LA Times Memoir
Another waiter has just served me another free meal because I’m “that guy.” I’m the guy who wrote that book. The Fight Club book. Because there’s a scene in the book where a loyal waiter, a member of the fight club cult, serves the narrator free food. Where now in the movie, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter get free food.
Then a magazine editor, another magazine editor, calls me, angry and ranting because he wants to send a writer to the underground fight club in his area.
“It’s cool, man,” he says from New York. “You can tell me where. We won’t screw it up.”
I tell him there’s no such place. There’s no secret society of clubs where guys bash each other and gripe about their empty lives, their hollow careers, their absent fathers. Fight clubs are make-believe. You can’t go there. I made them up.
“OK,” he’s saying. “Be that way. If you don’t trust us, then to hell with you.” Another pack of letters arrives care of my publisher, from young men telling me they’ve gone to fight clubs in New Jersey and London and Spokane. Telling me about their fathers. In today’s mail are wristwatches, lapel pins and coffee mugs, prizes from the sweepstakes my father enters my siblings and me in every winter.
Parts of Fight Club have always been true. It’s less a novel than an anthology of my friends’ lives. I do have insomnia and wander with no sleep for weeks, like Jack. Angry waiters I know mess with food. They shave their heads. My friend Alice makes soap. My friend Mike cuts single frames of smut into family features. Every guy I know feels let down by his father. Even my father feels let down by his father.
But now, more and more, what little was fiction is becoming reality. The night before I mailed the manuscript to an agent in 1995, when it was just a couple hundred sheets
of paper, a friend joked that she wanted to meet Brad Pitt.
I joked that I wanted to leave my job working on diesel trucks all day. Now those pages are a movie starring Pitt and Norton and Bonham Carter, directed by David Fincher. Now I’m unemployed. Twentieth Century Fox let me bring some friends down to the shoot last summer, and every morning we ate at the same cafe in Santa Monica. Every breakfast, we got the same waiter, Charlie, with his movie-star looks and thick hair, until the last morning we were in town. That morning, Charlie walked out of the kitchen with his head shaved. Charlie was in the movie. My friends who’d been anarchist waiters with shaved heads were now being served eggs by a real waiter who was an actor who was playing a fake anarchist waiter with a shaved head.
It’s that same feeling when you get between two mirrors in the barber shop and you can see your reflection of your reflection of your reflection going off into infinity.
Now waiters are refusing my money. Editors are grousing. Guys take me aside at bookstore events and beg to know where the local club meets.
Women ask, quiet and serious, “Is there a club like this for women?”
A late-night fight club where you can tag some stranger in the crowd and then slug it out until one of you drops. These young women say, “Yeah, I really, really need to go to something like this.”
A German friend of mine, Carston, learned to speak English in only funny outdated clichйs. For him, every party was an “all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza.”
Now Carston’s clumsy pigeon words are coming out of Pitt’s mouth, 40 feet high, in front of millions of people.