Frisk, by Dennis Cooper

Frisk opens with a description of a series of five pictures. They're apparently of a teenage kid who's been strangled and had his ass carved open. (echoes of Cooper's last book, Closer.) As a kid, "Dennis," the point-of-view character of the book, sees these pictures. The sections that follow detail "Dennis'" responses to these pictures over the course of 20 years. "Dennis" develops a concept of getting to understand teenage boys more completely by exploring their bodies. But as much as "Dennis" thinks it might be neat to really get to know a kid by cutting him open, when he gets specific about it, he seems dissatisfied that any more knowledge would be gained. He develops his ideas as far as he can, and finally performs what hopefully will be an exorcism of his obsession.

Frisk is more personal than Closer. The creepy snuff artist in Closer was such a monster that it was inconceiveable that he was ever one of the young, fucked-up kids he dissects. But "Dennis" has also been the punk kid "Spit;" he has been a dark-haired, vacant young kid like those he might cut up. In Frisk, Cooper takes the creepy stuff upon himself, instead of putting it on a distant figure. As always, Cooper's writing is tightly focused on its subject and extremely deliberate in style, although it's not without moments of humor.

Why do so many boys of the queercore scene like Dennis Cooper's books? (I don't think there's much in his books for women; like Burroughs, he never writes about women, thus avoiding the embarassment of writing about them inaccurately.) He gets the punk details right. And there's the punk rock thrill of doing the forbidden, reading a book straight society, and a lot of gay society too, would find completely depraved. Seems like that's as good a reason as any to read Frisk.

[I have done two interviews with Dennis Cooper, in the years 1991 and 2000]

People In Trouble, by Sarah Schulman

It's definitely worth noting that Sarah Schulman's People in Trouble is now out in paperback. Her fourth novel, it involves a love triangle of a married woman, her husband, and her female lover, against a background of ACT-UP activism and New York real estate criminals. Highly recommended.


From Holy Titclamps #7
Copyright ©1991, 1996 Larry Roberts

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