A Greater Gift than Fight Club?
Chuck Palahniuk’s Adjustment Day
Adjustment Day: A Novel
New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2018
The characters and plot of Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel Adjustment Day are thoroughly grounded in the politics of the New Right.
Here you will find withering parodies of feminism, “diversity,” and political correctness, savage criticisms of liberal journalism, nods to Asatru and Jack Donovan and “men going their own way,” uproarious sendups of Afrocentrism and fussy gay totalitarianism, and even an argument for the white ethnostate. As we will see, however, Palahniuk’s own perspective on all this is hard to pin down.
Research for Adjustment Day seems to have involved Palahniuk logging countless hours reading hate online. And one does not just have to infer this from the text. In an interview with Joe Rogan, Palahniuk sheepishly admits that he regularly reads The Daily Stormer. (And since Palahniuk is obviously a smart guy, he must read this Website as well.) He admits elsewhere to reading Jim Goad and Jack Donovan. All of these admissions are made, of course, with the usual caveats: “shocking,” “horrifying,” “transgressive,” and so on. Adjustment Day features a character named “Gavyn Baker McInnes,” and there are references to Lester Maddox, Lothrop Stoddard, Paula Deen, and Richard Spencer. This is pretty damned significant for a bestselling author – but, again, it doesn’t mean that Palahniuk has embraced the Right.
Regardless of his perspective, the Left today recognizes that even discussing the ideas of the New Right at all is dangerous. This is because our ideas are so reasonable and so attractive. Thus, the reviews of Adjustment Day – so far – have been curiously free of politically correct shaming and finger-wagging. It is as if journalists don’t want to alert readers to the political content of the novel, aware that many of them will make a beeline for anything that gets denounced as un-PC. They are dimly aware that the tide is turning – that they are sitting on a powder keg. And so they’d rather not spark a debate about Adjustment Day; they’d rather it simply sank without a trace. “Acres of boredom and dull prose,” says The Guardian. “Stumbles in its delivery . . . a thin story,” says Publishers Weekly.
The truth is that Adjustment Day is Chuck Palahniuk’s finest novel since Fight Club. The prose, far from being “dull,” sparkles with wit and vividness. Like his other work, Adjustment Day is by turns brilliantly imaginative and self-indulgently quirky and “transgressive.” The novel features a multitude of characters and subplots. Palahniuk repeatedly shifts between these, telling their stories in segments, in short vignettes that sometimes occupy less than a page. The novel also shifts back and forth through time. Some of these vignettes are brilliant and often extremely funny, but the scattered narrative structure is sometimes confusing. When Adjustment Day is good, however, it’s really good. This is, by my count, Palahniuk’s twentieth novel, and it shows: here is a writer at his peak. Purely as a piece of literature, it is a better novel than Fight Club.
It is also, in a real sense, the “sequel” to Fight Club that fans of that book have been awaiting for more than two decades. To be sure, Palahniuk did produce an official sequel, a graphic novel titled Fight Club 2. But Adjustment Day is, in significant ways, the real follow-up – and Palahniuk has acknowledged this. In an interview he states:
This book, Adjustment Day, is to Fight Club what Atlas Shrugged is to The Fountainhead. The earlier book demonstrates the growth and empowerment of an individual. The latter book depicts what happens when a passel of those like-minded individuals join forces.
Now, to expand upon the parallel a bit, Rand’s The Fountainhead presents an ethics, a portrait of an ideal man and the various imperfect and sometimes downright defective people who react to him. Atlas Shrugged represents the political expression of the ethos of The Fountainhead. Thus, it would seem that Adjustment Day is the ethos of Tyler Durden writ large: Project Mayhem blossomed into full-scale revolution. Indeed, in one highly amusing passage, the Tyler Durdenesque sage Talbott Reynolds explains to his young protégé that “Adjustment Day [an actual event depicted in the novel, as we shall see] was about men joining forces.”
