Dallas' Book Report: Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
Remember Fight Club? Since this is Dallas' Book Report, I am talking about the book more than the film, reminiscing about the film is ok though—But remember Fight Club? Particularly, recall Tyler Durden and his Project Mayhem? Well, in a sense, Chuck Palahniuk decided to come back to the ideas of Fight Club and take them from the grassroots movement of Project Mayhem and throw it all onto the nationwide stage. When 1996's Fight Club was published, Project Mayhem was something that was bubbling up, a small scale terrorist act that was soon to explode into a nationwide revolution. This is where Adjustment Day comes in, Palahniuk's latest novel—with some decidedly intriguing but mixed results.
This is not a sequel to Fight Club, but more of a spiritual successor since nods to it are given to it. It inevitably picks up where Fight Club left off—especially with its themes. Adjustment Day focuses on present-day America, where racial and social division is at its apex, and the political landscape is as volatile as ever before. The young men of America are frustrated: sexually, economically, socially, psychologically. Perceiving that the modern world has left them behind, as well an upcoming war and subsequent draft will throw them into the meat grinder, they find solace in what is commonly called "The Blue-Black Book." Talbott Reynolds, a mysterious actor akin to Tyler Durden, is the author of it, complete with his boisterous rallying cries of the destruction of an unfair system. Think of Mao's little red book of communist China, and you get the idea. The signaled event of Adjustment Day will even the scales of society.
Or will it?
The beauty behind Adjustment Day is that this novel is a scathing diatribe against both identity politics and its detractors, and is a fascinating litmus test. Where the reader stands is based upon how they react to its content. From what I have seen online, this is a polarizing book. Controversial storytelling is no stranger to Palahniuk, and like his other books—we're just along for the ride. Luckily for us, the journey is a fun and wild one because Palahniuk's writing style is visceral and blistering. Palahniuk is a wordsmith, utilizing some rather colorful and, at times, disgusting metaphor and descriptions for all of the wicked things happening within Adjustment Day's pages. The novel is also darkly funny at times. The author pokes a bony and jagged finger at the chest of entitlement, racial aggrandizement, (both white supremacist racial-purity-paranoia, and the we-were-kings mentality of black nationalists) and gay separatism.
Without spoiling the story, some of the most ridiculous things happen in Adjustment Day that are the wet dreams of various unsavory groups. The array of characters, jumping between their differentiating viewpoints, timelines, and struggles was a fun change of non-linear pace. The book shook things up with gross satire and gazed at our present world through a sardonic lens and, sometimes, gleeful anarchy. The whole novel is one big mishmash of a pitch-black comedy that will cut even the most jaded of readers to the bone.
Sometimes it cuts a little too well. While insightful, Adjustment Day has some parts that seem to add nothing to the story except as a self-indulgent exercise to see how much nausea could be induced. One chapter in particular (and my stomach churns a little bit, even as I write this) involves horrific familial abuse involving a disabled young man—for those who have read this book, they will understand the inner revulsion. And for the uninitiated, oh lord, is it a doozy! I will never be able to think about a catheter without cringing ever again.
Adjustment Day also rambles at times, what could have been explained in a paragraph or two sometimes takes the author a page or two. Deliciously descriptive prose doesn't always require multiple pages. One final criticism, so Mr. Palahniuk doesn't feel like I am picking on him, is that the ending of the book feels like it was in a hurry to be fit into a neat little package of everything-is-fine. And that rubbed me the wrong way. This is where Palahniuk should have utilized more exposition and the prose, as mentioned earlier. For a book that spent so much time building up the fiery modern world of the American social landscape, it wasn't enjoyable to see the ending not given the same kind of care. Even though the whole point of a house-of-cards is for it to be blown down quickly, I still wish that Palahniuk held his breath just a little longer.
Is Adjustment Day one of Palahniuk's best works? Is it an exercise in self-indulgence? Will it offend the masses on both sides of the political dichotomy? No, sometimes, and hell yes. But ultimately, if one is looking to rock the boat of social convention and read something that is darkly entertaining, then pick up Adjustment Day—it is the closest thing we have to "The Blue-Black Book" that I talked about at the beginning of this whole mess.
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