Saturday, October 04, 2008

600 dudes... one gal

“Snuff” is the title of the latest novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The main plot is inspired by Annabel Chong. But who is she?

Annabel Chong was born and raised in Singapore. She was a student at Raffles Girls' school and Hwa Chong Junior College before going on to study law in London under a scholarship. At the age of 21, she went on to graduate studies in photography, art, and feminist studies at the University of Southern California (USC), where she excelled academically. Chong went on to graduate work in gender studies at USC and currently works in California as an IT programmer. However what makes this feminist famous and an inspiration for a novel is not her remarkable academic record. Annabel Chong is one the biggest porn stars in the history of American pornography. She became famous for engaging in 251 sex acts with about 70 men over a ten-hour period in January 1995.

Annabel Chong claimed to be a feminist who sought to demonstrate that a female has the right to show off as a man does; that a female has the right to be a “stud” and not a “slut”. However for Palahniuk, Chong’s famous movie was “The top-selling porn video of all time: a feminist history lesson lost on countless willy-wankers.” (96)

Chuck Palahniuk’s “Snuff” hovers around Cassie Wright, the porn queen, and her new world record, engaging 600 men in a porn movie in a period of one day. The novel is narrated by four characters. Actors, Mr. 72; Mr. 137, Mr. 600, and Sheila; Cassie’s secretary.

Palahniuk is a transgressional satirist who has attacked the materialistic consumer culture in America several times in his fiction. “Snuff” is no exception. Palahniuk digs deep into layers of his culture to see what pornography has done to people, ranging from the porn stars themselves to the simple teenage “willy-wankers” who consume the porn products.

“Snuff” is surely not the novel you’d expect from Palahniuk. The novel lacks those brilliant epiphanies which are typical of Palahniuk’s verse. Impressionistically speaking, it is not the sort of novel you’d sit down to finish in one go. However there are elements of pure human emotion, like the reflections of Mr. 600, the veteran actor, when he thinks of his first real love; when he didn’t have to fuck like animals, “porking and banging and slamming,” for the sake of HD porn DVD, “... but more like our skin was having a conversation.” (157). Elsewhere, in the soliloquy of Mr. 72 we get to this dark and ironic reflection: “Anytime you need to watch somebody die, die for real, check out how they get their orgasm at the end of a porn.” (178)

I would like to finish with an impressive extract from “Snuff”. It is a part in which Mr. 173 is thinking about Marilyn Monroe, the celebrated American Hollywood icon and sex symbol. As the background information, you should know that Marilyn Monroe went under the pseudonym “Zelda Zonk” at some occasions. Zelda, according to Wikipedia means “female warrior".

“Lying naked, drugged to escape the pain, buried in ice for hours, gave Monroe the solid stand-up tits and ass she wanted for day’s work ...... Monroe dreamed of being respected, an intellectual like Arthur Miller, a respected Stanislavsky trained actor. A dignified human being. That’s who Monroe would become as she travelled without make up, without designer clothes borrowed from a movie studio, with her famous hair tied under a scarf, hiding behind horn-rimmed reading glasses. It was that plain, intelligent, educated actress who called herself Zelda Zonk. When she booked airplane tickets or registered in hotels. Zelda Zonk. Who read books. Who collected art. That was who Marilyn Monroe, the blonde sex goddess, dreamed of being.” (183)


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