Walter had looked up from his typing. “So this is like Fight Club?”
His new old man had shaken his head. He’d asked “Are you referring to the novel?”
“What novel?” had asked Walter.
This is a funny and self-effacing nod by Palahniuk to the fact that the film of Fight Club has eclipsed the book in the public imagination. The passage continues:
“Hardly.” He’d said, “Fight Club was about empowering each man through a series of exercises. . . . Fight Club taught each man that he had capacity beyond his greatest concept of himself. Then, it set each man free to fulfill his destiny: to build a house, to write a book, to paint a self-portrait.”
Walter could recall that much from the film. . . .
Adjustment Day, Talbott had explained, was to be a model for how men could form an army in order to attain permanent high status. . . . “What men want,” he’d said, “is a structure for communion.” (p. 157)
So, who is Talbot Reynolds? A man who dictates a book called Adjustment Day, which offers a blueprint for revolution. Palahniuk describes the book as blue-black, with the author’s name and the title embossed in gold lettering. (If one removes the dust jacket from Palahniuk’s book one will find exactly this, with “Talbott Reynolds” in place of “Chuck Palahniuk.”) Across the US, the book finds its way into the hands of countless disaffected young men – the same men Tyler Durden described as “the middle children of history,” and, significantly, as “the quiet young men who listen until it’s time to decide.” Talbott also has a Website created known simply as “The List.” On it ,you can post the name of any person you think humanity would be better off without. If no one else votes for that name, it disappears from the site in a few days. But if a name gets enough votes, that man or woman’s days are numbered. Of course, no one except Talbott’s minions is aware of this – everyone else thinks The List is a sick joke. But when Adjustment Day comes, no one is laughing. On Adjustment Day, Talbott’s men go into action, eliminating the undesirables.
The targets are primarily politicians, academics, and journalists. This gives Palahniuk an opportunity to engage in some vicious satire directed at those three groups. In one of the novel’s most memorable scenes, a corrupt Senator jogs past an enormous ditch dug in front of the Capitol, not realizing that it is intended as a mass grave for the ruling elite. Sure enough, a day later ,Talbott’s followers open fire on Congress, killing everyone except for the few needed to drag the bodies into the ditch and cover them with quicklime.
Journalists are mass-murdered as well. Journalists who had “convinced themselves that no absolute truths existed. This new untruth they propagated as the new truth. . . . Their goal now was to shape people’s minds and warp information to that purpose” (p. 89). Talbott demands that as proof of a kill, each victim’s left ear must be sliced off and retained. And so the ears of the dead journalists are taken: “Ears smeared with pink makeup and powdered with talc. Ears with tiny transmitters still plugged into them” (p. 104).
But it is Palahniuk’s parodies of academics that are the most delicious. There is the odious Dr. Brolly, with his pigtail and his “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirt – assassinated in his office while rereading Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Then there is Dr. Ramantha Steiger-DeSoto (why do feminists always have names like this?), who tells one student that it is his duty “as a pan-gendered individual” to volunteer for the coming war in the Middle East (something that is prevented by massacring the politicians on Adjustment Day; p. 84). In another scene, Dr. Steiger-DeSoto mourns a grad student who was killed “only days shy of completing his doctoral thesis on gender fluidity . . . just because he made some undergrads read bell hooks!” (p. 196). Palahniuk tells us that the Humanities majors “demanded vengeance.” “Generations had been taught the worst brands of social engineering; they’d been drilled and tested until these institutional lies had replaced any rational thinking of their own” (p. 46). And: “By far the most hate went to teachers and professors who’d been exposed for teaching students what to think in place of how to think” (p. 78).
