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Houston

Last Fourth of July, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the author Chuck Palahniuk, whose celebrated first novel, Fight Club, has just been made into a movie starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter.

After he demonstrated to me and others sitting nearby his encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture (TV, music, books), I asked the big question: Had he seen the movie version of his book, and if so what is his impression? Chuck looked up from his plate and said, with a growing smile, "I saw it and think it's great!"

There was no irony in Chuck's tone; he was dead serious. This was honest praise, far from the mechanical sort employed by Hollywood agents who pass praise simply and soullessly out of loyalty for their company's product. Chuck meant it! He held the Hollywood version of his very dark book in high regard. Chuck also admires the director of Fight Club, David Fincher, who made Seven several years ago.

I was skeptical about the director because his last film, The Game, was awful. "It wasn't his fault," Chuck said. "He had to work with some difficulties, and I can't tell what they were, 'cause you might publish it in The Stranger." (He nevertheless told me what these "difficulties" were, and I'm not going to publish them in The Stranger.) "I really think David Fincher is a good director. Did you know he wanted to film Alien 3 in Kuwait, during the oil fires -- which would have been great! But Fox forced him to film it in England instead."

Though I don't think the fires of Kuwait could have saved Alien 3 (only James Cameron could have done that!), I'm pleased that Chuck Palahniuk likes Fincher's new film. But there is a problem: If Chuck likes the film, then I suspect the dark aspects of his novel have been preserved in the big picture, which is not good news for the Hollywood folks who financed this movie. Indeed, we might go as far as to say that for him to hate the film would have been good news; it would have meant that the movie is easy and less sinister. As it is, Fight Club is so dark that Fox decided to postpone its summer release and open it in the fall, when the sun is lower, the days shorter, and the clouds thicker.

Later that night, as even more illegal fireworks exploded over our heads, Chuck told me that the film's star, Brad Pitt, is so loyal to the new movie that he recently put on a ski mask and dashed around L.A., plastering up posters for it. Now how can you beat that kind of support?