“Most Likely You Go Your Way & I’ll Go Mine”
Stephen King’s Fight Club

[1]3,820 words

Chuck Palahnuik
Adjustment Day: A Novel
London: Jonathan Cape, 2018

“Ears, gentlemen. Sandinista ears.”[1] [2]

I had almost reached the massive iron door, hidden behind a construction dumpster, that serves as the entrance to the abandoned glove factory that has been my squat for the past several years when a figure in a black balaclava appeared from the shadows and a huge hand grasped my slender bicep in a grip of iron.


Dog of Flanders, I thought in a panic; have the antifa tracked me down? Would it all come down to this, a fight to the death in a shit-strewn alley in Akron, Ohio? I reached for my trusty waiter’s corkscrew, whose foil-cutter provided me with a perfectly street-legal switchblade,[2] [3] as well as the eye-gouging corkscrew itself.

I stopped, however, when I recovered myself enough to see who the hand belonged to: Jef Costello.

His highly trained, animal-like intuition sensed my recognition, and the grip relaxed… slightly.

“You!” he repeated, in a gruff voice that made Christian Bale sound like Charles Nelson Reilly. “Must . . . read . . . this!” And he shoved into my free hand . . . a book.

“A book!” I thought to myself, and smiled. Jef always was a sentimentalist. What year did he think it was? Were we still Nicaragua, backing up the forces of Subcommandante Menos de Zero?

Lost in reverie. That was a mistake; a foolish one.

By the time I recovered he was loping away, serpentining across the ruined industrial park the way they taught us in El Salvador. Good times.

Dammit, more reveries! I was getting soft. Maybe that was why he had traveled this distance. To redeem an old comrade.

Again, sensing the return of my attention, he called back, the distance smoothing the gruffness: “It’s a gift. A better gift than Fight Club.”

Riding the freight elevator up to my eyrie on the top floor, I finally took a look at the gift.

It was a blue-black book. With no girly “dust jacket,” the title was embossed in gold: Adjustment Day: A Novel.

I have a confession to make: I’ve never read Fight Club.

Oh sure, I’ve seen the movie (David Fincher, 1999). Even got the DVD — Special edition, two-disc, boxed [4]. But the book? For some reason, it never seemed necessary. The initial fuss must have passed me by, and I recall reading an interview with Palahniuk in some hipster magazine, around the time of his follow-up book, Choke (Doubleday, 2001), illustrated with some photos of the author demonstrating his fake-choking skills (read the book, if you must), none of which convinced me I was missing anything.

Even the movie, in fact, only sailed into my attention span when it began to be discussed on what was being called “the alt-right” as some kind of gateway drug or red pill. The locus classicus, of course, being Jef Costello’s “Fight Club as Holy Writ [5].” [3] [6]

And now Jef had reappeared, handed me a book, and commanded, Read! Would I? Of course I would; I had followed Jef into the slaughter that put down the “Keene Act Riots,” this would be nothing.

But a book? I don’t think so; that sort of nostalgia makes you soft. (Was Jef getting soft? I slapped a lid down on that thought with extreme prejudice.) I tossed it into the corner,[4] [7] called up some stolen WiFi from the local Democratic party office (their password was “password,” they’re just begging to be ripped off), located an anonymous proxy server and downloaded a torrent copy.

If only we’d had this stuff in ‘Nam, I thought, not for the first time.

Of course, Field Commander Costello has already fully examined the book in his review [8], and you can rely on it — just as a dozen men relied on him at Tirkrit.

Thus relieved of the need to summarize plot and other basic features, I will nevertheless make a few generals remarks. Like most modern writers, the prose is fairly flat and merely serviceable, which doesn’t prevent Palahniuk from an occasional clever remark, although in some places it seems almost like a first draft, which could explain passages that aren’t terribly clear or even grammatically dubious.

“Piper took this to heart and broke out his best Savile Row single-breasted.”

“Another character cut from whole cardboard.”

