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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Friday, February 1, 2008 11:13 am
Dirty Book, Crowded Bus
Posted by: Keir Graff

When we read in public, we give passersby a glimpse into our souls. (Knowing that, of course, many among us choose their public reading accordingly–don’t tell me you’re enduring the wrist strain of reading Russian classics on the 144 bus because you never read anything lighter.) But for those of us who don’t always choose our own reading, the glimpse may not be an accurate one.

I’ve written about this before, of course. And, this morning, crawling down Lake Shore Drive in a packed bus in a blizzard, I was opening my book so narrowly that it was a little like trying to read the contents of an envelope, trying to ignore the frown of a gray-haired commuter to my left. ”Gimme a break, lady,” I wanted to say, ”I’m working!”

Snuff, by Chuck PalahniukWhat was I reading? Snuff, by Chuck Palahniuk. It’s about an aging porn legend who, as the flap copy puts it, ”intends to cap her legendary career by breaking the world’s record for serial fornication on camera with six hundred men.” (Note how they cleverly avoided the more common word for the act.)

To quote the back-flap further (and doesn’t “back-flap” sound like a good reason to try diet and exercise?):

This wild, lethally funny, and thoroughly researched novel brings the huge yet underacknowledged presence of pornography in contemporary life into the realm of literary fiction at last. Who else but Chuck Palahniuk would dare do such a thing?

Well, Robert Coover would, for one. But I agree completely that it’s a worthy project. I’ve heard all sorts of stunning figures (financial figures; the other kind you have to see) about the size of the porn industry, about how it’s been the driving force in many technological advances, etc. etc. Vast numbers of people are buying and “consuming” porn, but its effect on society has yet to be reflected in the arts in a proportional way. I applaud Palahniuk for his bravery; clearly he has a keen sense of intellectuals’ responsibility to explore our society as a whole, no matter how uncomfortable that journey might make us.

Either that or he wanted to have fun making up fake movie titles like “On Golden Blonde” and “A Separate Piece.”



One Response to “Dirty Book, Crowded Bus”
  1. Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online » Blog Archive » Made-Up Facts, Erotic and Otherwise Says:

    [...] That’s funny, I had much the same feeling after finishing Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel. (Rimshot!) Although there is a clear difference between the two works: In general, the entries tilt towards the intellectual, the magical realist, the transgressive and the gay. In the article on the novelist Jack Fritscher, Fritscher is quoted: “The gay erotic writer is to gay non-erotic writers what Ginger Rogers was to Fred Astaire: gay erotic literature does everything gay literature does, but it does it backwards and in high heels adding to its Olympic degree of difficulty and pleasure”. This is a striking but puzzling metaphor. What sort of shoes is the non-gay erotic writer wearing and for what sort of dance? [...]

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