Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

While in the middle of reading 5+ other books (the + is equal to the poetry, short stories, and plays I am reading for classes), my roommate told me to read Fight Club. I put down Clash of Kings and started it immediately, as I haven’t read Palahniuk in ages.  It is only 218 pages, so I finished it in just a couple days.

Fight Club is unsurprisingly about a club that fights. However, underneath that, there is so much more. Palahniuk, in the afterword, admits that the novel began as a short story (chapter six) based around rules. It didn’t need to be a FIGHT club, just any club where men could gather socially and be open because of the ruling structure.

Fight Club

The rules:

1: You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB.
2: You DO NOT talk about FIGHT CLUB.
3: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out the fight is over.
4: Only two guys to a fight.
5: One fight at a time.
6: No shirts, no shoes.
7: Fights will go on as long as they have to.
8: If this is your first night at FIGHT CLUB, you HAVE to fight.

I’m sure most everyone knows the plot and twists of Fight Club, but for those that don’t, it is mainly about two men, the narrator and Tyler Durden. The narrator has insomnia and goes to support group meetings for people who have terminal diseases to help him sleep. This gets interrupted by Marla Singer, who shows up to every meeting, including the testicular cancer group. The narrator ends up moving in with Tyler, who is sort of dating Marla, so he has to see her much more often than desired considering the fact that he detests her.

I did really enjoy this novel, and having seen the film before reading it, I can say that it did justice to the book. Besides a few extra stories, and a few changed details, the movie really did a great job. While reading, I swear I could hear Edward Norton narrating the novel, so I think he really brought the character to life in the film.

Though Tyler had some really good insights, at times they felt a little random and out of place. I feel this added to the narrative style Palahniuk seems to aim for, but it was a little jarring going back to reading his style from other novels. Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of any of the characters in the story. I enjoyed reading about them, but they were all a little too self-destructive for me. The narrator was probably the best out of the main three, just because I was able to relate to his struggles and how he got so apathetic about work and being owned by material things. The plot was definitely not strictly sequential; the confusion of going back and forth in time helped give a sense of the narrator’s insomnia confusion. Overall, this book was a great quick read, and the film was an amazing adaptation. I would recommend both to anyone who likes Palahniuk’s work or who likes self-destructive characters.

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28 Days Later: The Aftermath by Steve Niles

This short, 112-page-long graphic novel is a movie companion of sorts to 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. It takes place behind the scenes of the creation and outbreak of the rage virus that permeates the story of the movies. Again, this was found in my perusal of the graphic novel section of the library.

The novel is set up in four distinct sections which focus on the Stages of the Rage virus: Development, Outbreak, Decimation, and Quarantine. Each section of the novel focuses on little vignettes of people who encounter the virus. If you have seen at least the first film (28 Days Later), you will be able to pick up on what is happening. If you haven’t seen the movies, it may honestly be a little confusing.

This was a really short graphic novel — though it says it is 112 pages, one whole section of that is the sort of action description of each panel and page of Stage 3: Decimation. This was a neat addition, but I only really skimmed it. The novel is really about 90 pages of continuous story.

"You're right... We should start testing on chimps."

There were two things I really enjoyed about reading The Aftermath. The first was the detailed description of how the  Rage virus was created (human error, of course) and the surrounding characters of the section. The second was the art style. It was dark and bloody, as seen in the picture of one of the creators of the virus. This fit the story, and was just really well done.

If there was one thing I didn’t really like about the novel, it would be that it seemed short, almost to the point of being brief. Although it does make a nice companion to the films, I wouldn’t say it was required reading for a fan by any means. There isn’t really a lot of character development, and the one character who carries through most of the Stages doesn’t matter in the end.ed to show the art, as there wasn’t much dialogue — some pages were almost completely made up of pictures.

This book was a short read — it only took me about an hour and a half to get through. It was enjoyable to learn a little bit more of the Rage virus and the events surrounding each stage of its progression. However, because it was so short and added only a little to the established story of the movies, I would only tentatively recommend reading it if you’re not a big fan.

 

 

 

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

I was walking through the library to kill time, and started to look in the graphic novel section. I saw the Ghost World movie a year or two ago, and decided the novel might be interesting. It is only 80 pages, so it made for a quick read.

