Friday, September 26, 2008

Choke -- But Only After Talking About Fight Club

Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk’s fascination with group therapy sessions is on display again in the movie Choke, out today, about a man who (rationally enough) decides to meet loose women by going to sex addiction counseling meetings.

(By the way, on another sex-addiction front, I think I smell publicity stunt, because I find it highly implausible that David Duchovny would just happen to check into a sex-addiction clinic in real life while playing a sex addict character on TV’s Californication — and merely for porn addiction, apparently, not full-fledged cheating, which makes it even less plausible, though as Julian Sanchez has recently noted, people may disagree about whether porn counts as real cheating. Perhaps Tea Leoni takes a hard line on this question — in which case she should consider attending our debate about sex this Sunday, about which, more below.)

If you prefer fighting to sex, though, you’ll be pleased to know that You Do Not Talk About Fight Club: I Am Jack’s Completely Unauthorized Essay Collection is now out, a collection of essays analyzing that book/film, edited by my friend Read Schuchardt, editor of Metaphilm. Read’s a lefty-sounding media theorist who just happens to be a Christian as well.

Indeed, one thing that Marxian media theorists, twenty-first-century Christians, and the only-half-joking Nietzscheanism of Fight Club all have in common is that slightly-annoyed conviction that the everyday, bourgeois, media-saturated world is shallow — certainly when compared to contemplating dialectics/Jesus/the Overman.

This complaint about the shallowness of bourgeois life (at least as old, in its non-religious formulation, as the Romantics, but implicit in things like Don Quixote, too) may well come up at the aforementioned Debate at Lolita Bar (the Sunday, Sept. 28, 8pm bout between former Christian Stephanie Sellars and convert to Christianity Anna Broadway, if you want to see them that way).

And shallow we moderns can indeed be — but it’s important to remember, too, that this does not automatically vindicate the first philosophy (or cult) that comes along promising you meaning and authenticity. That way lies Kool-Aid-drinking and National Socialism. And indeed, as I mentioned in an entry nine months ago, Jonah Goldberg sees a fascist spirit in Fight Club — so if you read that passage of his book and feel you need to learn more about Fight Club, the Schuchardt book above is your big chance.

I know that sometimes books waxing philosophical about TV and movies seem a bit shallow themselves, but lest I get too snooty about such things, I always recall skeptically picking up Scott Nybakken’s copy of the Twin Peaks-analyzing essay collection Full of Secrets. The very first page I glanced at actually changed my perception of the show, by pointing out that completely different metanarrative traditions were “competing” in the show to explain what was going on: one minute the Native Americans having “the” explanation, then the Nepalese/Buddhism-linked characters, then the Air Force official with his UFO story…but you never really have the full puzzle. BOB is wily.

On a related note, reader Richard Ryan asks: What are the good, reflective analyses — the academic or philosophical writings — about Star Wars? Any of my brainy, nerdy readers know?

(Read Schuchardt loves Star Wars and would probably like to know, too — who knows, maybe he’ll edit a book about that.)

P.S. On another scholarly note, I’m told McCain was at New York City’s Morgan Library, a big repository of old documents, researching for his debate tonight.  Wow.  He really doesn’t like to use computers, does he?  Get that man a papyrus scroll about the SEC, stat.

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