Susan Faludi coaches “Fight Club” author

As the two compare notes, Chuck Palahniuk gets prepped for an appearance on "Politically Incorrect."

Topics: Chuck Palahniuk, Books,

It was to be a meeting of two millennial media icons. Susan Faludi was reading from her new book on the disappointed and disenfranchised modern American male, “Stiffed,” to a standing-room-only crowd at Powell’s, Portland, Ore.’s massive indie bookstore. In the audience was Chuck Palahniuk, whose novel on the disappointed and disenfranchised modern American male, “Fight Club,” had just opened in its film version. He and Faludi were planning to compare notes after the reading. As Palahniuk and I stood together (in a
section, as it turned out, of books on sailing, hunting and other manly pursuits), he showed me an article by Faludi in which she’d praised “Fight Club,” calling it “the male ‘Thelma and Louise.’”

When Faludi finished reading, the audience — an equal mix of men and women — seemed more concerned with critical theory than gender politics. She was quizzed on her book’s relation to Marxism and neo-Marxism, and when one man inquired
about the way her work “dovetailed” with that of critical theorist Michel
Foucault, she looked a little tired and answered honestly, “Oh, I don’t know.” She then elaborated that while people always thought there was some special link between her and Foucault, she felt she’d have to read at least one of his books before she could respond.

At least one audience member felt that Faludi’s book was more relevant to the here and now. Palahniuk said that “Stiffed” had had an immediate, almost visceral
importance in his own life. “I read it in one weekend,” he said enthusiastically, indicating
that her depiction of modern male-ienation was right on target.

Recently, the “Fight Club” author had himself become a poster child for Faludi’s argument. Her observations on the male condition — that ratings, rankings and salaries have become the main measure of success for men, that men have become just as victimized by consumerism as women, and that our society is imprisoned by the notion that victory is everything — all zinged home for Palahniuk. He was just back in Portland after attending the L.A. opening of “Fight Club,” where he was feted by stars, directors and moguls, and he had a dazed look about him. When I asked how he was dealing with all the attention, his first words were, “Well, it’s all so ephemeral and fleeting.” He’d grown up in a trailer home and he worked as a mechanic while writing his book. Suddenly, though, he had the kind of money and media attention that could make anyone forget his own name.

I joined the pair for an after-reading drink at one of Portland’s ruling-class hangouts, expecting to hear some lively discussion about the brutalization of the sensitive guy and the demoralization of the dude. After all the foreplay, though, the meeting between Faludi and Palahniuk wasn’t much of a climax. Everyone seemed too bushed to talk Big Ideas.

Still, the two were clearly simpatico. They leaned toward each other over the table and shared war stories and strategy. Faludi put forth that she was on the “book tour diet,” consisting mainly of hurried bites between flights and hotel mini-bar fare. Some discussion followed about the difference between Cliff and Luna bars — were they brother and sister? Faludi then coached Palahniuk on how best to finesse the verbal fencing on “Politically Incorrect,” on which she had just appeared and he was slated. “You’ve got to just jump in
there. Nobody stops talking,” she told him. When her review of “Fight Club” was mentioned, Faludi confessed to having written it in a state of publicity-induced sleep deprivation. “Did it make any sense?” she asked.

Diana Abu-Jaber is the author of "Arabian Jazz" and is writer-in-residence at Portland State University.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>