Ghost World

Ghost World focuses on two girls who are past high school and pre-college who do pretty much whatever they please. I would say the ‘main’ character is Enid, who hates all men and pretty much everything else, too. The second character is Rebecca, the blonde on the cover, who sort of keeps Enid’s cynicism in check. They also have a few interesting side characters, like the clerk, John Ellis, their innocent friend Josh, and the creepy astrologer, Bob Skeetes, who comes to Enid’s garage sale for two hours and only buys a ten cent egg beater.

I get a strong cynical vibe from the story… possibly because Enid and Rebecca hate most everything they experience. One of the things they really find fascinating is a couple they see in a diner (Angel’s), whom they refer to as the Satanists. The only real friend the two have is Josh, an almost pure, innocent guy. They argue often over who should have sex with him, because they figure he is a virgin. The exploration of their friendship together and with Josh felt realistic and made the story richer.

I have been doing a project for one of my classes that involves looking at female friendships, and so this book was interesting. The novel looks really closely at what I think is a pretty typical friendship between girls. They like each other, but still worry that everyone likes the other one better. They keep secrets, gossip, contemplate the future, and do everything together.

I enjoyed the novel, partially due to the relatability of Enid and Rebecca — my good friend and I were similar to them in high school. There was a lot of tension in Ghost World, and I think this makes it rise above being a simple graphic novel. However, the characters make the plot hard to enjoy if you can’t appreciate being cynical.

I had to share one quote from the book that I really enjoyed:

“I wish I could just come up with one perfect look and stick with it… Like what if I bought some entire matching 1930’s wardrobe and wore that everyday… The trouble with that is you look really stupid and pretentious if you go a mall or a Taco Bell or something… And you have to act a certain way and drive an old car and everything and it’s a real pain in the ass!” – Enid

Ghost World Poster

Tagline: "Accentuate the negative"

From what I remember of the movie, the story was a lot more awkward because of the focus on the relationship between Enid and Bob Skeetes. Steve Buscemi plays a great Bob, but by playing the character well, the relationship is weird because of both the age difference and the social ineptitude of the characters. I’m a little glad the novel didn’t focus on this relationship… Bob Skeetes, although talked about a lot in the novel, was only shown a few times. This was not the case in the movie, as they created the character Seymour (I assume he takes the place of Bob) who has a major role in Enid’s life.

I will probably watch the film again to see if it kept the real spirit of the book. I think the most important thing was the female friendship, and I know the movie expanded on that at least a little.  Thora Birch (Enid) and Scarlett Johansson (Rebecca) play the parts pretty well, though the two characters’ personalities seemed more likable in the movie compared to the book. Personally, I liked the detachment in the novel compared to the sarcasm in the film. I will admit it made for a funnier story, though.

Overall, both the graphic novel and the film were a pretty interesting slice of life story that I think many people could relate to. I don’t think it hurts to be a little cynical, and this story takes advantage of (and maybe goes a bit past) that idea.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, or How Violence Develops and Where it Can Lead by Heinrich Böll

I read this novella (103 pages) for my film and literature class, and we watched the film in class. It’s about an almost prudish girl who spends the night with a supposed terrorist and gets a ton of negative media coverage for it, which is corrosive to her life.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, or How Violence Develops and Where it Can Lead

This book was surprisingly interesting. It had really short chapters — some less than a page, most containing police-report like narrative about events going on around Katharina Blum.

There weren’t too many memorable characters in this novella, as the only two people I really remember now are Katharina and Ludwig — the guy she spends the night with. In the beginning of the story, Katharina confesses to murdering a member of the press, and the rest of the book is sort of based around trying to find out why she did that (or how violence develops and where it can lead).

The story moves quickly, and is definitely relevant to our times… The lack of secrecy and the invasive qualities of the press are something that aren’t likely to go away any time soon.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum Poster

The movie was made in the 70’s and was subbed in English (from German). It was a fair representation of the book, even though they left out the announcement of her murder in the beginning. In my opinion, that changed the tone of the story, and not for the better. As usual, I go with, “The book is better than the movie.”

Either way, I would recommend this novella to everyone — it is short and easy to read, and the narrative style is fun.

The Human Stain — Film

In my film and lit. class, we watched adaptation of the novel The Human Stain (Philip Roth). If you’d like a recap of the story, you can look at my review from last week. It stars Anthony Hopkins as the ‘current’ Coleman Silk, Wentworth Miller as ‘young’ Coleman, Nicole Kidman as Faunia Farley, Gary Sinise as Nathan Zuckerman, and Ed Harris as Les Farley. If you’d really like to know the rest of the characters, check out the IMDb page.

