then you cook my mother into soap."

"We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we'll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won't. And we're just learning this fact. So don't f*ck with us."

I say, but what about Marla?

"Marla loves you. Marla doesn't know the difference between you and me. You gave her a fake name the night you met. You never gave your real name at a support group, you inauthentic sh*t. Since I saved her life, Marla thinks your name is Tyler Durden."

"No," Tyler says, still holding my hand. "I wouldn't be here in the first place if you didn't want me. I'll still live my life while you're asleep, but if you f*ck with me, if you chain yourself to the bed at night, or take big doses of sleeping pills, then we'll be enemies. And I'll get you for it."

Oh this is bullsh*t. This is a dream. Tyler is a projection. He's a disassociative personality disorder. A psychotic fugue state. Tyler Durden is my hallucination.

"f*ck that sh*t," Tyler says. "Maybe you're my schizophrenic hallucination.

I was here first.

Tyler says, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, well let's just see who's here last."

This is a new version of the light bulb bomb, where you drill a hole in a light bulb and fill the bulb with gasoline. Plug the hole with wax or silicone, then screw the bulb into a socket and let someone walk into a room and throw the switch.

A sort of fun explosive is potassium permanganate mixed with powdered sugar. The idea is to mix one ingredient that will burn very fast with a second ingredient that will supply enough oxygen for that burning. This burns so fast, it's an explosion.

The first fight I get, the guy gets me in a full nelson and rams my face, rams my cheek, rams the hole in my cheek into the concrete floor until my teeth inside snapped off and plant their jagged roots into my tongue.

My second fight, the guy puts a knee between my shoulder blades. The guy pulls both my arms together behind my back, and slams my chest against the concrete floor. My collarbone on one side, I hear it snap...

Number three pounds until his fist is raw. One more punch and my teeth click shut on my tongue. Half my tongue drops to the floor and gets kicked away.

I've met God across his long walnut desk with his diplomas hanging on the wall behind him, and God asks me, "Why?"

Why did I cause so much pain?

Didn't I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness?

Can't I see that we're all manifestations of love?

I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, but God's got this all wrong.

We are not special.

We are not crap or trash either. We just are.

We just are, and what happens just happens.

And God says, "No, that's not right."

Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can't teach God anything.

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Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk (2024)
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