jmtd → log → “The Dice Man” and “Generation X”
The movie '“Fight Club' had a profound effect on me when I first saw it in 1999. I wasn't as fond of the originating novel, although there was something about the prose that Palahniuk used which I did enjoy.
Since then I've read more of Palahniuk's work. My favourite of his books is actually “Non-Fiction” (a.k.a. “Stranger than Fiction”): a collection of essays and interviews. Reading some of the stories in that collection, it becomes very clear where some of the concepts in his fiction originate. There are also a number of pieces on the craft of writing. He writes some really gushing praise about Amy Hempel:
When you study Minimalism in the novelist Tom Spanbauer's workshop, the first story you read is Amy Hempel's The Harvest. After that, you're ruined… every other book you ever read will suck.
I recently read a couple of novels, both of which reminded me a lot of Fight Club. 'Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture' by Douglas Coupland is an interesting tale of three or more societal drop-outs. Fight Club was written five years after Generation X and owes it a lot.
'Generation X' has curt, clipped passages and many dictionary-definition-esque side notes decoding hipster-slang, which add a lot of colour to the non-events of the story. These remind me both of the copous asides in Pratchett novels, or the chapter introductions in Philip K Dick's excellent 'Ubik'.
Historical Overdosing: To live in a period of time when too much seems to happen. Major symptoms include addiction to newspapers, magazines, and TV news broadcasts.
The novel goes absolutely nowhere, but that's actually one of the appealing things about it. When I mentioned this to my partner (who, as far as I know, has not read the book), she said that it sounded like the perfect tonic to a stressful life: imagine lying on a sunbed, doing nothing, reading about people lying on sunbeds, doing nothing.
This is the first of Coupland's novels that I have read, but I managed to pick up a copy of 'Generation A' (so far as a I can tell, not a sequel, as such) 70% off as part of the closing-down sale at my local Borders store, so I will probably read that too.
I also recently finished “The Dice Man”, by Luke Reinhart. It's a tongue-in-cheek pseudo-autobiography written under a pen-name about a psychiatrist who opts to delegate all life decisions to the throw of dice.
Once again, Fight Club owes a lot to this book. The unhinged situations that occur are used to shine a satirical light on modern society. 'modern society' in the book is the 1970s. The distance between society then and now adds something to the novel's value now. Having said that, the narrator is not a particularly likeable character and it's hard to relate to him. Coincidentally my dad recently read this book and described it as 'misogynistic', which might be an understatement. Mind you, most of the characters, female or otherwise, are fairly 2D: perhaps intentionally the only fleshed out human is the narrator.
In my favourite scene of the book, the narrator is in a situation under the influence of more than one drug. A TV set is on in the background. As the scene progresses, the events taking place on the TV are written about with increasing prominence compared to the main events of the scene. This escalates to a point where they are of equal importance and you can no longer easily distinguish the events taking place in the real world from those taking place on the television.
This is the only part of the book that I can recall that employed any narrative tricks. The rest is by-the-numbers, and mostly internal monologue. The book is also at least 50% too long: the concept just doesn't stretch as far as it's forced to.