Thursday, February 11, 2010


So, I just finished this book by Douglas Coupland (Generation A) that I'll write about in a few days. After I finished it, I thought, gee, Coupland's kind of like Augusten Burroughs or Chuck Palahniuk although maybe not as creative and not as frantic. As if to prove it to myself, I picked up Snuff by Palahniuk.

A few years ago a friend said they saw Palahniuk read and said more than one person fainted at the reading because it was so shocking. Can you imagine, getting the vapors in this day and age? Anyway, this book is kind of like that - like, if you're reading it in a public place, you might find yourself holding the book half-closed so no one peeks over your shoulder and says OHMYGODWHATAREYOUREADING?

It's about a group of people who are waiting for their scene in a 600 person porn film gang bang to take place. And it's crazy-graphic and not for the faint of heart. I think what makes the book rather fascinating is that Palahniuk intersperses a healthy dose of thoughtful examination into the creation and participation of porn, and also into the extremes of ... shall we say... acting. Because, if you consider, for example, that the creation of a porn movie is not unlike the creation of any movie that requires the actor to go to some extreme lengths to portray his or her character, then you could conclude that porn actors and actresses simply go quite a far way for their craft. Palahniuk cites a number of examples of mainstream actors who go to such extreme lengths, a well-known example being the actor who played the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz who suffered quite a bit from the metallic paint his character required.

By chance, a certain husband rented a movie, a very famous and influential 1976 Franco-Japanese film (from Netflix, fyi) called The Realm of the Senses which was pretty much straight-up porn, although fairly gorgeous, art-house porn full of all the things you hope to find in mainstream movies and have no expectations for at all in porn - like good lighting and characterization and beautiful sets and a nice storyline. There's also excellent, highly intellectual socio- and cultural analyses in the blu-ray commentary by scholar Tony Rayns who explains that the actors were actually mainstream actors who happened to go to extreme lengths (all the way) (get it?) for their roles.

I think Palahniuk is a very smart, very clever writer who's extremely compelling and really exciting to read. If you're a Palahniuk fan, you'll probably enjoy this book, but I otherwise wouldn't recommend it unless you consider yourself to be Outrageously Open-minded or really like porn titles like, you know, The Wizard of Ass, of which it is chock-a-block.

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