“Spencer’s Rental trucks over the backhoe, their one with the largest bucket.”

Again, like most modern “serious” writers the emphasis is on bizarre or “ironic” events. Some are laugh out loud funny, such as the origin and antics of “the Barnabas creature,” as Costello points out. On the other hand, there’s a subplot about a boy, his mom, and his catheter that gets dropped and then reappears in the last few pages, no doubt serving only as an opportunity to indulge in his notorious and unhealthy taste for gross-out scenes.

All this is to fill up and animate the overall structure. And again like many modern “serious” novels, this is not a tightly-constructed plot, like James or Conrad, but a sort of mock-epic, with numerous characters and plot points which are taken up, briefly considered, then dropped in favor of another, perhaps to reappear later. All this may or may not build to some kinda climax, depending on the author’s intent and success therewith. The various character arcs are tied up and resolved in an implausible happy ending right out of required high school reading (“Hey, isn’t this how Fahrenheit 451 ends?” asks one of the happy campers, while another adds, “Just like in Steinbeck!”). For a high-brow example, think of John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor; for a low-brow one, Stephen King’s The Stand or even a movie like Independence Day, which may very well be Palahniuk’s inspiration.

That said, Holy Writ, though perhaps intended ironically, is certainly the mot juste for both Fight Club and Adjustment Day. Both have that noticeable characteristic, of dividing the world – i.e., readers — into those who get it, and those who don’t; and each group has its own understanding of what “it” is. Palahniuk is well aware of this, and clues us in early in the novel:

Gibberish it was. Utter and complete balderdash invented by hack writers for a series that would never get picked up by any network. The same as all the most important books it made sense only to the faithful. Like the Quran or the Book of Mormon or the Communist Manifesto, if a nonbeliever were ever to open a copy she would be puzzled, frustrated, and quickly dismiss the text and set it aside. An outsider could never finish the book while a convert could read it a million times from cover to cover and find fresh insight in every pass.

Palahniuk gives us another clue as to why the Others are concerned possible badthoughts in this particular Writ:

To read Talbott was to enter into the pattern of his mind. To feel your own thoughts patterned after Talbott’s. That was power: To live within the minds of others. To reorganize their minds in accord with your own. To Jamal, that was the greatest power.

Well, authors might like to think so, but not really. Only a bigoted dumbass like Miss Josephine has “few thoughts in her mind [that] were her own.”[5] [9] Readers, those ungrateful little bastards, are always getting things wrong, either by accident or out of sheer stubbornness. “Creative misprision,” as Harold Bloom calls it.[6] [10] That’s why the Church kept the Holy Writ out of the rabble’s dirty little hands: to prevent what happened when Luther and Guttenberg flung it out into the streets: one, two, then many denominations, then storefront churches, then private citizens in their own snug little homes, or madmen on street corners.

Is that it? Are we left with relativism, with nothing but a New Agey “you go your way and I’ll go mine,”[7] [11] not unlike the formerly united states of the novel?

Let me suggest a path forward. We can, as Alan Watts suggested[8] [12] regarding comparative religion, evaluate interpretations by how fruitful, how interesting, they are. And there is also what’s known, in philosophy, as the Principle of Charity [13]: “interpreting a speaker’s statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation.”

Understood as the mainstream seems to want, AD is simply another “savage parody” of the knuckle-dragging flyover people and basement dwelling internet haters who dare to disagree with their betters in Hampton Bays; a novelization of a Samantha Bee or Bill Mayer monologue, to read at the beach or if the electricity goes out. Hewing to the PC code, it’s boring and predictable, but some slight danger exists that, being such a dead-on “parody” of wingnut “thought” (so called), some of its targets might think it was serious; and others might be contaminated by exposure to these dangerous “ideas.”

