Thanks in part to David Fincher’s cult favorite film adaptation, Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club has become ingrained in pop culture. To celebrate the book’s 20th anniversary this month, Palahniuk sat down with Scribd to talk about the genesis of the book. As Palahniuk tells it, the various concepts in the book started out as different stories: one about a guy who goes to support groups and lies about fatal conditions, one about a guy who goes to fighting groups, and one about a guy who pees in hotel food. Then he decided to combine their elements into a new-age riff on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
“Fight Club was originally written as a kind of reinvention of The Great Gatsby,” Palahniuk said. “Because in the American novel, you typically have three characters. One of the characters demonstrates passivity by commiting suicide, one character demonstrates the perils of being too rebellious and must be killed, and then one is the witnessing character. … I wanted to condense that perfect American model and make it three characters, but make it as tight as possible. The three characters would be two characters, one of which has a split personality.”
The Gatsby parallel is also what inspired Palahniuk to pick up with Tyler Durden and company years later, in the recent comic book sequel Fight Club 2.
“I wondered, what would The Great Gatsby be like 10 years later?” Palahniuk said. “Because at the end of Gatsby, Nick Carraway was turning 30 years old, and he had to go back to the Midwest. That wasn’t the end of his life. In Fight Club 2, I wanted to revisit the same characters 10 years later to see them making the same mistakes, assuming the same kind of social roles, and becoming the same failures they condemned their parents for being.”
Watch the exclusive clip below.