In a brief, addictive novel, Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke) explores the making of pornographic priestess Cassie Wright’s final film, World Whore III, where Wright will take on six hundred men. Told from the perspective of three of those men, “Mr. 72,” “Mr. 137,” and “Mr. 600,” from the green room, filled with nearly naked and anxious cast members, Palahniuk uses his knack for research and disturbing detail to set the pace for his ninth novel.
Each character reveals their reason for wanting to be in the film in their chapters, while around them a retrospective of Wright’s extensive career in porn is shown on the monitors: “In every corner of the ceiling, you have monitors hanging down, showing hard-core adult films. One is The Wizard of Ass. Another plays the classic Gropes of Wrath. All of them Cassie Wright’s greatest hits” (15). Snuff is a documentary of a person’s career told through secondary sources.
Like the author’s previous work, Snuff is a very fast read. At one hundred and ninety-seven pages, this book can easily be read in two sittings. Pacing is helped by a handful of plot twists, mostly short declarative sentences, tidbits of movie-star history (supposedly facts), and plenty of patented off-color, Palahniuk details. If this is your first Chuck experience, you’ll probably really enjoy it.
That being said, the book falls short in context of rest of the author’s novels. In his last two, Haunted (Doubleday, 2006) and Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey (Doubleday, 2007), the author experimented with narrative point of view in both cases by having the novel told from different characters. Snuff carries on this recent trend, but with a return to the format of the earlier books by having fewer characters. For readers familiar with the other novels, this same-old-Chuck approach might be mundane; but then again, most of the people who read Palahniuk’s work love all the books, much like Vonnegut’s readers.
If you have yet to experience a modern author for whom there are truly no limits, then Snuff is definitely a book you should read. Just the same, if you’ve loved Chuck since you got your first edition of Fight Club, then you will like it, too. It’s short and sweet… Well, sweet in the disturbing sense of the word.
Snuff (Doubleday) is $24.95 at Borders.