Understood as the Dissident Right would, it becomes, as does Palahniuk himself, something far more interesting and important: Palahniuk is an existential philosopher, and AD is an existential novel, in the sense intended by Colin Wilson. For Wilson, the existential philosopher (unlike the academic philosopher, who is mere an especially boring autiste[9] [14]) is seeking (a) solution(s) to the problem(s) of life, and he uses fiction, principally the novel, to work out the implications in real life of various proposed solutions. Conversely, we can evaluate writers by the quality of their solutions, a process Wilson called “existential criticism.”[10] [15]

Notice that this doesn’t depend on the author’s actual intentions: we are at worst giving him more credit than he may deserve. And notice that the existential novel is not a “utopian” novel, like Ecotopia or Walden Two, some autiste’s dream of how things out to be, if only people could be forced to be happy; the idea is to test out ideas, and hence Palahniuk explores the problems and paradoxes that arise as his three regions play out.[11] [16]

And we can shore up the plausibility of our positive, Dissident Right interpretation by noting that Palahniuk has, in a typically postmodern touch, given us some examples of his own critical method, most notably in a discussion of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and . . . The Fountainhead.

Jamal asked, “In school, you ever read that Grapes of Wrath book?” He shook his head in disgust. “Those people running all over. Saying they need to strike back to fix the system. But they never do anything, just dig ditches for a nickel and give birth to dead babies.” He spat on the ground. “That book’s bullshit.”

To Jamal, Adjustment Day was doing the opposite of that Grapes of Wrath book… For hundreds of pages Jamal kept reading, expecting the revolution, and in the end it’s just a dead baby dumped into a creek and some old dying old man getting to suck on some young girl’s titty. The author, John Steinbeck, had been a pussy, too afraid to make anything happen. He’d abandoned his characters to suffer.

And while school forced kids to read that pathetic Grapes book . . . kids volunteered to read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Kids yearned to be Howard Roark on the witness stands.

In The Fountainhead, somebody does what Steinbeck only talks about. That’s why kids love Rand’s book.

It’s a great piece of existential criticism, and one that doesn’t rely on, and so doesn’t have to mention, that one is Communist agit-prop, the other Capitalist agit-prop, with the former lauded and pushed on high school students only because of “school teachers’ mediocre campaign to teach mediocrity to the mediocre.”

Of course, Jamal is wrong (and this is our first clue that the Negro characters are not infallible, despite the Blacktopia fantasy). As Commander Costello points out, in an interview [17], Palahnuik 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.

As the Commander unpacks this:

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.

But this also gives us a hint of what Palahnuik’s method is, and why the book is subject to differing interpretations; while no one has tried to read Atlas Shrugged as “really” a work of say, Christian piety.

If there is one constant and withering criticism of Rand the writer, it’s that her characters are one-dimensional: “Another character cut from whole cardboard.”[12] [18] Fountainhead presents an interesting way for Rand to get around this, by presenting us with not only Roark, but also Gayle Wynand. The latter is a sort of Roark manqué, whose Will to Power has expressed itself by seeking to gain control of the opinions of the rabble; this is not only an unworthy goal, but futile — the rabble can be easily turned against him, by Toohey. Thus Wynand is not only in the courtroom as Roark’s verdict is read, he stands to hear it, and when Roark is acquitted, he exits the court and proceeds to kill himself.[13] [19]

In other words, we have not only the improbably noble and unyielding Roark, but the all-too-human Wynand. In a novel of existential philosophy (in Wilson’s sense) it is just as important and informative to explore roads that turn out to be culs de sac.

Thus, Adjustment Day (whose very title, we learn, is a mistake), though it “depicts what happens when a passel of those like-minded individuals join forces,” takes the Fountainhead route of doing so by exploring fatally flawed utopias.

Among the flaws, as Commander Costello notes in his review, is the treatment of “gays” as a racial group, segregated into its own state.

[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.

Nor does the separation make any conceptual sense:

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 . . . 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.

Indeed. On the other hand, there are hints that Palahniuk has read, if not The Homo & The Negro, a few of my other works, in particular, those dealing with Neville Goddard and New Thought.

