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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Snuff" by Chuck Palahniuk

Watch Chuck Palahniuk’s Interview with Cassie Wright HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Chuck Palahniuk is the bestselling author of eight novels including Rant, Haunted, Diary, Lullaby, Choke, and Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. An adaptation of Choke will hit theatres September 26, 2008 starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. Palahniuk is also an author of nonfiction including Fugitives and Refugees and the collection Stranger Than Fiction.

PLOT SUMMARY: Cassie Wright, porn priestess, intends to cap her legendary career by breaking the world record for serial fornication on camera with six hundred men. “Snuff” follows three of these men who are waiting to immortalize themselves into pornography history as well as the female wrangler who dictates the order that the ‘dudes’ are filmed. As the three men wait, each starts to divulge their true reasons for wanting to be filmed, as well as discussing the sordid history of Cassie Wright. As backgrounds, secrets, and would-be children emerge, the tensions in the room come to a boiling point and the shocking answers are the last things any of them expected…

CLASSIFICATION: Not unlike Chuck Palahniuk’s other novels, “Snuff” is at times controversial, wickedly funny, disturbing, comprehensively researched, and overflowing with hard-to-believe factoids. Mainly driven by dialogue and character interaction, Palahniuk’s latest is a cross between satire and raunchy dramedy—think Howard Stern meets Jerry Springer :) Surprisingly for a book about porn, there’s not as much sex in the novel as one would expect, but “Snuff” is definitely aimed toward older readers and occasionally ventures into X-rated territory…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 208 pages divided over thirty-five chapters. “Snuff” unfolds from the first-person perspectives of four main characters—Mr. 600, Mr. 72, Mr. 137, and Cassie’s personal assistant Sheila. Story is told over the course of a single day and is mostly linear with a few flashback sequences.

May 20, 2008 marks the North American hardcover publication of “Snuff” via
Doubleday Books. Book design is by Michael Collica. Jonathan Cape will publish the UK version of “Snuff” (see inset below) on August 7, 2008.

ANALYSIS: My first exposure to Chuck Palahniuk was the movie Fight Club. Before that, I had never even heard of the author, but the film—one of my all-time favorites—completely blew me away and when I learned it was based on a novel, I just had to read it. Since then, I’ve worked through most of the author’s catalog and for me every new Chuck Palahniuk novel has become a must-read. In “Snuff” the author tackles pornography in what may not be one of his best or most popular efforts when all is said and done, but it is certainly one of his most daring novels…

Porn. It’s such a taboo subject that even writing the word feels dirty. Yet, pornography is a billion-dollar industry and I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve never ‘read’ any Playboy or Penthouse, or watched any pornos. In fact, the world is probably full of liars who have said just that ;) So for an industry as successful as porn, it’s surprising that more movies or books haven’t been made about the subject. Because if you think about it, pornography is like this alternate fantasy world existing right next to our own, and it’s just brimming with all these fantastical stories waiting to be told. I guess it just takes a ‘shock writer’ like Chuck Palahniuk to take the plunge and the author definitely lives up to his reputation.

For example, there’s this one scene where Cassie Wright is training for her record-breaking film World Whore Three when these kegel-exercise stones start falling out of the pornstar’s vagina, which is simultaneously gross and hilarious. In another, Mr. 137 is picking dandruff flakes out of Sheila’s hair and sweater, while holding an intimate conversation with her. Of course the whopper is the novel’s grand finale, which in true Chuck Palahniuk fashion, is offensive and brain-searing…

And let’s not forget about Palahniuk’s trademark factoids. In this case, we have everything from obscure Hollywood trivia—beauty tips, the lengths a movie star will suffer for a role, remarkable deaths/burials—to street gang signs and pornographic tidbits like vaginal embolisms, fluffers, and the following: 1) one of Sylvester Stallone’s first ever starring roles was in a porn film, 2) the electric vibrator was first marketed in the 1890s, a decade before the first vacuum cleaners & irons, and 3) blow-up sex dolls were invented by the Nazis. Whether true or not, Palahniuk’s factoids are always interesting :)

Of course, for all that “Snuff” will appall and gross out the reader, there is actually a very human story at the center of the book, which revolves around five main characters. First we have Mr. 600, or porn actor Branch Bacardi who has just about reached the end of his career and shares a history with porn actress Cassie Wright. Then there’s Mr. 72, a ‘porn baby’ who wants to meet his biological mother, Cassie Wright. Mr. 137 was once the star of a prime-time hit TV series before a messy sex scandal destroyed his reputation. He’s hoping World Whore Three will revive his career. Sheila meanwhile, is Cassie’s personal assistant and through her we’ll get to see the events leading up to the filming of World Whore Three. Finally, there is Cassie Wright herself who wants the film to be her last hurrah and a gift to the child she abandoned. Cassie never actually narrates in the book, so her story is told through the other four characters and her filmography that continuously plays in the ‘dudes’ waiting room. Basically each of the five harbors a dark secret or two, so expect plenty of shocking revelations and dramatic fireworks as the novel reaches its climax ;)

As far as the pornographic setting, “Snuff” is a mixture of fact—real-life pornstars, movies and history are mentioned—and fiction, with Cassie Wright and her filmography all made up, but the marketing team has done a great job of promoting Cassie as an actual actress with her own
Myspace Page, and even creating movie trailers for a few of her ‘classics’ including The Wizard of Ass, Chitty Chitty Gang Bang, and The Twilight Bone :) What’s interesting about the porn world depicted in “Snuff” is that it’s not very glamorous or erotic. In fact, it’s downright depressing and kind of revolting, so if you were hoping for lots of hot n’ heavy sex action, you’ll be sorely disappointed. For me, this wasn’t an issue, but I was a little disappointed by the lack of information that readers get about the porn industry. While Palahniuk touches on such topics as porn driving technological advances in popular media, feminism, safety practices, the immortality of pornstar-endorsed sex toys, and economics, these are only passing mentions that could have been explored in greater depth…

CONCLUSION: If you’ve never read a Chuck Palahniuk novel before, I’m not sure “Snuff” is the best place to start. The book can be offensive, vulgar, and unsettling. Then again, it can also be hysterical, informational, and insightful, not to mention it’s really short! Myself, I found “Snuff” to be insanely wild and loved just about every minute that I was reading it :) Definitely recommended to Chuck Palahniuk fans and anyone who’s not afraid of a little debauchery…

4 comments:

SQT said...

Wow. That sounds like something. Reminds me of the movie "Boogie Nights." I never thought I could accept a porn star as a sympathetic character but I love that movie. This book sounds fascinating.

Robert said...

Well it's a lot crazier than Boogie Nights ;)

Anonymous said...

Well, let's hope the fiction part is better than the factoids one: 600 to 1? Done and overdone :)

gav (nextread) said...

I'm looking forward to this one. I read Rant last year and truly enjoyed Chuck's take on the world... though Snuff might be a little on the extreme side. But I'm willing to give it a go. ;)

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