For almost 20 years Chuck Palahniuk, the author of “Fight Club,” with its famous first rule (“You do not talk about …”), had honored his own rule about not returning to the story.
“I was not going to go back there,” the author said recently.
But now he has.
“Fight Club” first appeared as a novel in 1996, and then as a celebrated movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton three years later.
“Fight Club 2” has re-appeared this month — in comic book form.
The unnamed narrator of “Fight Club” now has a name, Sebastian, as well as a wife and son. But Sebastian can’t go through a day without encountering those who seem to recall him from his previous life. In the first issue, a bartender and a florist shop clerk — both of whom sport facial bruises and bandages — refuse to accept his money.
“I had no idea that this story was going to have this kind of legs and that people would be asking me about it for the rest of my life,” Palahniuk said.
“And then I was faced with so many interpretations. People are always coming up and asking, ‘Is it really about this?’ Or they will frame it within the context of their own lives. Or people will see it as satire or serious political commentary.
“They all have achieved their own spin.”
Palahniuk decided that he wanted to reclaim his story — specifically the novel, as the film version added elements that he didn’t create. He admired authors Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft who, he said, would take a single story and then reconsider or retell it in subsequent books or stories.
“I thought, ‘Why not expand this single-episode story in this man’s life and use it to explain his human history and also make more of an all-encompassing mythology out of it?’”
The first of a planned 10 installments of “Fight Club 2” appeared this month, published by Dark Horse Comics of Milwaukie, Ore., a suburb of Portland, where Palahniuk maintains a home. About a year from now Palahniuk anticipates the completed story, illustrated by artist Cameron Stewart, being published in a single volume.
“I wanted to collaborate with people on something that was a group effort,” he said. “Portland is filled with comic-book people, and it was like being with your best friends in junior high school.
“Comics people seem to be a lot better socialized than novelists.”
A comic book, he added, “allowed me to depict really provocative or upsetting things. But they are depicted in this stylized, cartoonish way, so it gives people some wiggle room not to be overwhelmed by the subject matter.”
Palahniuk said he has never been unnerved by the enduring, sometimes fierce, affection for “Fight Club” by its fans. “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread,” his first collection of short fiction, just published, is the latest of many books Palahniuk has written since.
“I wasn’t unhappy that they seemed stuck on ‘Fight Club,’” he said. “That is what bought me my freedom from my regular job, so I was fine with that.”
But he didn’t want to be perceived as stuck on “Fight Club,” he added.
“I didn’t want to be pigeonholed. And I was kind of feeling a little bit guilty about trashing fathers so much in ‘Fight Club.’ It seemed only fair that I had this character become a father and find himself as just as bad a father as he perceived his own father to be, or even worse.”
Palahniuk will speak at 7:30 p.m Friday at the Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway. For more details, go to RainyDayBooks.com.
Diorama assignment becomes poetry book
Maryfrances Wagner, a past co-president of The Writers Place and a Kansas City area author and writing instructor, sometimes would ask students to create dioramas of a particular novel, highlighting or illustrating what they considered a crucial moment in the story.
“It was always interesting what they chose and why,” Wagner said recently.
“Seeing them all lined up on a counter revealed such an interesting variety of perspectives.”
The title poem in Wagner’s new book, “Dioramas,” addresses this experience. “The sophomores hand in dioramas,” she writes, “thirty quiet settings on the counter.”
She also quotes John Knowles, author of “A Separate Peace,” a perennial high school reading assignment. Several dioramas, accordingly, depict Finny in his tree — but maybe not all.
“It’s never too late to see life from other angles,” Wagner said.
“Also, in any poem I write, even if it is personal, I try to shape it so that all readers will find their own connection or experience.”
Wagner will read at 7 p.m. Thursday at The Raven, 6 E. Seventh St., in Lawrence. Reading with Wagner will be writer Jacqueline Holland.