The result of Adjustment Day is that the nation’s ruling elite is completely eradicated and replaced by a new aristocracy: the men of the revolution, the men who pulled the triggers. However, the United States as such ceases to exist, for part of Talbott’s plan is the creation of separate, autonomous ethnostates (!). Talbott declares:
Each group must inhabit a homeland where it constitutes the norm. Otherwise either self-destroying self-hatred or other-attacking self-aggrandizing occurs. Drinking, drugs, and toxic sexual behaviors arise when cultures are compelled to share public space. No culture should be held to the expectations and subjected to the withering gaze of another. (p. 87)
Now, admittedly I am quite biased, but this is such a reasonable statement I am strongly inclined to think that Palahniuk believes it. Especially given that he repeats it word for word on page 147. But there’s more from Talbott:
It’s living among heterosexuals that makes the homosexual feel abnormal. Only among whites do blacks feel inadequate. And only among homosexuals and blacks do whites feel threatened and guilty. No group should be blighted by the intellectual expectations and the moral yardstick of another. (p. 90)
Just as the genders are separated in most athletic competitions so should the cultures be removed each from the others so that one culture might not always dominate. (p. 147)
And one more (I simply can’t resist):
Cultures developed over millennia in relative isolation, in climates and conditions that prompted each to create its own imagery and rituals, all of these are being displaced by the global standard. To preserve the integrity of each, the cultures must be allotted living space away from the influence of other cultures. (p. 149)
This all sounds good. Where do I sign on? Where do I find this Talbott guy? But again, a question looms: is Palahniuk signed on? Perhaps we will find some clue in his portrayal of the different ethnostates established after Adjustment Day.
Three groups are not allowed a homeland in North America: Asians are shipped back to Asia, Latinos self-deport to south of the border, and Jews are whisked off to Israel in jets (no kidding). Just three ethnostates are established: Blacktopia (in the southeast), Gaysia (California), and Caucasia (the rest of the former US). (No, I’m still not kidding – and why “Gaysia” is an “ethnostate” is a topic to which I’ll return.) Interracial couples are forced to break up, emigrate to Canada, or hide in Gaysia, passing themselves off as gay. Reviewers have expressed dissatisfaction with the second half of the novel, which is largely devoted to the goings-on in the three states. But much of it is brilliant satire.
Palahniuk’s portrayal of Blacktopia is the most absurdly funny and over-the-top part of the novel. At one point, he describes Blacktopia as a kind of “Martin Luther Kingdom.” The main black character of the novel, Jamal (one of the trigger men of Adjustment Day), leaves for Blacktopia with the words ,“It’s been an interesting experiment, but it’s over” (meaning, white people and black people living together; p. 138). What he finds in Blacktopia is a futuristic paradise, a veritable Eden that practically springs up overnight due to brilliant, industrious blacks with (literally) magical powers.
You see, it was never the case that blacks were “lazy,” they had just been “on a labor strike since 1600” (p. 189). The shuffling, incoherent mumbling and baggy pants had all been an elaborate disguise designed to keep the white man from “discovering the immense wisdom and power blacks had long concealed. Whites had imbued the fictional character of the so-called magic negro with psychic talents and spiritual abilities that hinted at the immense gifts blacks actually held in check” (pp. 200-201). These include the ability to levitate objects. Using this power, Blacktopia launches its own space program, levitating gigantic pyramids to the moon. Thus proving that the Egypytians (who were black, after all, just as Afrocentrists promised us) had used the pyramids as spacecraft, a possibility never glimpsed by white dullards.
Using the power of “Muse-O-Metrix,” blacks harness their innate talent for vocal harmony to literally corporealize the gigantic buildings that dot the Blacktopian landscape. Finally freed from white expectations, blacks even invent an inexhaustible food source which they use, among other things, to feed and pacify the great beasts they transplant from Africa. “Fully satiated on immortal meat,” Palahniuk writes, “the lions did in fact lie down with the lambs. Black technology had created Heaven on Earth” (p. 253).