The Blacktopians, for example, are said to be able to “manifest” diamonds. No details are given, but the odd word suggests the “Law of Attraction” promoted by black icon Oprah, a sort of negroized version of what Neville called “The Law.” Neville, in turn, claimed to have received instruction in this from a “black, Ethiopian rabbi” named Abdullah, which connects him to Wakanda and other “Magic Negro” tropes. [14] [20]

Also, it seems likely that Talbott’s book itself is a product of his hypngogic state. Talbott, while dictating, also instructs Walter in the correct way to practice “creative visualization” by focusing on exact details, in a passage worthy of Neville himself.

Talbott had coached him that creative visualization wouldn’t cut the mustard. Real details motivated people. The smell of leather seats and the sound of ocean waves under the bedroom windows. People needed to know the fine details of the life they were striving to achieve. Vague goals such as good health or money were too difficult to measure.

Palahniuk, you magnificent bastard, you’ve read my book![15] [21]

Palahniuk gives evidence of yet wider reading in my oeuvre. In addition (?) to manifesting, the Blacktopians can create three dimensional structures by sound: “When a sufficient population of blacks harmonized in unison, the power of their combined song would restructure physical matter.” This clearly alludes to Hindu and broadly Traditionalist theories of the relation between harmonics and creation, as expounded in my infamous essays on Wagner.[16] [22]

There are also coy allusions to my cinematic lodestar,[17] [23] Manhunter (Mann, 1986), such as the previous passage about “The smell of leather seats and the sound of ocean waves under the bedroom windows [24];” Old Miss Josephine’s pearly white dentures also allude to Manhunter’s Tooth Fairy.

Gay men “destroy with their beauty” is an odd phrase that must be a nod to frequently-cited guru Camille Paglia.[18] [25]

Finally, the notion that churches have been replaced by the support groups meeting in their basements seems a nod to both to my discussion Peter Gatien’s Limelight as a repurposing of antiquated church property for pagan rituals,[19] [26] as well as my reflections on the current state of the Episcopal Church.[20] [27]

Adjustment Day is indeed, as Costello says, Palahniuk’s best novel since Fight Club, and possibly his best novel to date. Surely at least some credit for that belongs right here at Counter-Currents, the intellectual beacon of the Dissident Right!


[1] [28] Maynard (G. Gordon Liddy) in “Stone’s War” (Miami Vice, S3:E2, 1986). Based on Michael Mann’s comment that this episode “could have been a movie,” some fanatic has put together a trailer for it [29]; Liddy’s comment is briefly heard at 0:58 forward.

[2] [30] Some people call it a slingblade, uh-huh.

[3] [31] Reprinted in his collection The Importance of James Bond & Other Essays; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2017).

[4] [32] “Shasta would take one look at the world it proposed and she’d toss the book into the trash. Well, not the trash. Shasta would toss it into the recycling.”

[5] [33] Palahniuk provides an authentic olde tyme paleoconservative bigot in Miss Josephine. Ensconced in her plantation, lovingly thumbing over her prejudices, she reminds one of Lee in Tito Perdue’s Reuben, which could be seen as a kind of trad-Right parody, avant le lettre, of Adjustment Day, and which I suspect, ironically enough, is the book Palahniuk’s critics think they’re reading.

[6] [34] Described here [35]: “In his first major contribution to theory, Bloom challenges the commonplace notion that literary tradition is a benign and empowering source of influence on modern poets. Instead, Bloom argues, for poets since Milton the achievements of their great precursors are barriers to their own aspirations to originality. “Influence,” Bloom insists, “is Influenza – an astral disease,” and against its threat, strong poets learn to protect themselves by “misreading” their predecessors. Such “creative misprision” operates through six techniques, or “revisionary ratios,” [36] which together form the foundation for Bloom’s manifesto for a new “antithetical criticism.” [37]

[7] [38] The “Gestalt Prayer,” attributed to the iconic fat, hairy Jew shrink, Fritz Perls. Back in the 60s, when people still understood “humor,” hippies had posters of the prayer, attributed to “A. Hitler.”

