The 'Fight Club' Novel's Earlier, Gender-Swapped Version

Did Chuck Palahniuk re-do his his first novel?
The 'Fight Club' Novel's Earlier, Gender-Swapped Version

If you’re familiar with writer Chuck Palahniuk, you know there are recurring tropes in his work -- off the top of Jack’s pop culture-obsessed head: non-linear narration, ultra-violence, black humor, nihilist rants, support groups, or phrases and formulas whose repetition gets the reader into the foggy mindset of its sad, disturbed characters. His 1996 novel Fight Club is, of course, a prime example of this, yet there is one other novel, Invisible Monsters, whose anticipation of Fight Club’s Palahniuk-isms seems rather suspect -- so much so, in fact, that I will flat out offer a hypothesis: Fight Club is Palahniuk’s self-remake of his own, previous Invisible Monsters. Yeah, I said it, I’m Jack’s defiant, swinging overconfidence.

So first, the obvious disclaimer: both novels are very good, they both have major differences and work great on their own, and, I don’t know, both are precious, unique little snowflakes, okay? Good, let’s get to it. In order for this theory to stand, two things must be shown. First, striking similarities at the level of characters, narrative structure, and plot points; and second, actual chronological connections that can point to Invisible Monsters having been remade by Fight Club: A Novel About Try-Hard Masculinity Later Inspiring A Videogame With An Icon Of Try-Hard Masculinity.

As for the first point, I will mention the astonishing parallels both works share, similarities that are more concrete than the mere use of insistent refrains in both novels -- for example, in Invisible Monsters, “Give me lust, baby. Flash. Give me detached existentialist ennui. Flash,” and in The Club of Fights, classic stuff like “I am Joe’s Enraged, Inflamed Sense of Rejection.”

Yeah, in the novel, it is ‘Joe’ instead of ‘Jack.’ 

Whatever, LET’S GOOOO (oh, and by the way, spoiler alert).

Invisible Monsters begins at a climactic point just around mayhem (just like Fight Club). Both novels feature non-linear narration. Both protagonists have no official name, and both are depressed in their jobs, symbolizing that good ol’ '90s apathy and, ultimately, the meaninglessness of capitalist society. (One’s a high fashion model, the other a corporate drone.) Both stories begin with life-destroying accidents that make their protagonists lose everything and begin their journey (one gets her jaw blown up, the other his apartment). Both narrators meet, befriend and idolize unreachable, otherworldly ideals of sexual perfection (Brandy Alexander and Tyler “violent flashbacks of Brad Pitt’s abs” Durden) -- and… Well, that’s it. I think that’s a pretty compelling case. Good article, everybody.

… Nah, that was only half of it, LET’S KEEP GOING: both of these secondary characters take in the narrators after they lose everything. Both of them provide ego-destroying, life-affirming, radically nihilistic monologues. Both novels have third-act plot twists relating to their secondary characters. (Brandy is the narrator’s long-lost brother, Tyler was just a big fan of Ingmar Bergman). Also, both novels end up disclosing that their initial plot-triggering tragedies were actually self-inflicted.

And finally, the pièce de résistance: both novels feature gimmicky settings serving as a microcosm for their concepts. Invisible Monsters has its protagonists pretending to be rich women checking out mansions to buy, and then, once alone, searching for medication pills in their fancy bathrooms to get wasted -- whereas Fight Club has, uh, intellectually-curious chads in self-organized study groups of feminist classics? I forgot about that plot point. Anyway, listen, I'm no Palahniuk scholar, but it's pretty clear the dude wrote the same novel twice.

What’s that you say? Those striking coincidences still don’t prove Palahniuk actually self-remade his novel? Okay, let’s move to the second point, the date issue. This is fairly straightforward: Invisible Monsters was published in 1999 but written years prior, before Fight Club, and then published after the latter’s success. In fact, it was because of the publishing world’s rejection of Invisible Monsters that Palahniuk wrote Fight Club as an “angry response to feeling shot-out.” So am I saying he wrote Fight Club on the template of the rejected novel and that he masterfully tweaked it and gender-swapped it because a smart guy like Palahniuk knows male-centered violence is culturally accepted (which is, you know, an explicit theme in Fight Club)? No, of course not. Maybe, just a bit. 

You met Talbert Gregson at a very strange time in his life. *spliced in still of a penis*

Thumbnail: 20th Century Studios

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