Now, if you read this strange and wonderful book, you will see, if it isn’t already obvious, that this is no case of advanced liberal delusion. Mr. Palahniuk’s tongue is wedged firmly in cheek. One dull-witted reviewer (for The Guardian) has described Blacktopia as bearing “an uncomfortably close resemblance” to “Wakanda” in the film Black Panther. Of course, this completely misses that part of what Palahniuk is doing is parodying Wakanda. It is entirely possible, in fact, that the reviewer doesn’t get the humor in Palahniuk’s description of Blacktopia at all.
What Palahniuk is really doing, of course, is parodying white liberal delusions about infinite black possibilities, as well as black Afrocentrist “we wuz kangz” fantasies. Blacktopia is so funny because it is ridiculous to imagine blacks doing any of these things. Needless to say, most of what Palahniuk describes would be impossible for any race to achieve, but to cast blacks as the achievers is so deliciously funny it’s almost cruel. But what could the critics say in response? If they revealed that they suspect Palahniuk is being absurd, it would signal that they may harbor a dangerously realistic assessment of black potentialities. “Oh, do you really think it’s absurd that blacks could do these things?”
It is Palahniuk’s account of Jamal’s time in Blacktopia that actually gives us one of the more touching subplots of the novel – one that is also extremely funny. The creation of the three ethnostates, of course, involves the relocation of millions of people. Those forced to relocate to their assigned ethnostate are compensated by being given property equivalent to what they are relinquishing. Whites living in Blacktopia must relocate to Caucasia. But Miss Josephine is one old Southern belle who will have none of it. She refuses to leave her old manse, which has been in the family for generations, so she hides in the attic. Her loyal, and long-suffering, black servants keep her secret and bring her food each day.
Then, Jamal shows up. He has been given Miss Josephine’s property. Jamal inquires about the door leading to the attic, only to be told that the key is lost and that nothing is up there, anyway. At night, however, he hears movement and a toilet flushing from far up in the house. Eventually, Miss Josephine tires of hiding, and so, with the help of her loyal maid Arabella, she gives herself a frizzy perm, puts on blackface, and shows up as an old black man named “Barnabas.” (One wonders if this is some kind of perverse nod to Dark Shadows.) She is, of course, an absurd spectacle, and struts about, reeking of cocoa butter, doing an exaggerated Stepin Fetchit routine, uttering lines like “Lawdy . . . dat Mizz Josafeen nevah permissioned may tah enter no pah-lor!” (p. 213). Jamal and “the Barnabas creature” (as Palahniuk consistently refers to him/her) form an unusual, affecting bond – even though he almost immediately perceives that Barnabas must be the missing Miss Josephine in disguise. When Josephine attempts suicide by setting the house on fire, it is Jamal who saves her. One hopes this is not offered by Palahniuk as some sort of critique of the idea of racial separation. Needless to say, the races can show compassion for each other, but that doesn’t mean they belong together.
Caucasia is another matter entirely. Palahniuk has a number of perceptive things to say about whites throughout the novel. For instance:
It’s only the white man who clings to his guilt. Guilt for Adam’s fall. Guilt for Christ’s sacrifice and for black African slavery. It was clear to Jamal that for whites their guilt constituted a uniquely white form of boasting. Their breast beating was a humblebrag always saying: We did this! We thwarted God in the Garden! We killed his son! We white people will do with other races and natural resources as we see fit! Showing off disguised as mea culpa. For the white man, his guilt was his biggest badge of accomplishment. Only whites killed the planet with global warming so only whites could save it. Their boasting never let up. (p. 140)
It is quite true, as a number of authors on the Right have observed, that underneath white guilt is a fundamental conviction of white omnipotence. And Palahniuk comes close to getting that underneath white guilt is also white supremacism: It’s entirely our fault that blacks are the way they are (since apparently only we have agency), but if we just atone for our racism and give them a helping hand (or two or three or four), they’ll overcome their lowly state and become just like us – visiting national forests, going to the opera, donating organs, watching TED talks, attending PTA meetings, and raising their own children. One of the great ironies of the current political wars is that it is really liberals who are white supremacists, implicitly holding other races to the standard of whiteness. Meanwhile, it is White Nationalists who actually respect diversity, not expecting one race to behave like another, and arguing for the one thing that would preserve racial and cultural diversity: separation. If Talbott Reynolds speaks for Chuck Palahniuk at all, it is pretty easy to see where his sympathies lie in this dispute.
