Chuck Palahniuk’s Views on Gender in Fiction Haven’t Evolved Since 2005


To promote the upcoming release of his new novel Beautiful You and the Fight Club 2 sequel, Chuck Palahniuk has been periodically answering fan questions on his Tumblr. As expected, most of the questions revolve around Fight Club. Also as expected, most of the answers range from insipid to laughably stupid — including one response in particular that seemed like a case of mass trolling. In a post that has since been deleted (but will live on in screenshots and reblogs forever), Chuck Palahniuk mourns the dearth of novels that focus on male issues:

There is so much strangeness in this exchange — his odd, outdated picks of novels about women, this idea that there aren’t books exploring male issues, and even just the revelation that Fight Club is being taught in schools (though it’s hilariously telling that so many copies are returned) — that it doesn’t deserve any real response aside from some laughs and eye-rolls. But the post took off on both Tumblr and Twitter, as these things do.

Of course, it was swiftly defended by Chuck Palahniuk fans (in Tumblr reblogs, in my Twitter mentions, and, oddly enough, a comment thread in A.V. Club’s Leftovers review), the sort who begin every reply with, “Um, actually…” or “Well, if you really read the book…” (For the record: Yes, I have read the book — multiple times — because I was once a teenager). Over the weekend, the same people who, in 1999, proudly proclaimed, “Fight Club isn’t really about fighting,” with the smugness of a freshman English major were quick to point out that Palahniuk has touched upon this before, most notably in the afterword to the 2005 edition of Fight Club:

At the same time, the bookstores were full of books like The Joy Luck Club and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and How to Make an American Quilt. These were all novels that presented a social model for women to be together. To sit together and tell their stories. To share their lives. But there was no novel that presented a new social model for men to share their lives.

Why pointing this out as a defense makes no sense to me — Palahniuk said something silly years ago and now he is echoing the same silly statement in a different medium (and in the near-decade since that afterword, it seems he hasn’t read any new books about women and somehow has managed to ignore every single book about “male issues” except for his own). It’s an outdated view of novels and gender — it was even outdated when Palahniuk wrote that afterword — but he doesn’t seem to realize that. Another exchange, which has also since been deleted, gotd this baffling and derailing response:

The real takeaway from all of this is that Chuck Palahniuk hasn’t said anything new in years. He has written over a dozen books (I have inexplicably read about ten of these) but is stuck in 1999, repeating the same absurdities over and over. It’s frustrating because he has such a huge, loyal following that clings to his every word — just take a look at the cult of Fight Club! — and provides him the opportunity to share some genuine knowledge with his fans. Instead, he chooses to spew outdated nonsense.