My books are always about people struggling to gain or maintain power

Author of the worlwide famous novel Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk continues his exploration of trangressive fiction with Snuff, where we follow the actress Cassie Wright on her way to try to break the world record for serial fornication porn movies, on camera, with six hundred men.

The whole novel takes place during a gang-bang, with 600 men and Cassie Wright in the role of her life. At one point, she actually says that those people are all her children. Could she be some sort of modern-day incarnation of Gaia, able to give birth to beauty and to provoke chaos at the same time?

Gaia? I like how you think! Through her movies Cassie Wright is the only sexual ‘teacher’ those 600 men have known, and they’re desperate to please her and gain her approval. The writer David Sedaris once told me not to worry about what I’d say to people as I autographed their books at public events. David explained that the writer communicates something important to the reader, after that the reader is compelled to communicate something to the writer. The writer’s role at book signings is to listen. In a similar way Cassie has shown something profound to her viewers, and in Snuff they’ve come to each tell her something in return. The secret is that this novel is based on the anxiety I feel when meeting hundreds of readers. So many people rush forward and tell me shocking, personal stories, and after six hundred-plus interactions I feel a little bit gang-banged.

In this novel, we don’t really quite know who owns the power. Men are just numbers, unnamed bodies that Cassie uses to break her record, but on the other hand, they have the capacity, one by one, to damage her, and even to kill her. Is that a way to reverse the stereotypes linked to X-rated movies, where domination only comes from one side?

My books are always about people struggling to gain or maintain power. Who dominates whom is mostly determined by perspective; that’s why the narrative perspective in Snuff constantly rotates from character to character. In Fight Club, Choke, Tell-All – every one of my novels — people claiming to be the victims are so often the villains. The meekest characters often control everything.

Did you actually get to attend the shooting of an X-rated movie or did you do extra research?

God bless people who make films, any films, because that work seems so tedious. We love the finished product, but the shooting is painfully boring to watch. So, no, I have not attended an x-rated movie shoot. I did research a lot of historical details about ‘gang-bang’ films and the ways that conventional actors have injured and sacrificed themselves to achieve the perfect performance. That subject: Martyring oneself for one’s art, is fascinating.

Snuff is going to be adapted for film. Do you have anyone in mind for the role of Cassie Wright ? Do you think that an actress who does not come from X-rated movies could play this part?

Thank you for asking about the up-coming film. I love the idea of a film being made about a book about a film. It’s so post-modern. Whoever plays the role of Cassie will have to embrace Bette Davis’ esthetic of looking bad in order to look good. Kathleen Turner would be wonderful. So would Jessica Lang. But the actor would have to be someone who’s proven that she’s got the talent and guts to transcend her initial power of youthful beauty. Ironic as it sounds, I doubt if an actor from adult films could play the part of a washed-up porn star. Real porn stars are less actors than they are athletes.

Even if the chapters are alternating narratives, we eventually get to “hear” Cassie Wright. But isn’t a real legend a mute legend?

Mute? Hardly. A real legend must be infinitely quotable, like Lincoln or Gandhi. The trick to becoming famous is to present yourself in small images, gestures or memes that can be reproduced easily and that make an impression on people whom you’ll never meet in person. “The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club”: that slogan will survive long after I’m gone. Sigh.