[8] [39] See the essays on Watts collected in my Magick for Housewives (Manticore, 2018).

[9] [40] In “The Philosophies of Asia [41],” Watts quotes Northwestern University professor William Earle: “An academic philosopher today must above all things avoid being edifying. He must never stoop to lying awake nights considering problems of the nature of the universe and the destiny of man, because these have largely been dismissed as metaphysical or meaningless questions. A scientific philosopher arrives at his office at nine o’clock in the morning dressed in a business suit carrying a briefcase. He does philosophy until five in the afternoon, at which point he goes home to cocktails and dinner and dismisses the whole matter from his head . . . He would wear a white coat to work if he could get away with it.”

[10] [42] See especially his The Craft of the Novel [43]. For Wilson generally, see John Morgan, “A Heroic Vision for Our Time: The Life & Ideas of Colin Wilson [44],” revised and expanded in North American New Right 2; ed. by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2018).

[11] [45] Some point out that late in the book Talbott’s aphorisms are called “faux-profound thoughts” to entice “rubes and preppers,” but these are the thoughts of Walter, a half-bright loser, not CP.

[12] [46] Rand had wanted Clifton Webb to play Toohey, finding the actor the studio wanted to be “too obviously evil.” Too obvious for Ayn Rand? See “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty, Part 1 [47].”

[13] [48] For more on this, see my “She’s So High, High Above Me: Watching The Fountainhead on TCM [49].”

[14] [50] See “From Barbados to Black Panther: Will Afrofuturism Beat Archeofuturism [51]?” For more on Abdullah, see Neville’s At Your Command: The First Classic Work by the Visionary Mystic Neville (New York: Snellgrove Publications, 1939; Tarcher Cornerstone Editions, 2016), which includes Mitch Horowitz’s essay “Neville Goddard: A Cosmic Philosopher,” containing his research in search of of Abdullah. Contrarywise, although Caucasia reasonably choses to put technology on the backburner, so as to concentrate on repopulation, they foolishly attempt to revive the pagan gods, who are of no use to anyone. As Neville says, men think prayer does not work, when actually they are praying to a (external) god who doesn’t exist.

[15] [52] Magick for Housewives, op. cit.

[16] [53] See “My Wagner Problem — & Ours” and “Our Wagner, Only Better: Harry Partch, Wild Boy of American Music,” reprinted in The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others: Traditionalist Meditations on Literature, Art, & Culture; ed. Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014); and, of course, Alain Daniélou: Music and the Power of Sound: The Influence of Tuning and Interval on Consciousness (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1995).

[17] [54] “A second clue comes from the language used in the op-ed, and in particular ‘Lodestar’ – a rare word used by Mike Pence in at least one speech. Then again, someone trying to make one think it’s pence would also use that word (which was oddly Merriam-Webster’s word of the day [55] last Tuesday). A pence-theory hashtag has already emerged to support this theory; #VeepThroat. “Trump Saboteur Op-Ed Backfires: LA Times Calls ‘A Coward’; Greenwald: ‘Unelected Cabal [56]’.”

[18] [57] Sexual Personae (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), Ch. 20: “The Beautiful Boy as Destroyer: Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (pp. 512-530). Paglia’s influence on myself and the Dissident Right is discussed in Peter D. Bredon’s “St. Camille of the Alt-Right [58],” a review of her Free Men, Free Women: Sex, Gender, Feminism (New York: Pantheon, 2017).

[19] [59] “From Ultrasuede to Limelight: Halston & Gatien, Aryan Entrepreneurs in the Dark Age,” reprinted in Green Nazis in Space! New Essays on Literature, Art, & Culture; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).

[20] [60] See “Re-Kindling Alan Watts,” reprinted in Magick for Housewives, op. cit.