Not for Your Book Club: “Snuff”August 1, 2008 at 5:50 pm | Posted in Fiction, Not For Your Book Club | Leave a comment
It’s Friday, and here’s another book about the sex industry for you not to suggest to your book club. I assure you that it’s pure coincidence I’m covering the same topic twice in a week; it’s just the lottery of my BookSwim pool. I think there are all kinds of things your book club probably wouldn’t want to read. In fact, next week we’ll be doing one that my own book club passed on, for reasons that are still somewhat mysterious to me and have absolutely nothing to do with sex.
Chuck Palahniuk is one of the few writers I will rush out to read as soon as he puts out something new. This in spite of the fact that I think he’s an incorrigible misogynist and he loves to shock, disgust, and alarm his audience with the most revolting scenes imaginable. How revolting is Snuff? One of my posse, the 17-year-old M, stopped after the first chapter because it was just too much for him. When you have a book about porn that a 17-year-old straight boy can’t make himself read, something tells me you’re not producing garden variety smut. Which is, of course, part of Palahniuk’s appeal: he’s a true original, each of his books stands alone as an innovation, and there are multiple levels going on.
My sweetie, Rocket Scientist, ventured the opinion that Palahniuk doesn’t actually hate women; his writerly persona does. Oh, you mean like Kierkegaard, I replied. Not in the sense that the great philosopher hated women (I don’t think he did) but that his books were written from various perspectives, not his own. This is why I love RS.
On to the story. An aging porn star sets out to make a film in which she copulates with 600 men, only to die at the end. That’s the plan, anyway, and it would be awfully hard to argue that the average woman would find this story romantic or inspiring. There are all sorts of obligatory jokes about pornography, including familiar movie titles slightly altered to be lewd. I won’t repeat any here, as it brings back bad memories of a short-lived job I had working at a video store with a small X-rated section. The stories I could tell… Anyway, I’ve never seen a porno, for quite deliberate reasons, both political and squeamish. I have seen the movie Down to You, which had a subplot involving epic historical or literary porn, and I was somewhat disappointed to see this recycled here. Though, on second thought, it’s not implausible that Chuck Palahniuk avoids movies starring Freddie Prinze Jr.
If you’ve read any of Palahniuk’s other stuff, you can probably get through this. It’s less bleak than Last Exit to Brooklyn, at least. You’ll really have to gut it out for the first three chapters. You won’t find any depth of character here, by any means, nor will you find anything particularly original about pornography, in criticism or defense. (It’s a love/hate thing). What you might find are shifts in perspective as characters’ motivations are gradually revealed; plot twists; a surprise ending; and what’s essentially a fireworks display in print. Complete with loud banging.
I’m going to go with Amazon readers here and give it 2.5 stars. If you just want to read Palahniuk, pick any of his other books instead.