Thursday, October 13, 2011

Underneath the grime and glamor


I was very entertained while reading this book, primarily because the very premise of Snuff was the ultimate parody of the dehumanization and commercialization of sex that I've always wanted. I've been waiting for someone of Palahniuk's caliber and sense of humor to write something about sex and I was pleased Palahniuk's focus was on the pornography industry. He takes us into a very intimate look on how porn goddesses are made and coveted, and the men who lose themselves in the fantasies and fetishes provided by the audio-visual art form that is pornography.

But this book was appropriately entitled Snuff, because the story centers around Cassie Wright, a retiring porn star who planned to end her career by fornicating with six hundred men on camera. There's an implied death wish to this proclivity indeed, and I just know while reading that Cassie might not make it out alive. The plot was actually loosely based on the real-life story of porn actress Annabel Chong, who set the record for engaging in 251 sex acts with around 70 men in 10 hours.

The story is told in the alternating points of view of Mr. 600, Mr.. 72, and Mr. 137, men who are a part of Cassie's world-breaking goal. While waiting for their turn, each of these men begin to share their true reasons and motives for coming, and what follows then are hilarious, upsetting and touching accounts about their need for relevance, affirmation and family. Their narratives also included how Cassie Wright came into their lives and left a huge impact; something they now try desperately to re-capture through sexual congress, and a chance to speak to her before she leaves the profession forever.

Snuff's dark humor is sharp and, just like most Palaniuk books, his storytelling will make you laugh and feel sad all at once, and sometimes in an uncomfortable and mildly exciting way. Palhaniuk's attention to detail is astounding as always. The descriptions of the setting where these six hundred men are gathered are cringe-worthy; snacks and condoms are in bowls that are placed beside each other, creating an unsanitary and negligent picture about how these people treat sex merely as a soulless, menial task. Clearly, there is nothing erotic about the way Palahniuk told this story, and he wants you to know that. He also wants you to feel sorry for these characters as they step into the brief but harsh spotlight.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10
* A delicate but absurd tale on the the complications and subtleties of sex and intimacy.