On SNUFF (Chuck Palahniuk) by Joseph Suglia
If it sustained itself over countless eternities, a roomful of typing monkeys would eventually recreate every library in the world, reproducing every word in every volume. This theorem, known as the “infinite-monkey hypothesis,” could also be applied to Snuff (2008) by chuckpalahniuk. After vomiting eight completely worthless books, each a static repetition of the one before, chuckpalahniuk has finally generated something worthy of being read, much in the same way that an eternal scriptorium of monkeys would also generate at least some books that are worthy of being read.
While I am not an admirer of his previous fiction, Snuff does something that chuckpalahniuk’s earlier efforts failed to do: It addresses the conditions of its possibility and reception. Here we have a hive of drones waiting to consume the body of their pornographic priestess. They are very much like those who consume Snuff–an unintelligent, slovenly, shallow, hastily written, messily constructed McFiction sandwich larded with an impasto of moldy tartar sauce.
The words “dude” and “kid” are used more than any others, the font is so large that your grandmother could read it through her cataracts, and the “research,” such as it is, extends no further than Google. Not merely is chuckpalahniuk’s language impoverished in relation to that of other published writers; he is not even able to write on the level of a sentient adult. Indeed, the “author,” a forty-six-year-old man at the time he disgorged this vomitous book, writes as if he were any unremarkable twelve-year-old American boy. Here are some representative examples of chuckpalahniuk’s prose:
“Those tests that Shelia had dudes take, the clinic reports most dudes had to bring, none of that’s foolproof” (128).
“The locker-room smell of some dude’s bare feet, we breathe that smell like [sic] those cheeses [sic] from France that smell like your sneakers in high school that you’d wear in gym class all year without washing them” (52).
“High school,” indeed.
It is depressing that chuckpalahniuk has yet to craft a style. One might claim that his infantile, agrammatical manner of expression IS a style, that he is only miming the illiterate stupidity of his characters. If that is the case, why does every one of chuckpalahniuk’s characters sound exactly like the next, giving the form and body of his work the disturbing appearance of an unsynchronized Christmas carol sung by a chorus of stuttering lobotomy patients? chuckpalahniuk’s syntax is irritating, tedious, inane, and torturous to read: SUBJECT + PRONOUN + VERB + OBJECT.
If read as a work of art, one will fail to do justice to this book. Snuff is by no means art; it is a cultural production, and like all cultural productions, resonates with the time and place in which it was written. Despite his intellectual and rhetorical shortcomings, chuckpalahniuk has succeeded in producing something that perfectly captures the cultural moment.