Snuff – review

The official Chuck Palahniuk website is called The Cult. It’s a fitting name, given the rabid popularity of the author responsible for the best selling novels “Fight Club,””Choke,””Invisible Monsters” and others. My girlfriend’s brother-in-law is a massive fan of Palahniuk. He owns every book written by the man. He pre-orders them on Amazon and gets it the day they are shipped. I have a feeling this is how many readers of Chuck Palahniuk are.

At the heart of “Snuff,” is a similar single minded preoccupation. Told largely through the eyes of four people, all of which eventually garner names but three of which are known largely through by the numbers marked onto their arms, it hovers around the backstage of the world’s largest gangbang as Cassie Wright attempts to set a record and, possibly, die in the process. Throughout the course of the novel, the obsessive nature not of porn stars but of porn viewers becomes clear. 137 knows everyone’s names. 72 believes Cassie is his mother and has gotten to know her as well as he can through sex toys made to match her breasts and vagina and the litany of porn movies she has done. 600 is the only “pro” in the group and the only one who seems to have a genuine distance placed between himself and the work, though not between himself and his narcissism. The only other character, beyond cassie, that plays a prominent role in the novel and who we know by name is Cassie’s assistant, Sheila, whose job is to manage the 600 “actors” in the gang bang and whom she routines refers to through a litany of demeaning nicknames that are all variations of “masturbator.”

“Snuff” appears to lack some of the critical nuance and underpinning of Palahniuk’s earlier work. while there is, with certainty, something to be said for the nature of identity in the work and how our perception of identity is something we may inherit from our parents just as well as we inherit our eye color and our height, “Snuff” reads more like a novel on speed.  Within and throughout it is an economy of language that sheds excess weight from the body of the novel, allowing it to move quicker and more adeptly than a novel carrying the bulk of excess pages. It allows he story to propel itself forward at an increasingly breakneck pace until the end of the novel suddenly looms and everything begins to crash into itself and the pieces are left still and dazed at the end as others hover around to pick up the pieces and prepare everyone for another run.

so in that sense it is an entirely enjoyable read. there is no denying its speed and potency as we bounce from the conversations and thoughts of 72 to600 to Sheila to 137 only to bounce back to 600 to find his reaction to what has went on in the two preceeding sections.


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