Caucasia, as Palahniuk envisions it, is a kind of demented Renaissance Fair ruled by LARPing lords who have declared a moratorium on progress and learning, decreeing that it’s time for the white race to focus on procreation. To that end, they keep harems of formerly “liberated” women, forced to work in the fields and to wear those hats with candles on them that are Swedish or something (“it’s the law,” one woman explains to another; p. 186). Worship of the Norse gods has been revived (naturally), and restaurants serve dishes like the “Klan Burger” and the “Eva Braun mac ’n’ cheese.” There is, of course, supposed to be a method to all this madness. One of the characters muses:
To look at white men these days, something vital had been bred out of them. How had those men, the Vikings and the Norse, men who’d sailed their long boats up the Rhine, the Volga, the Dnieper, and Danube to burn and pillage and turn most of a continent blond and blue-eyed, how had they disappeared so completely? He suspected that for most white men, it was pride enough to not be black and queer. That was reason plenty for separate homelands. It would force men, all men, to earn a reason to feel superior. (p. 181)
The social structure of Caucasia is intended to re-create those blond, blue-eyed berserkers, but it is silly and anti-intellectual. Frankly, I’d rather live in Blacktopia and ride around on flying carpets.
Things are no more hospitable in Gaysia. In theory, it sounds good: “The homosexual will always be an engine of wealth production because he does not suffer the expense of raising his own children,” Talbott declares in his book. “Thus the industry of the adult homosexual may accumulate while the industry of heterosexuals is siphoned away for childrearing costs.” The homosexual may devote his time instead to “improving his skill set” (p. 130). It reads like something out of Jack Donovan’s Androphilia (with which Palahniuk is undoubtedly familiar). There is just one obvious problem with an entire society of homosexuals: it doesn’t reproduce, and is therefore destined to wither and die. To avoid this fate, Gaysia has an arrangement with Caucasia and Blacktopia: if children born there reach eighteen and decide they are gay, they may emigrate to Gayasia. There is just one catch: Gaysia must provide heterosexual children in exchange.
The result is that Gaysia, whose government is a police state (no surprise there – probably dressed in smart, Hugo Boss uniforms), launches a mandatory reproduction drive. Men are so busy all day donating sperm they don’t have any energy left for circuit parties. And lesbians, who mostly can’t bear the idea of having that “thing growing inside them” (as Ellen DeGeneres once put it), are forced to part their legs and receive a squirt from the old turkey baster. “Thank you for your service,” they are repeatedly told. In short, Gaysia becomes the very opposite of Gaytopia. Gaysia does have its share of straight breeders – many of them (as mentioned earlier) interracial couples passing as gay. But there are terrible penalties for those who are found out. One character begs another, a secret hetero, to avoid “flaunting” his heterosexuality for fear he will be “bashed” (p. 235). Heteros have to meet clandestinely for sex, often in the video booths of seedy sex shops. Gosh. Talk about your irony. Well, at least Gaysia has ambitious plans to colonize Mars.
Now, Caucasia and Gaysia are very obviously dystopias, while Blacktopia is a paradise – a ridiculous and impossible one. This strongly suggests that while Palahniuk might think that the idea of the ethnostate is reasonable, he may be very skeptical about how it would play out in practice. It is possible – though I hope this is wrong – that Palahniuk intends us to see that separating these groups is folly, for they need each other.
