This is a novel about a record-breaking gang-bang featuring one legendary porn queen and six hundred obliging men. Except... it's not. Because Palahniuk's never as simple as that. Told from alternating and often conflicting viewpoints - Numbers 72 (a young man), 137 (a shamed TV star) and 600 (a porn veteran), and the 'talent wrangler', Sheila - this is actually a novel about the seediness of the adult entertainment industry, the vacuity of Hollywood and the deceptive nature of screen beauty. At the opening of the book, everyone looks good and has a reputation to uphold; by the end their secrets have been revealed and the layers of makeup and ego and personal history have been peeled away to reveal something uglier, smaller and deeply sad. It didn't rock my world like Rant, which I still occasionally find myself mulling over nearly a year on - but if you're not easily offended it was a relatively quick read and still pulled me on at breakneck pace towards the inevitable bizarre finale...
Favourite part: Palahniuk's trademark devotion to throwing in loads of pithy little facts about his subject, the more offbeat the better - I stopped every few pages to Google something, only to find it was actually true and not just part of his fiction. Some of my favourite examples from this particular novel:
- During the making of Singin' in the Rain, Gene Kelly had to film the title song for several days in a row while running a temperature of 103° and dancing in 'rain' made by mixing water with milk.
- Marilyn Monroe used to cut down the heel of one of her shoes to make one leg shorter than the other, giving her a real wiggle when she walked.
- Tallulah Bankhead used to grind eggshells into a glass of water and drink down the mixture, scratching her throat and giving her a deeper, more sultry voice.
- During the Cold War, American spies had cyanide cast into their glasses. If they were caught, they were meant to casually chew the curved earpieces, killing them almost immediately.
- Roy Fitzgerald was a giggly, clumsy actor with a high-pitched voice. He was deliberately exposed to someone with strep throat, then advised to exert his vocal chords until they were damaged enough that when he got better, his voice was lower. Then he changed his name to Rock Hudson.
If nothing else, this novel has been an excellent source of genuinely interesting trivia to throw at people over the last few days! :)
Source: I borrowed this book from Chesterfield Library.