Warn­ing for US

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS -

at this stage to point out that where Ren­ton and Sick Boy from Trainspot­ting were ded­i­cated to de­stroy­ing them­selves through drugs, the pro­foundly dis­turbed Dur­den had more grandiose plans afoot.

Form­ing what used to be known as a straight­edge gang, Dur­den’s fol­low­ers in the tit­u­lar fight club were a mod­ern-day band of as­cetic war­rior monks, ded­i­cated to de­stroy­ing so­ci­ety in­stead — a greater am­bi­tion than the more per­son­alised ni­hilism of what was then known as the slacker move­ment.

In many ways, Fight Club was the last re­ally im­por­tant book of the 20th cen­tury — a mas­ter­ful re­jec­tion of the point­less drone-life of the mod­ern con­sumer and an an­gry call to arms for dis­af­fected young men, pre­dom­i­nantly but not ex­clu­sively white, who just wanted to tear ev­ery­thing down and start again from scratch.

If the book was strange and unset­tling, the au­thor’s life has, in many ways, been even stranger.

His fa­ther was mur­dered by the venge­ful ex of a woman he had met on­line in a crime so sor­did it could have been plucked from the pages of one of his son’s books, and the cult of Palah­niuk seemed un­stop­pable. Dur­ing his pub­lic readings of the short story ‘Guts’ when he was pro­mot­ing the bril­liant Haunted, peo­ple fainted or vom­ited. At that point, it seemed he had be­come his own cre­ation, lead­ing his fol­low­ers like a caus­tic, hip­sterised Pied Piper of Portland. Sub­se­quent books came and went with vary­ing de­grees of crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess and it be­came clear, par­tic­u­larly with 2009’s Go­daw­ful Pygmy, that here was a man in des­per­ate need of a strong ed­i­tor.

As we dis­cov­ered a few months ago, and just prior to the re­lease of his best book in years, Ad­just­ment Day, he also needed a proper fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor.

Palah­niuk was fi­nan­cially wiped out by his pub­lisher’s ac­coun­tant, who is now in cus­tody await­ing trial for steal­ing mil­lions of dol­lars from the au­thor’s ac­count.

Some of his crit­ics have seized upon this news as ev­i­dence that he must have just cranked out Ad­just­ment Day to pay some le­gal bills, but there is a lot more to it — and is often the case with this con­sis­tently per­plex­ing writer, a lot less — than meets the eye.

Mash­ing up the cur­rent febrile mood in Amer­ica and the de­struc­tive im­pulses of Fight Club, Ad­just­ment Day is what would hap­pen if Tyler Dur­den’s kids de­cided that enough was enough.

In a series of open­ing vi­gnettes, we see the prepa­ra­tions for the com­ing rev­o­lu­tion — a list of ‘Amer­ica’s Least Wanted’ (aca­demics, politi­cians, and, of course, jour­nal­ists) is pre­pared, and to join this new or­der, you have to kill at least one per­son on the list and present their left ear as bounty.

Mean­while, Amer­ica has rein­tro­duced the draft and, along­side a dozen other coun­tries, is about to send all its su­per­flu­ous young men to the Mid­dle East, where com­bat­ants on all sides will be erad­i­cated in a pre-planned nu­clear strike as a form of geno­ci­dal pest con­trol.

Hav­ing tried to se­date its young men with on­line gam­ing and pornog­ra­phy, states one char­ac­ter, they were now wak­ing up to their own mor­tal­ity and this so called ‘youth bulge’ had to be de­stroyed be­fore mil­lions of dis­af­fected young men turn the United States into an­other Rwanda.

The coun­try splits asun­der into new states — Cau­ca­sia for the whites, Black­topia for the blacks and Gaysia for the gays and this is where some of the more in­trigu­ing ideas be­gin to fall apart.

Ad­just­ment Day has re­ceived a kick­ing from some quar­ters, and no doubt the au­thor will get a sense of grim sat­is­fac­tion that he can still pro­voke a strong re­ac­tion. But he skew­ers every tribe in the iden­tity pol­i­tics rain­bow; al­though the brush strokes are so broad that no­body ever evolves past the point of car­i­ca­ture.

But as ever with Palah­niuk, you come for the ideas and his warn­ing that ‘Amer­ica’s ver­sion of the Arab Spring was just around the cor­ner’ doesn’t sound quite as far-fetched as we may wish.

Wel­come back, Chuck.

is what would hap­pen if Tyler Dur­den’s kids de­cided that enough was enough

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