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Frisk by Dennis Cooper
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's review
Sep 23, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: 2011

a tough book to "rate," and a tough one to unravel.

this is my first official dennis cooper novel, though i've followed his blog fairly closely for several years. i expected something harsh, but it actually exceeded my expectations in the taboo-breaking department. the majority of it reads like a hybrid of the marquis de sade and a larry clark movie. fucked up sex, abstract philosophizing, vaguely bored man-children, etc. sometimes the combo works and sometimes it's just unpleasant to get through.

for a book that deals with snuff films, rape, murder and pedophilia, it's remarkably un-psychological. the various heinous acts that are described within its pages are not only presented without a moral/ethical barometer, they're also presented without the power dynamics that usually propel sadistic fantasies. the novel's antagonist ("dennis cooper," a nice touch) is kind of a pothead mad scientist. he's not particularly interested in bullying his nubile young victims. he's more interested in witnessing what might happen while he disembowels them and so forth. in cooper's work, this abstract experimentation is presented as highly erotic, but it reads as somewhat flat due to its lack of personal involvement. this distinguishes the book from, say, the poetic masochism of a jean genet novel.

as a fairly vanilla straight person, the fetishism of the book failed to lure me in on a pornographic level. but it was kind of interesting to look at it "from the outside," so to speak. can fantasies of this sort exist without power dynamics? like a good nietzschean/foucauldian, i'm tempted to say that power is the fuel that ignites this sort of stuff fundamentally, but it's interesting to approach the subject with pseudo-scientific detachment, i guess. the absence of a clearly identified power struggle seems to be the book's central idea (beyond pornographic descriptions), and i wish it was approached in more depth. on the other hand, cooper makes clear that the book's morbid attractions are impossible to put into language. i guess i wish he tried a bit harder though.
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