The Human Stain Poster

Although the movie was much shorter than expected, as Roth is a long-winded writer, it still wasn’t easy to watch. And even though I thought I did not need all the narratives in the book, seeing the movie without the majority of them felt rather empty. It made me appreciate the book a lot more. I don’t know that I would have understood all the important nuances of the film without having read the book (so if someone does that, I’d love to discuss it with them!).

I feel the film cut out a lot of the secrecy, which was my favorite part about the book… Faunia never said that she was illiterate, and she never got to explain why she was fascinated with crows. I don’t think Nicole Kidman did her character justice — which, I admit, is partially just the lines given to her, but she still could have been more Faunia-esque.

I enjoyed Lester Farley’s narrative in the book, but I’m glad they downplayed it in the movie. And then added in scenes where he talked with a counselor… Weird, but those were probably some of my favorite scenes in the movie.

There were parts to the film that played out well.  However, I have to stick with the idea that the book is always better, even in the case of a book I did not love. I was really surprised that the story attracted so many recognizable actors, it doesn’t seem like a huge hit at the theater. Anyway… I’m much more looking forward to reading the next book for class, The Constant Gardener.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

In my film and literature class, we are reading five works of literature: one storybook, one play, and three novels. We are then watching the film adaptations of said works and eventually are going to write our own short screenplays. I will be reviewing the books and films together. The first book we were assigned was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

In class, we watched a 30-minute interview with the author, and I learned quite a few interesting things about his background and the origin for a few of his stories. I won’t go into what I assume you may think are boring details, but I will say that the interviewer helped make it clear that Sendak has an obsession with death. I found this very interesting… Although it does not pertain too much to this story, it was clear in some of his other works.

Where the Wild Things Are

I haven’t read this book since I was young, and now that I did so in an academic setting, I looked at it through different eyes. We looked at the book through many lenses looking for themes. We looked at gender, social, personal, and the most interesting (or least boring?) political themes. The idea that Max’s mom had the power, Max rebelled, went to his own land, gained power, and relinquished it to go back to his mother.

In the movie, that was amplified. I felt it was more about the loss of power than the gaining of it, though. This was actually my second time watching the film, and I liked it more than I did the first time. It wasn’t too memorable when  I didn’t compare it to the book. On the second watching, it was much darker, sadder, and more interesting.

Still, it’s not a movie I plan to watch many more times. Although it is worth at least one or two watches, there’s just something missing that makes it hard to watch more than that. Perhaps it is the absence of almost any kind of resolution… Or perhaps Max really is too much of a wild child to enjoy watching him mess up everywhere he goes.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

I have seen this movie more times than I can count, all before I read the book. In the beginning, I was tempted to put the book down because it wasn’t what I expected, or, rather, what I wanted. It only got better from there.

The book has three running narratives. My favorite: letters written by Alex, a Ukrainian native who speaks fun, broken English. They are written to Jonathan Safran Foer, a young Jewish man looking for Augustine, the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. This is used as part of the voice-over narrative in the movie. The second narrative is what the majority of the movie covers: Jonathon, Alex, and his grandfather explore Ukraine looking for a small town, Trachimbrod, also called Sofiowka. The third narrative is, at best, lightly touched only in the end of the movie.

Everything is Illuminated

Foer's covers are really neat. I love that there is very little white space (and that there are only words).

 If I am taking this correctly, the third part of the narrative is actually a book that Jonathan, the character, is writing, as he is an aspiring writer. It is the story/history of Trachimbrod. It tells of his line of relatives. As the story goes on, it gets much more interesting and understandable. I came to really enjoy this part of the book, although I wasn’t ecstatic about it in the beginning.

Everything Is Illuminated Poster

The characters are fun and interesting, and I really loved Alex’s grandfather and his seeing-eye-bitch that he needs due to being blind (he is also their driver, which is a fun detail). I loved how Alex’s character changed in the novel, and looking back, I wish the movie talked more about that. You don’t really learn the depth of Alex’s grandfather, in the movie — it is hinted to, but the story in the book goes so much deeper. The film’s characters felt static compared to the same characters in the novel.

Overall, this story is heart-warming and -wrenching. I would highly recommend at least trying it. If you are wary, or have a tough time with the poor English (I know it tripped me up the first time I tried to read it), then watch the film. It is truly excellent, although, as always, the book was better.