Monday, April 25, 2011

The Cannonball Read III - Osaka Slide: #8 - Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk

Note: This is the first of five reviews in the Author Appreciation series, which is currently showcasing the work of Chuck Palahniuk.

It's so good to be reading Palahniuk again.  Honestly, the man's one of the best authors of his time and he continues to be consistently entertaining, whether he blows your mind or doesn't.  That's not saying that his non-mind blowing works are less inferior, it's just that Chuck focuses on one of two things: the characters or the plot.  Snuff is one of those books where he focuses more on the characters, and in his doing so he makes the actual plotting seem more interesting than it would under more traditional story telling methods.

Cassie Wright wants to die...or at least that's what it seems like when she agrees to film a 600 man gang bang in a bid to secure her position in the annals of Porn Star history.  What began with a casting call lead to a room of 600 guys standing around: primping, preening, preparing, and waiting for their shot with Ms. Wright.  Throughout the day's events we're privy to four perspectives:

- Mr. 600, aka Branch Bacardi: One of Cassie's former co-stars, also looking for a boost.
- Mr. 137, aka Dan Banyan: A washed out TV star who wants to jump start his career after some sordid rumors.
- Mr. 72: a kid wants to save his mother...who's performing in the room upstairs from him.
- Sheila: the talent wrangler who put this whole show together.

Each individual contributes a rather interesting piece to the overall plot of the book, which isn't all that complex, really.  Where the complexity, and the beauty of the story, comes in is with the characters.  We see Mr. 600 reminisce about the old days and how he deals with aging.  Mr. 72's coming to terms with some rather messed up family issues, and ultimately try to resolve the impotence caused by them.  Mr. 137 talks about how fame's fickle finger found him, and how it threatens to leave him due to his life choices to chase it.  And Sheila...well Sheila's the only person who knows what's really going on, and she's playing it close to the clipboard.  Through these four people, we get to know Cassie Wright.  Her life, her times, and her ultimate place in history. 

Palahniuk knows how to write for multiple voices just as well as he does with his stories that deal with a singular protagonist.  Instead of one person's emotional baggage, we get that of four people.  Four people who constantly interlock and collide as they vie for their own personal moment of fame, which will contribute to Ms. Wright's very own fame itself.  The author explores the themes of fame and aging, as well as just how screwed up your family can make you, in parallel tracks that run at the same time, but ultimately collide in the end.  The wisdom of our parents influences us to do the things we do in life, and not only does Chuck see this, but he exploits it for all of its darkly comedic and dramatic worth.  If anything, this feels like Palahniuk's most sentimental work since I read Choke, the only difference being it eases up on the darkly comedic and veers a little more towards the dramatic.  It's not a mind blower, but Snuff is still an entertaining examination on the twisted condition that is fame, and just what it does to us (and those around us) in the long run.

Up Next: Book Two in the Palahniuk Appreciation Series, Pygmy

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