Turn The Page: Snuff by Chuck Palaniuk

snuff by chuck palahniuk

I really loved Rant up until the last 100 pages – I was reading it and I could see where it was headed and I was almost screaming at the book that this wasn’t where I wanted it go. I so enjoyed the writing up until that point that I thought Rant might be able to wrestle its way to the top as my favourite Palahniuk book but then there was the ending. You can forgive a bad beginning if a book gets better (this was how Invisible Monsters was for me) but it is so much harder to forgive a bad ending if you were really in love with the preceding narrative – it’s like celebrating your Ruby Wedding Anniversary and finding out your husband was a bigamist for your whole life: it’s a let down.

I downloaded and read a whole slew of Chuck’s essays and a couple of his short stories and I had recently watched Fight Club again, and watched Postcards From The Future, the documentary on Chuck (more of that elsewhere), so I was approaching Snuff with a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation. I wanted to fall in love with that book but I was nervous that I was going to feel let down again. Sure, no one can love every single thing someone does, and I don’t exactly hate Rant, but I hold Chuck’s work in such high regard that I had high expectations for this book.

I am glad to say that it didn’t disappoint – I felt it was a kindred spirit to Fight Club; had that same punch, that same fire in the belly. There is not a single Palahniuk character, and I believe this about the works I am slightly less enamoured of as well, that do not live and breathe and feel real. Cassie Wright, who for a fair amount of the novel is an object around which the narratives of the other characters rotate, finally emerges as a fully rounded character, as do all of the cast. This is an ensemble piece and a good illustration of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Having a novel that deals with a porn shoot could have fallen flat on its face if those involved weren’t drawn so well. In the end I don’t know how much research was done to get the feel of the actual shoot down, but none of that would work if Palahniuk didn’t have such a grip on what makes a person work. The motivations of his characters and the way these drive the choices they make when confronted with others always convince – there is a maintenance of the integrity of each player that is not always true of every writer; sometimes you question where an author pushes one of their creations because you feel you get to know them well on the journey you follow them on.

Snuff sits well in the company of Palahniuk’s best works: Fight Club, Choke and Survivor, giving us another memorable group of people, looking at a sub-culture not many people would normally delve into, and providing both a well-written journey and a satisfying conclusion.

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