Chuck Palahniuk Gets Meta and Looks at the Legacy of Tyler Durden in Fight Club 2

Fight Club 2, Chuck Palahniuk, Cameron Stewart, Tyler Durden
Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club 2 begins ten years after Fight Club the novel ends. The artwork by Cameron Stewart is amazing: at times I feel I’m experiencing a movie. The set up scenery is dizzying. The narrator Sebastian works a 9-5 job, is married to Marla Singer, and together they have a son. Sebastian sees a therapist weekly and is heavily medicated to keep Tyler Durden at bay. He suspects his wife is cheating on him and discovers that she is: Marla has been messing with his meds, resurrecting Tyler Durden.

 

Later, Marla visits a bunch of clubs—one of them being the Write Club… And Chuck Palahniuk is holding court with his writer friends. When Marla enters their club, they take Palahniuk to task, barking “this borders on being too meta.” (FC2, issue 4). But it isn’t too meta; Palahniuk is poking fun at his public persona. In real life, he intentionally commercializes himself (by throwing out autographed severed arms to his audience at readings). And he is an incredibly generous, friendly author, so much so that all his fans (myself included) feel like we know him. And so he enters his public self into literature: letting us feel we know him even more. We see the famous writing club he refers to, we witness him talking about his characters with his writer friends. And then we return to Fight Club 2.

Sebastian’s therapist tells him that Tyler is, “an archetype. Tyler works like a superstition or a prejudice. He becomes part of the lens through which you see the world.” (FC2, issue 6)

Palahniuk has had time to reflect on the legacy of Tyler Durden. It’s been twenty years since the book was published. Why do people identify with Tyler so much? People obsess over him. Tyler is a sociopath, a criminal, a terrorist. He demands a revolution. He’s so very alluring and yet, he’s insane. Or rather, the product of someone else’s insanity. Why do we love him so? He encourages self-loathing; he perpetuates self-harm and self-degradation. He demands that we lose ourselves and become no one. Why? Because our things own us. Because we are lost in a world of commodity. Tyler tells us to get rid of our shit, start a revolution, begin again from ground zero. And his rhetoric is addicting. Why? Because secretly, we feel guilty over our possessions. We know we don’t need to buy into it all. And yet we do. Why? Because it makes us happy. And that happiness is brought about by purchases. And those purchases are only made after we work. And when we work, we do what we are told for money. Losing a part of ourselves.

Tyler Durden isn’t new. He is this generation’s Arthur Rimbaud. He is Neal Cassidy 2.0. He’s a regeneration of all past revolutionaries. Palahniuk is recreating the archetype.

And yes, I’ve fallen for Tyler as well. And yet, it’s ridiculous, really. Because I bought all these comic books. I’ve purchased every book Palahniuk has written. Why? Because I need to own them. I need to lovingly look at these disturbing stories on my bookshelf. They need to exist in close proximity to me. And so Tyler allows us to hate ourselves and wish we could be better people. Until you realize what a sociopath he is and that you really don’t want to attend fight clubs every week, you don’t want to burn lips onto your hand, you don’t want to set fire to your house and all your belongings. Because really, you just want to read about this insanity from the comfort of your cozy home, sipping coffee from a mug that you own, made in a coffee pot you purchased.
Even though the comic form inherently restricts Palahniuk’s language, Stewart’s artwork is so spot-on that you feel Palahniuk has written an entire novel. The story never suffers due to lack of word count. The two artists work seamlessly to pull off a sequel to a cult favorite. And the humor is astounding. Palahniuk makes fun of himself in the comic: he acknowledges what he wants and admits that it is not what his fans want.

I’ve been careful not to talk about the story. Now go read Fight Club 2 and see what happens. But don’t talk about it. Remember, first rule of fight club.

 

 

 

 

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