two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
36-Sept-Oct-2008
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
0

A-SnuffIn his ninth novel, Chuck Palahniuk, known for his self-described "transgressional fiction," shocks again—this time with his depiction of the pornography industry. Previous novels include the award-winning Fight Club, as well as Survivor, Haunted ( 2 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2005), and Rant ( 3 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2007), among others.

The Story: Cassie Wright, an adult-film star long past her glory days, has decided to go out with a bang—600 of them, in fact—in a film designed to set a new world record for serial fornication. But most of the action of Snuff takes place in the holding pen for the male "talent," as three of the men lined up for participation in the film ponder their motives for being there, their varying relationships to Cassie, and their distorted sexual pasts. Exposition and movie trivia are provided by Sheila, Cassie’s assistant, who is responsible for keeping the men moving along.
Doubleday. 197 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0385517882

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"Few authors have captured the pathologies of modern life quite like Palahniuk, the best-selling author of Fight Club. Snuff takes those pathologies to new depths of degradation, and the result is humorous, unsettling and ultimately thought-provoking in its take on abuse, celebrity, self-esteem and the quest for identity." Vince Darcangelo

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Because many have been quick to write Chuck Palahniuk off as the literary equivalent of a shock jock, his books are often treated as pulp fiction, but in truth his fiction has always had a deep layer of social satire beneath the gore of it all. So while his fans may revel in his razor-sharp cynicism, a closer read reveals a writer who is unafraid to flay open our cultural DNA." Tod Goldberg

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Chuck Palahniuk is the gross-out cartographer of the modern male id, a gutter-brained romanticist and a wildly popular, if queasy-making, authorial voice. … If his sentences are occasionally rough-hewn and his endings a bit too fantastical, so be it. No other contemporary writer makes raging against the machine so compulsively readable." Lily Burana

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"This is an absurd dark comedy about damaged people and the point, to the extent there is one, seems to be that seeking attention can end badly. Palahniuk delivers on the ‘thorough research’ his publisher promises, and his descriptive skills, his love of language and his weird humor are in top form." Mark Lindquist

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2 of 5 Stars
"[A] raw, repetitive, dreary, satirical, smartass and anti-erotic sendup of the sex-video biz. … Palahniuk’s outrageous premise for Snuff definitely suggests a perfect match of gross-out material and bad-boy lit provocateur, but his execution is not up to snuff." John Marshall

San Antonio Exp-News 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Somewhere along the way … Palahniuk became less interested in making readers uncomfortable in order to say something trenchant and more interested in being revolting for its own sake. … This new book, set in the world of pornography, could, on the surface, go either way—scathing and uncomfortable social commentary or vileness for its own sake. In the end, at least for readers who know what they are getting into, it doesn’t accomplish much of either." David Liss

NY Times Book Review 0.5 of 5 Stars
"Snuff, the dry-as-dust tale of people making a documentary about a woman who wants to break (as the promotional copy delicately puts it) ‘the world record for serial fornication,’ is not so much shallow as bitter. Whatever point Palahniuk meant to make seems to have been lost in a self-induced miasma of meaninglessness." Lucy Ellmann

Critical Summary

Palahniuk has followed his tendency towards sensationalism to its logical conclusion and written a novel about a pornographic film, to mixed reactions. Naysayers wrote that Snuff either failed in its satirical role or, worse, Palahniuk has simply run out of ideas and only wants to make readers cringe. Yet other reviewers felt that, as in previous novels, Palahniuk’s strong, character-driven explorations of the unseemly actually reveal a great deal about our society. Certainly, he riffs cleverly on Cassie’s cinematic history ("Gropes of Wrath," for example). But Palahniuk’s play on movies and literature in the context of this novel perhaps points to an important question raised by the New York Times Book Review: "What the hell is going on? The country that produced Melville, Twain and James now venerates King, Crichton, Grisham, Sebold and Palahniuk."