First published back in May of 1991, US author Dennis Cooper’s second book in his ‘George Miles Series’ (and fifth novel to be published) was the infamously graphic ‘Frisk’. The tale was later adapted to film by Todd Verow in 1995.
Dennis could pinpoint the very beginnings of his sexual fixation with brutality, murder and dismemberment to when he was just thirteen. At this impressionable young age, Dennis would visit a seedy magazine and comic shop called Gypsy Pete’s, where he would peruse the dirty magazines for hours on end. And as Dennis became better known to the shop owner, the magazines he was offered started to move towards those showing male-on-male action, until finally one day, he was shown a collection of disturbing photographs showing a young boy who had been violently tied up and appeared to be dead. Furthermore, the photos showed what appeared to be a huge gaping wound tearing apart his backside. The pictures initially shocked and repelled the young and impressionable Dennis. And he would never return to Gypsy Pete’s. However, over time, memories of the pictures planted a seed in his mind. And with it, a powerful obsession began to develop.
Later, at the age of seventeen, Dennis found himself having sex with the very same boy who had been photographed in the supposed ‘snuff’ pictures he’d viewed at Gypsy Pete’s. The boy, who had introduced himself as Henry, sobered up from the drug-induced state when Dennis quizzed him on the photos. Reflecting upon a strange period from his past which he barely remembers.
From here the seed for sexual gratification through violence towards those that he lusts after grew. And with Julian moving away to France, Dennis’ life would follow a strange series of paths, seeing him change his name for a short time to ‘Spit’ and ultimately allowing his sexual fantasies to overwhelm his life.
But it’s whilst Dennis is away in Amsterdam, that he writes to Julian in a hope of reconnecting with him. In a hope that Julian too is in some way like him. And in that letter, Dennis tells of how his fantasies have developed into something that is beyond anything they had ever experienced together. And it’s a letter that is too shocking, too repellent, and too terrifying to surely ever be true…
Cooper’s second novel in his ‘George Miles Series’ of five books is undoubtedly the author’s most infamous offering due to its graphic and shocking nature. Admittedly, for the first two-thirds of the novel, it mostly details scene-after-scene of elaborately-detailed gay sex, along with smatterings of (increasing) violence and a worrying ‘snuff’ angle that creeps into the sexual exploits. This alone can be quite difficult to wade through for those who have not encountered such overtly pornographic literature before. But this is just the precursor for the real hard-hitting and downright uncomfortable assault on the senses that is to come in the latter portion of the book – all within an incredibly graphic letter that is detailed from our narrator to his ex-lover.
Written in a strangely roving first-person-perspective, the tale is delivered from the point-of-view of a character named Dennis, who (I may suggest) is very possibly suggested to be the author himself. Dennis is a difficult character to connect with. He’s (no doubt purposefully) only faintly sketched out at all as far as his physical attributes go. However, psychologically and emotionally, this character is a complexly-detail mess. He’s an insatiable void - driven by his sexual fantasies and disturbingly magnified desires. Quite frankly, Dennis is a sex-addict who’s compelled to perform increasingly aggressive and intrusive acts upon those that he becomes obsessed with.
And that’s really the key to the story. Obsession. It’s a fictional tale that shows how someone’s fantasies can escalate completely out of control. Even if these acts remain purely in the character’s fantasy world, the sheer obscene and destructive nature of these urges will totally overwhelm his life.
Dennis is dominated by his sexual compulsion to experience every aspect of those that he lusts after. To know everything about them. To smell, taste, examine and take apart those that he feels ‘in love’ with, in order to feed his sexual obsession. Dennis is a potential serial killer. A sexual monster, spiralling into an out-of-control abyss of depravity.
And so, as Dennis is an obsessive, accordingly the narration of his sexual acts are described in a hard-to-swallow vivid clarity. The scenes of gay sex are strong, incredibly detailed and without a hint of reserve. Dennis explores his lovers’ bodies, especially their most intimate parts, with an obsessive attention to detail. And with this aspect alone the novel can be an off-putting read for some.
But it’s when the reader eventually gets to the letter written by Dennis to his ex-lover, Julian, that the real heavy-handed shock value of the book kicks in. No longer is it just sex, drug-use and an increasing use of violence. The sadomasochistic drive has developed into something far darker. And in this lengthy letter, Dennis describes (in the same vivid detail) how far his fantasies have pushed him.
Expect explicit scenes involved necrophilia, coprophillia, paedophilia, violence, mutilation, murder and utter depravity. Expect to be kicked in the guts by an insatiable torrent of violence and visceral gore. Expect to be repelled to the point of questioning yourself for reading on. But you do. For some reason you just carry on through this quagmire of pornographic depravity. And it’s because of this that Cooper has you dragged into a world of moral degeneration that forces you to look at your own sexual urges. Makes you question your own secret fantasies. That makes you think about who you are, and why you are somehow a part of this horrifying perversion.
If you’ve read Samuel R Delany’s ‘Hogg’ (1995) or Poppy Z Brite’s ‘Exquisite Corpse’ (1996) then you’re in good company here. It’s a tough read, and can be especially so for heterosexual readers due to the sheer graphic nature of the homosexual acts which consume the entire tale. But ultimately there’s something very intimate that happens between the reader and the novel that makes ‘Frisk’ something much more than just violent porn. Reading the book is an experience. And if you can stomach it – I urge you to read on.
The novel runs for a total of 128 pages.
© DLS Reviews