He's a mild-mannered corporate drone whose complacently consumerist lifestyle is turned inside out when he encounters one Tyler Durden. The punkishly anarchic Durden Pitt is everything Jack would like to be but isn't, his own walking, talking id. Like Terry Southern's Magic Christian, Durden expresses his repugnance of society's materialistic values in a series of actes gratuits of mischievous subversion. Moonlighting as a cinema projectionist, he splices single, subliminally registered frames from pornographic films into bland mainstream fare; moonlighting as a waiter in a swanky restaurant, he pees into the oxtail soup.
Rereading the novel in is chilling.
No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Plenty want to use Fight Club as an inspiration and guide. Perhaps the best reaction is: more fool them. If you see Fight Club as a guide to life and justification for your opinions, your reading of the book is partial at best. He is never shown to be right; rather, he is portrayed as a maniac living in a fever dream.
The things he does are clearly more than transgressive: they are abhorrent. His actions leave the narrator and moral centre of the book feeling awful, desperate, trapped. Fight Club book and film are satires.
The whole thing is absurd. I liked and admired some of them.
The work was sometimes dark and violent, but I also found it very funny. The narrative premise of men fighting out their insecurities was the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of the therapy mindset.
It all struck me as a gleeful, naughty fantasy. The material about atomisation, alienation and the corrosive impact of consumer capitalism even felt old hat.
But other people did.
You could even argue that Palahniuk encouraged the idea that his book should have concrete impact. But I also suspect my current reaction is more emotional than rational. More prophetic and, yes, more revolutionary.
A good story may, as Palahniuk says, change the world. But the world can also change a good story.