Top critical review
Not Enough Fighting In It
on 11 September 2017
The unnamed narrator has an unexciting office job, seemingly no friends or family, and suffers from insomnia. He spends his free time decorating his flat. In search of some emotional richness to his life, he begins going to support groups - ‘Monday was testicular cancer...’ - even though he’s not ill himself, for the confessional intimacy, the hugging and the heightened sense of mortality. But his pleasure is spoilt on detecting someone, Marla, who’s also coming to the groups as a ‘fake’. Meanwhile his flat burns down, depriving him of his only other interest, and he meets Tyler, whose house he moves into, and who, shortly after meeting, asks him to fight him. This now provides his new form of release, and the two of them start ‘fight club’ – whose first two rules are that you mustn’t talk about it – but everyone does, of course, because it grows and grows. The impersonal, physical, one-on-one and half-undressed nature of the fights (no shirts, no shoes) is like a homoerotic thing, except that it’s very violent. And the violence starts getting worse.
I found this started well but later got a bit adolescent. (To be fair, I’d’ve probably enjoyed it more when I was younger.) I also thought there’d be more about actual fighting and how it feels: we get a lot of description of types of wounds but very little about the actual combat, how it feels to be about to hurt someone, impersonally, and then to hurt someone, and be hurt, in the moment. The club members mostly seem to revel in the ‘afterwards’ – the display of their wounds and mutual ‘tuffering’ that creates camaraderie. Then there’s the weird bit where the narrator reveal he’s Tyler – am I the only one to find that plot-twist a bit daft? How then are we supposed to reinterpret their meeting, Tyler’s invitation to hit him, and so on? I reckon there’s a lot of interesting stuff to be said about men and fighting, but I didn’t really find it in here.