Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk wrote several novels including The Fight Club, which got turned into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, but this is actually the first time that I would read any of his books. I had high hopes in picking up this novel because it dealt with a unique topic — porn — correction — its actually a whodunit in a porn industry setting. If anything, from the first page, it promises to be a Hitchcock on crack type of piece.

The book basically tells the story of Cassie Wright, an aging porn actress who is set to make the world record of 600 acts of fornication in one movie, entitled World Whore Three: The Whore to End All Whores. In doing so, Cassie intends not only to make history but also boost the sales of her merchandise already in the market. Cassie however, being far from naive, does not believe that she will survive the attempt so she takes on insurance to benefit a child whom she put up for adoption some 20 years back.

The story is told from the perspective of four people — not Cassie — one Mr. 72, a young man who believes that he is Cassie’s long lost son, a Mr. 137, a former popular TV actor who is conflicted with his sexuality, a Mr. 600,  a veteran porn star believed to be the father of Cassie’s child, and last but not least, Sheila, Cassie’s assistant who takes charge of the whole production of keeping 600 guys in check and ready for their minute-long shot with Cassie.

Anyhow, Snuff is not a piece of the fainthearted and the squeamish. It is very graphic in its descriptions of the setting, which in any case is far from romantic. For the most part, it is quite disgusting and unhygienic, funny, as it would be 600 guys parading around in various states of undress. The language is crude at best, like listening to a bunch of guys in a locker room. It is quirky and witty, especially as things get twisted around and the characters begin to unravel facets of their characters. Every one of the leads are given real motives to kill Cassie, and Palahniuk holds nothing back in his matter of fact statement of their intentions.

From the onset, it was established that somebody was going to die, and for the most part, people would think it was going to be Cassie for a number of reasons. She was the most vulnerable, she was attempting the impossible, she wanted to die in the attempt.

However, as pills get passed around, one of which is Potassium Cyanide among a bevy of Viagra, one would have to hazard new guesses as new factors come into play.

Chuck’s rich characterizations of the leads give the readers an insight into their psyche, if only for a while and makes them understand what makes them tick. In this sense, the read gets better with every turn of the page, no less disgusting, no less crass but infinitely more interesting, and entertaining as the author bombards the book with trivia about films not only exclusive to the porn industry but historical and mainstream as well, all the while maintaining the urgency of the situation as the time for the last guy gets to perform nears. He was also fond of using the term True Fact to punctuate the ends of these snippets of information. I checked out some of them and was surprised that they actually were true. I specifically liked the short mention of the Philippines in his reference to Merill’s Marauders shot in the country in 1961 but that’s because I live here.

Palahniuk also shared some of the crazy stuff that female porn stars do to condition themselves for their attempts to set records for gangbangs, some of them seemingly ludicrous but I am quite unsure if they are true. Still, its a bit of food for thought, and brings to life a whole new perspective about porn actors and actresses and what motivates them to do these skin flicks, as well as the effort, both physically and mentally that it entails.

I liked that there is a bit of a love story sandwiched in between the pages towards the end (Mr. 72 and Sheila) but while it had all the indications that it was going to be awkward, it sort of worked. The ending kind of leaves you open mouthed, but in a good way and not the WTH, what just happened? sort of shock.  All in all, it was a great read. Sort of dark, sort of twisted, sort of funny, and sort of confusing, but generally worth taking in.

As for ole Chuck? I think I just became a fan.