It is certainly true that homosexuals need heterosexuals, if only to produce more homosexuals. And heterosexuals need homosexuals because so much of culture is a product of men freed from the burden of supporting wives and children. The most distinctive feature of Caucasia is its lack of culture – its crass anti-intellectualism, its ideological conformity, and its tacky clothes. To say nothing of its grindingly dull emphasis on procreation. The men of Caucasia become what black men really would be, if left entirely to their own devices: puffed up warring potentates competing to see who can accumulate the most concubines and bling. To borrow a trope from James O’Meara, once they banish the homos, white men start acting like Negroes. The very idea of separating off gays into an “ethostate” of their own makes no sense, of course, because they are not an ethnicity. Though gays posture as if they are a people and a community unto themselves, the truth is that the only thing that unites them is hedonism.
One of the most astute points made by Jack Donovan in Androphilia is that the Left has essentially turned “gay” into a race. And in the process, it has thrown together gay men and lesbians as one “people,” despite the fact that in reality they despise each other and have virtually nothing in common. As Donovan asks, “Why should I identify more closely with a lesbian folk singer than with [straight] men my age who share my interests?” It seems unlikely that Palahniuk, who is no doubt familiar with Donovan’s argument, has fallen into the error of thinking of gays as a “people.” It is more likely that we are intended to see that the separation of people by sexuality is wrongheaded.
The truth is that racial and ethnic identification overrides “sexual preference.” White gays have more in common with straight whites in Caucasia than they do with black gays in Gaysia. And though the presence of gays may grate on the white heterosexuals of Caucasia, the fact is that those gays are their brothers, uncles, cousins, children, and even sometimes fathers. Truly, white gays belong in Caucasia, and black gays in Blacktopia. I believe that Palahniuk’s portrait of the Gaysian dystopia may be a crafty way of undermining the chimerical notion of a “gay community,” and that he is in basic agreement with Donovan’s position.
Turning to Palahniuk’s portrayal of Blacktopia, it hardly seems to suggest, on the surface at least, that blacks need whites. After all, in Palahniuk’s account, the blacks, once freed of the yoke of the white gaze, return to Eden – and their society, in contrast to the other two, is spectacularly successful. Of course, the real truth is that if blacks were to secede, they would create anything but “Heaven on Earth.” So perhaps this is Palahniuk’s way of arguing, through a kind of reductio ad absurdum, that blacks really do need whites and would descend into chaos and savagery without them, as they have in every post-colonial state. Of course, there may be something else going on here – something diabolical. A great way to get a divorce from blacks would be to fill their heads with all sorts of nonsense about the Wakandan glories that will arise once blacks completely emancipate themselves from us. It’s hard to imagine many blacks reading Adjustment Day and getting all the humor of Palahniuk’s portrayal of Blacktopia.
This leaves us with the question of whether whites need blacks – and the answer to that, of course, is an obvious no. There is nothing blacks contribute to white societies that we couldn’t do without, or do ourselves. And we could certainly do without the great burden placed on our societies by black crime, urban blight, affirmative action, the dumbing down of education, and the trillions spent on public assistance. Unfortunately, Palahniuk does seem to make a kind of half-hearted attempt to argue that whites need blacks:
It felt as if the white race had lost its way. It no longer had blacks and queers to feel superior to so a key source of its pride was gone. Whites had been like a wealthy family who performed an ongoing pageant of morality and ingenuity to impress a household of idiot and degenerate servants. In the absence of queers and blacks, Charlie and his fellow whites had lost their motivation to live superior lives. Without underlings to dazzle, the white ethno state seemed to be floundering. (p. 190)
In an otherwise brilliant book, this is, I am sorry to say, a very dumb argument. Most of the greatest achievements of white nations were accomplished centuries before non-whites were ever admitted into our midst. The idea that we wrote the Nicomachean Ethics, landed a man on the moon, cured polio, composed Der Ring des Nibelungen, and painted the Mona Lisa all to “dazzle” our inferiors is a theory that is so silly it is unworthy of further comment. Of course, it may not be Palahniuk’s own position: it is presented as the thoughts of “Charlie.” Palahniuk also seems (just possibly) to be falling into the error of so many critics of the New Right: thinking that the white ethnostate is some kind of ideal, as yet untried, that may present all sorts of unintended bad consequences. But this somehow manages to overlook the thousands of years of recorded history in which whites lived in almost entirely homogeneous, successful white ethnostates – and, again, accomplished so very much.
