Nov. 11, 1999: Brad Pitt's theatrical dud is released on DVD...

Nobody had to be told not to talk about Fight Club when it came out.

Portland author Chuck Palahniuk's darkly satirical novel about fistfights, manliness and—spoiler alert!—split personalities sold a mere 5,000 copies in its first run in 1996, and the hardcover quickly went out of print. When movie people started showing interest in it—David Fincher, director of the 1999 film adaptation, was apparently an avid member of that 5,000—Palahniuk didn't even have a literary agent.

Despite some critical raves, the film performed similarly. When the Brad Pitt-Edward Norton vehicle hit theaters, it promptly nose-dived after starting atop the box office, pulling a mere $37 million gross against its production budget of $63 million. At the Venice Film Festival, Pitt told Entertainment Weekly, he remembered that he and Norton were the only ones laughing at the screening. "It gets to one of Helena [Bonham Carter's] scandalous lines," Pitt said, "'I haven't been fucked like that since grade school!'—and literally, the guy running the festival got up and left."

But Palahniuk's book thrived in its afterlife, with a fan base that passed the DVD around dorm rooms and watched the film over and over, divining hidden meanings on the Internet. What the movie did not achieve on the large screen, it demolished on the small one. As of 2013, according to Fincher, the film has sold 13 million copies. This success transferred to Palahniuk's subsequent novels. He hovers in the top 50 best-selling contemporary literary authors on, and the debut that made him famous has received two reissues. His rabid fan base calls itself "The Cult," treating the novelist as a prophet of the disaffected.

Palahniuk's success brought a focus on Portland's literary scene it had never before encountered. In a way, the success of the Fight Club DVD did more for the city's writing scene than anything before or since. Palahniuk has since released a dozen successful novels and Portland's all-time greatest guidebook, Fugitives and Refugees. Four different members of his writing group have recently had their books optioned for high-profile projects. Monica Drake's novel Clown Girl was picked up by comic actress Kristen Wiig, while Chelsea Cain's Heartsick series was optioned by the FX network as a TV show and Lidia Yuknavitch's Dora: A Headcase was optioned by filmmaker Katherine Brooks. Wild author Cheryl Strayed is having wine brunches with Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey—who, in 2012, bested Jimmy Kimmel in a round of "Book Club Fight Club."

Chuck Palahniuk is working on a sequel to
Fight Club
. It will be released as a 10-volume series of graphic novels by Milwaukie’s Dark Horse Comics

From the Archives:

July 3, 2013: "Capture or Asylum," an update on Chuck Palahniuk's guide to Portland


1974: Mt. Hood Freeway Killed    

1975: Soccer City, USA  |  A Vet Shuts Down Nuclear Power 

1976: A Home for Refugees  |  Intel Changes the Economy 

1978: Bill Walton Sits Down

1979: Busing Ends in Portland Schools | Oregon Wine Gets Famous

1982: Courts Pave Way for Nudie Bars | The Other Daily Paper Folds

1984: Satyricon's First Show | A Bartender Becomes Mayor | The Air Jordan Saves Nike

1985: First Female Police Chief Ousted | Wieden+Kennedy's Most Important Ad

1986: Dark Horse Comics' First Issue 

1988: Inaugural Oregon Brewers' Fest | Rise of Hate Groups

1989: NW Rowhouses Burn  |  Gus Van Sant's Portland Hits Screen

1990: Our First Great Restaurant  | Oregon's Longest Tax Revolt

1991: Cleaning up the Willamette

1995: Bicyclists Sue Portland

1996: Vera Katz Builds a Wall | March to Save City Nightclub  | Powell's Rebuffs Amazon

1997: Path Cleared for Pearl District

1999: Stumptown Coffee Opens  |  Fight Club Hits DVD

2000: Largest Union Pension Fraud Ever

2003: Fred Meets Carrie  |  Suicide of Elliott Smith

2004: Gay Marriage Legalized (Briefly)  | Goldschmidt Exposed  | Eastside Portland Rises

2006: The Death of James Chasse Jr.

2008: Our Fanciest Restaurant Ever Bombs

2009: Sam Adams Admits Lying

2011: Occupy Portland 

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