Monday, October 12, 2009

Snuff, by Chuck Palahniuk

Welcome to Palahniuk as the first duplicated author on the blog! The first post, about Choke, dealt largely with sex. And, well... there's really no way around having the same focus again this time.

In short, Snuff is the tale of three dudes and a talent wrangler backstage at the set of the biggest gang-bang porn shoot of all time. And a lot of what you get is just about what you might expect from such a plot. Actually, the single most scathing book review I have ever read was about this novel. I'm going to try not to repeat what Ellman says, and only partly because of her extreme distaste of the book.

But I can't avoid it completely, because I had settled on my topic before rereading the review. Ellman makes a point, which she words more eloquently than I would, that the issue with Snuff is not the subject matter -- I actually think that for those not morally against pornography the premise of this book has a good deal of promise, and is certainly uncharted literary territory -- but the way in which Palahniuk handles the topic. The premise could have opened the book to all kinds of questions or examinations of modern sexuality, the role of porn in society, positions (no pun intended*) of men and women, gender studies, interactions between 600 horny men in a single room, humans as animals. It could have... but it didn't.

At least, if it did, Palahniuk buries these examinations beneath crassness and trivia to where no one would want to dig them out. My opinion: his big mistake was writing from the perspective of the three male characters during the film shoot. Mark Twain's flourish of dialect this was not -- and, although I haven't ready Ulysses, from what I gather about it the writing style of Snuff wasn't exactly on a par with James Joyce's stream of consciousness. In-time thoughts from characters can read like a character's mind, and that's ok. But they shouldn't read like they came from the author's mind, and he wrote them down and never edited them again. The almost amateur feel to the prose, and the mental capacities of his three "actors," prohibit any of the good stuff (literarily, not pornographically) from coming forth -- if, in fact, any of the good stuff was conceived** of in the first place.

All that said, apparently I still enjoyed the book enough to finish reading it. And it's certainly an interesting read -- although believe me, it wouldn't be in the top 10,000 books on Amazon had it been a debut novel.

Or by any other author.
*Ok, I lied. It was intended.
**Totally intended.

1 comment:

  1. I think that's a major problem with almost any author that chooses such a "taboo" topic (in our Puritanical tight-assed society anyway.)

    In the class I was supposed to take, this is the sort of thing I would have loved to sink my teeth into, but it's hard (totally intended pun as well) to push beyond the surface especially if all the author really presents is just surface. It's like a person is just giggling to himself and calling all his buddies to tell them "dude, you'd never believe what they let me put in this book. It's better than looking up the swears in the dictionary!!"