By Jonathan Rich
The first rule of Fight Club 2 book signing is author Chuck Palahniuk goes out of his way to accommodate his fans.
The second rule of Fight Club 2 book signing is you blog about how the barefoot cult scribe went out of his way to make sure everyone was happy, even though the scheduling was a bit of a clusterchuck.
More than 300 die-hard Palahniuk fans drove from as far away as Florida to the Regulator bookstore on 9th Street in Durham, N.C. Wednesday to meet the prolific Palahniuk and get hardcover copies of the collected Dark Horse miniseries signed, but not all went as originally planned.
When the event was announced months ago, the Durham signing was scheduled to start at 4 p.m. with those paying $30 in advance for the full-color tome being entitled to get two additional items signed with additional time allotted for pictures with the author.
Books were sold and plans were made, but 24 hours before the scheduled start time things changed. The Regulator sent out a harried email explaining the event would now begin more than two hours earlier at 1:30 in the afternoon due to anticipated attendance and guests should not expect to get all they had previously paid for.
“The book signing events have been terrific, but they’re stretching to 14+ hours long,” Palahniuk wrote in an email shared by the store. “To save people’s sanity, I will arrive 3 hours early (1:00 tomorrow) and only do posed pictures with the first few hours of folks. Also, I can only sign and personalize FC2. Thank you for understanding.”
But, as you might expect from Palahniuk, these rules were meant to be broken.
Though the Regulator’s emailed directions specified they would still only allow admittance in the order tickets were reserved, they promised if you arrived early you would simply be added to the next group.
This was not the case. This was not Jon’s sense of joy.
I arrived at the bookstore at 1 p.m. to find a line already snaking around the bookshelved aisles inside the store and was told my group (letter “U”) would not be allowed downstairs to the basement until at least after the original 4 p.m. start time.
This left your humble Internet journalist with an empty afternoon on the hazy, hot and humid streets of a preppy college town in the American South stealthily moving his car from free parking space to free parking space in monitored pay lots to avoid forfeiting any of his small discretionary income to a capitalist parking attendant.
Multiple coffee shops, bars, and restaurants offered temporary refuge from the oppressive heat as I periodically checked where in the alphabet the signing line was, but thankfully I had inside knowledge regarding the literary and literal haven of Books Do Furnish a Room (www.booksdofurnisharoom.com/) filled with comic book back issues, used books and vintage vinyl records just a few blocks away to seek shelter until I was finally admitted into the signing line around 7:30 p.m.
After being ushered down the stairs two at a time to join yet another long line for the day, ticketholders were finally able to have a few fun moments with the very genial architect of Project Mayhem. The bookstore did try to lighten spirits by engaging guests in periodic giveaways including a plastic severed arm signed by the author, but by this late time in the day the bloodlust mounting against the staff was palpable and could easily have resulted in making that prop appendage the real deal had they come up with even more additional rules and regulations to blindly institute and promptly ignore for these tired masses yearning for a moment with their bookish appearing, yet very physically fit, hero.
Despite having already endured a long day himself, Palahniuk was quite personable and took time with everyone in line to ask where they were from and thank them for coming. There was not an author’s talk, as is normal at these events, as that had already been discarded from the Durham schedule.
Despite earlier warnings the author would not be posing for photos with all in line and only signing copies of Fight Club 2, he posed for as many photos as anyone wanted and signed whatever they put in front of him. He even delayed his scheduled meal of delivery pizza until everyone had got what they came for. That, my minions, is true dedication.
However, there were some rules good ol’ Chuck would not bend: if you wanted a photo with him: it was either a pose with him choking you from behind (sometimes atop a chair) or fists locked in battle preparing to engage in combat.
“What would you like me to sign?” he asked when I finally got the front of the line shortly after 8 p.m. After promising not to flip my new graphic novel on eBay, I told him to write whatever he wanted. After all, he was the famous author in the room; who was I to tell him what to write?