Charlie muses further:
In the neat, orderly world of the white ethnostate, what did the future hold? The white race had met its every challenge. Could they make the grass greener? Make the trains run more exactly on schedule? (p. 191)
Here, Palahniuk addresses a question that is often raised by advocates of the white ethnostate: once we win, and whites are alone again at last, what then? Well, let us consider just one example. When Stanley Kubrick made 2001, it was actually reasonable to suppose that, at the rate things were going, in thirty years we would be settling the Moon and building huge, rotating Howard Johnsons suspended in space. The Space Shuttle seemed the means to get there. But haven’t you noticed how all this just got quietly dropped? Well, dear reader, without vast numbers of non-whites on our welfare rolls sucking up trillions of our dollars, we might be able to dream once more about the final frontier. And this is just a single example. Left alone at last, freed of the white man’s burden, presumably we would keep on doing what white men have always done – exploring, inquiring, discovering, creating, conquering (though – please, dear God – not colonizing).
At least, this is the hopeful scenario. On the other hand, there is always the specter of the Last Man. And this is really what Palahniuk is talking about. Making the grass greener and the trains run more exactly on schedule are the aims of a people whose concerns have to do exclusively with consumerism and comfort and surface appearance. But isn’t this who we have become? The White Nationalists who wonder “once we win, what then?” are recognizing that even if we achieve the white ethnostate, it is not acceptable that our current debased form of life continue. The presence of non-whites in our midst, and the ideology that supports it, is only one of our problems, though it is a very great one. “Ethnic cleansing” is not enough – what is necessary is a total cultural revolution. Palahniuk – and Charlie – get this. Caucasia is groping, ineptly and laughably, to make it happen. There are no easy solutions here.
As you will realize from the foregoing, figuring out what Palahiuk’s own position is in Adjustment Day is a thorny problem. Much of what he says (or has others say) is entirely reasonable, and some of what he depicts is attractive and desirable. But does he think that?
This was the same problem we faced with Fight Club: does Tyler Durden speak for his creator? Palahniuk wants it this way. He wants us to wonder. His stance is ambiguous and cagey. And who can blame him?
Several years ago, I wrote a huge essay on the meaning of Fight Club (anyone who read the entire thing deserves a medal). I argued that it is impossible not to read the book and the film as essentially fascist, Traditionalist, and anarcho-primitivist. And, of course, I’m for all of that. But Palahniuk gives himself enough wiggle room that he has mostly escaped charges of thoughtcrime. Fight Club contains enough literary ambiguity that soy-eating fans of the novel are able to argue, halfway convincingly, that it is really against all the things that it makes so very, very, very attractive.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what Palahniuk’s own beliefs are; what matters is what we take away from his work. Fight Club has inspired countless individuals on the political Right – and Chuck Palahniuk doesn’t seem overly eager to run those people off. Indeed, they seem like the target audience of Adjustment Day. And this is food for thought. Given how many of us on the Right were inspired by Fight Club and how we interpreted it, Palahniuk has got to be aware of exactly how this novel will be received by many, and the thoughts (and, indeed, the actions) it will inspire. Palahniuk is not one of us – but he’s no enemy, either.
No, he’s not one of us. And I have no desire to (falsely) claim him. He’s a great talent, and seems like a good guy, so I don’t want to make trouble for him. I am strangely convinced, however, that although Palahniuk is not one of us, he would nonetheless sit down and have a beer with us. When you think about it, that’s actually a big deal.
Things are changing. Fast. Adjustment Day is coming.