So how does one go about describing a book such as Snuff?
Sure, it’s your familiar obscene Palahniuk premise. Throw in some twists and turns, some degrading circumstances, add a sprinkle of cringe and you’re left with Snuff; this kitsch-art piece of contemporary literature. And just like kitsch art, we’re being forced to feel emotions for something that isn’t there (at least not on a surface level). Hell, not even on a deeper level for that matter.
Three Men and a Wrangler
The story switches perspectives between three guys and a female ‘talent’ wrangler (each given separate chapters) expressing their feelings towards porn queen Cassie Wright, who the guys are waiting to fuck in a 600-man world record of serial fornication. Essentially, an orgy-in-a-line; giving three men, at a time, one minute to do their deed. Oh, and did I mention that it will all be themed in a World War II style, Nazi uniforms included!
Yep, 600 Nazi soldiers taking down, or going down on, one woman.
Pornstar Annabel Chong
The premise is based on the record set by real-life adult actress Annabel Chong, who engaged in 251 sex acts with around 10 men over the course of 10 hours. Annabel Chong said that she wanted to ‘challenge gender roles’ when creating her record.
No such undertone in this book.
Nevertheless, Chong is mentioned throughout Snuff, along with a lot of other trivia; most of which is blurted out by Cassie to her assistant Sheila. Particular references to Valeria Messalina, third wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius, are made and point to her promiscuous nature.
One is the story of her all-night sex competition with a prostitute in Book X of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, according to which the competition lasted for 24 hours and Messalina won with a score of 25 partners.
This is a gender-bias that is held against her, due to both the times and the role of women in society.
Anyway, back to Snuff…
Waiting Your Turn
The event takes a twist when one of the waiting pud-pullers, Mr. 600, suggests that Cassie Wright has no intention of living beyond the end of the day and this is her act of suicide – to be pounded to death by 600 blokes. What a way to go!
Sheila, the wrangler, offers light relief in between some of the comical contradictions of the various guy’s perspectives. But what are her motives in all of this? How did she get this job in the first place? Unlike Cassie, Sheila is a fleshed out character, dare I say, a feminist amongst the sea of half-naked men. She has ideas, feelings and arguably the only character to have any sort of character arc throughout the whole book. Imagine that.
Whilst waiting, the screens above the males play Cassie’s previous films, none of which add to her character in any way and only serve to further cement the life she has lived prior. All of the film titles are parodies of blockbuster movies; The Da Vinci Load, Chitty Chitty Gang Bang and World Whore One.
You get the gist.
The three men waiting are relatively recognisable, mostly adhering to character types from Palahniuk’s previous work, which makes them at times sympathetic. And at other times downright pathetic. Loneliness is a big theme running throughout all of them along with their desires to be loved. It’s in Cassie that they all think they’ve found their true love.
Comparisons to Art
Often garish, with bright studio lights and satin sheets, the book strikes me as being similar to that of fine-art photographer David LaChapelle’s style. Working in high contrast and creating situations that get people talking, these photos are distinct, much like the bibliography of Chuck Palahniuk.
Despite criticism, I will praise Palahniuk’s views on pornography in the mainstream, a taboo subject that is often overlooked and even revered by many. Despite its exaggerated tones and full-on grotesque scenarios, it does raise questions about adult actors, their careers, and who they are off camera. But that’s about it.
Who Is Porn-Queen Cassie Wright?
Unfortunately, due to its hap handed nature, we learn little of Cassie Wright, and the situations surrounding her porn career. We learn of how she entered the business but from then on we’re given little substance as to why she’d continue. What are her desires from all of this (apart from providing for her adopted child)? The learning of the child brings forward an overbearing Oedipus complex which lingers with one of the narrators up until the very end.
This book is not designed to win over any new fans, and is clear in its targeting of those who’ve enjoyed Palahniuk’s previous work, Fight Club included.
If you’ve read Fight Club and you’re looking for another Palahniuk book to read, go and get Invisible Monsters. It’s much more enjoyable and offers a greater deal of character development. They’ll both quench your desire to read but one will leave you still feeling hungry, whilst the other will make you full but ultimately feeling a little queasy. It’s your choice.
Closing Thoughts on Snuff
It’s unfortunate that Snuff is a bit of a let-down. Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favourite authors and it always hurts a little to read something not-so-good coming from somebody you admire. It’s the equivalent of finding out your Grandparents won’t live forever.
There was an opportunity to make a statement here. Going back to Annabel Chong for a moment, her main objective was that of a feminist perspective. To add that notion to Cassie’s character would have given greater depth to her character but nope. These small additions are what separates Palahniuk’s previous work to this; this over-saturated, 00’s neon-inspired-porn-flick spiel, that falls flat on its face by the end.
Have you read Snuff? What did you make of the plot? Disturbing or Shlock? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
Bostock, J. (n.d.). Pliny the Elder, The Natural History John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A., Ed. Retrieved May 05, 2018,
Heaven to Hell (Courtney Love) by David LaChapelle. (2006). Retrieved May 05, 2018,
(2008, June 01). Snuff dark, with underlying desire. Retrieved May 05, 2018,