“Okay, done. Now, which pose do you want?” he asked me.
“You’ve been doing those all day, I’d like to try something different,” I responded. “I brought my cake of Fight Club soap. Maybe we could use that somehow.”
“Where did you get that?” he asked, gesturing to the pink plastic bar of soap I unearthed from my backpack. “I have the original one Brad Pitt held in the poster given to me by the artist who made it.”
“You can find anything on the Internet these days, Mr. Palahnuik,” I answered.
“Don’t I know it,” he said. “Still, it’s either choking or fighting for the pose,” he continued as he set aside my now signed my Fight Club 2 hardcover. “You get to pick, but that’s it.”
I went for the choke, and as he ascended a small stepladder and a bookstore employee readied my camera he seemed taken aback.
“Have you seen the top of your head?” he asked. “It’s pretty gnarled.”
I knew that morning when I shaved the back of my ripe melon I had inadvertently sliced myself a few times in the hurried pre-dawn hours before I left to drive four hours east to Durham for this moment, but instead of boring him with such detail I was surprisingly quick on my tired feet.
“C’mon, if anyone, you should know the first rule of Fight Club is… “
But before I could continue, Chuck’s arm rapidly encircled my throat from behind and tightened around my quipping larynx as we grimaced for the photo op.
“Let’s see if the ink has dried yet,” he said playfully hopping of the stepladder.
As I regained my breath and composure, I went into stealth Bleeding Cool unannounced interview mode.
“Do you think you will continue working in comics, or are you more interested in the feature film stuff like Survivor for TV or the screenplay for Lullaby?” I asked, referencing a few of his previous works being developed for new media.
“This book was a tremendous amount of fun and I enjoyed working with Cameron and all the folks over at Dark Horse a lot” he said of the collaboration with Stewart who was fresh from reworking Batgirl with YA comics writer Brenden Frasier and fashion-focused artist Babs Tarr at DC comics. “Lately, a lot of my focus has been on the upcoming coloring book. We’re going into production when I finish this tour and right now the plan is to have it out in stores this October.”
Dark Horse recently announced Bait: Off Color Stories for you to Color will contain eight new Palahniuk stories accompanied by approximately 50 illustrations from artists including Lee Bermejo, Duncan Fedgredo, Steve Morris, and Kirbi Fagan when it is released Oct. 26.
“Thanks for coming by. I appreciate you making the trip,” he added. “Now, who’s next?”
Inspired by his graciousness and undeterred by the travails I had endured in the day’s earlier travels, I handed my camera back to the bookstore staffer taking pictures for guests and asked her if she could snap a few images for the people in line behind me. Two married female friends who drove down from Arlington wanted photos with Chuck, but unfortunately (like me) their cell phone batteries had not survived the extended wait. No one there wanted them to walk away with anything less than what the Regulator bookstore had promised, so I got their info and planned to email photos the next day.
As I made my way back up the staircase from the basement, I wondered what Fight Club character Tyler Durden would make of the proceedings. Would the annoyance of promises made, ever-shifting plans evaporating in the hot summer sun, and long lines of patiently-waiting yet sweat-soaked book lovers huddled together for a memento of his misadventures send him over the brink, or would he just laugh at the importance implied on all of this subterfuge and promotion in the name of moving merchandise?
The answer was as loud as my dead cell phone battery preventing me from attempting to resurrect previously-scheduled posh dinner plans with now presumably infuriated friends.
I smelled my own stench as I emerged from the bookstore, put the key in the car’s ignition and began a four hour drive west with my signed copy of Fight Club 2 casually tossed in the floorboard of the vehicle’s back seat.
I let out a small sigh as I realized I would probably make a similar trip when the coloring book was released in the fall. Just as Palahniuk has inscribed in my book “In Tyler we trusted, silly us.”
Jonathan Rich is a freelance journalist, high school educator, and self-professed comic book nerd working in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. He writes about entertainment and pop culture for various print and web publications, including bleedingcool.com.