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on 11 September 2000
Having explored the vacuousness of life in his first novel 'Closer', controversial gay writer Dennis Cooper set out to examine the boundries between sex and death, fantasy and reality in this second book, perhaps of all his work the one most calculated to appal and offend. This time he places himself, or a character who claims to be himself, at the centre of the narrative. When he is thirteen, 'Dennis' sees a collection of photographs which show a naked teenager bound, mutilated and apparently dead. The effect of these images is to introduce a sharply sadistic streak into his sexual fantasies, to the extent that, even when he discovers, a few years later, that the snuff photographs were really a fake (he meets the supposedly dead boy in person), he has already become unnervingly obsessed with the idea of killing someone himself.
As he grows older and attempts to explain his troubling desires, so too do they become more concentrated in his mind. He wishes to muder a boy, not for the sake of killing him, but to 'understand' him completely. It is not enough for 'Dennis' to deal simply with the external surface of a body: to possess and appreciate it absolutely it is necessary for him to open it up and explore the sights, textures and smells which exist inside it. Put crudely, it is only possible to observe how something works by taking it to bits. 'Dennis' does not see this as a violation but rather an extreme form of adoration, allowing him to feel no sense of remourse or compassion over his 'victims'. In his fantasies, the boys die so that he can fully comprehend their lives. But when 'Dennis' moves from Los Angeles to Amsterdam and starts sending his friends letters which claim he has stepped over the line in has actually begun killing people - letters so detailed and insistent that they appear frighteningly authentic - the reader is faced with a devastating dillema: are they just a continuation of his fantasies, or are these deaths, unlike the snuff pictures, genuinely real?
The very subject matter of the book is likely to put a great many people off before they've even got past the first page, and there's no denying that the constant stream of violent sex, drugged boys and death fantasies becomes almost unbearable as the novel progresses. Cooper's great strength is in forcing the reader out of his passive role and making him take responsibility for reading such a book in the first place. There's a point in the middle of the penultimate chapter, the goriest of the lot, when he says: "I just realised that if you're still reading you must be the person I want you to be." Cooper not only wants to investigate what it says about any writer who is capable of perpetuating such sustained transgression, but also what it says about any reader who is capable of getting through it without throwing the book down in horror/disgust/moral indignation.
But beneath the sensationalist exterior (and there's no doubt that this is Cooper at his most overtly, deliberately shocking) there's a more profound and painfully honest examination of the nature of obsessive desire and sexual fantasies, and how, even if they don't make it into reality, they can still take over and control our lives. We all have someone that we 'love to death', but not since Georges Bataille has a writer set out so adamantly to show us what we might actually mean by it. If you manage to get through it, 'Frisk' is a book which will cause you to realise the tremendous gulf between your own fantasies and your reality, and how prominent a part the former plays in the latter.
Defineitly not for the faint-hearted, but a must for the morally courageous.
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on 28 October 1999
I read Frisk a few weeks ago. I found myself compelled to read all of it after I had started. The whole text flowed well, I think, with a style that is definately not pornography. The scenes of sex and violence were graphic enough without being absurd; I found myself feeling rather detached from the suffering of the victims and I found several of the more graphic sections even funny at times. I believe this is what Dennis meant to occur in the mind of the reader, and he wants us to then assess these emotions and their implications about ourselves. Sartre used stories (e.g. roads to freedom and La Nausea) to expound his philosophy and I felt I learnt from a form of latent philosophy in this book; either way my own personal philosphy was changing by this book (not in the sense of murder _ but body info etc etc.)
read this book.
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on 9 January 2008
This is a haunting novel about an image haunting a kid and transform his life as an adult. It is extremely graphic but never gratuitous, it deals with boundaries, and how extreme we can be, life can be human beings can be, it's an amazing insight of a tortured man and a study on horror.
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on 5 April 2013
I hasten to say that I did NOT buy this book-our neighbours where dumping some books and I was curious.
Shocking, revolting even thought provoking would have been preferable to the life sapping boredom this very badly written book induced.
I will never get back the hours spent trying to read it, and, having read it, I don't know why I bothered.
It's back to the early funny ones for me; David Goodies, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson etc.
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on 29 November 2012
But I liked it. In fact could not put it down. I am a changed man for reading it. If you like dark thngs then go for it .... you wont be disappointed ! Trust me
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VINE VOICEon 30 May 2005
Frisk is the gay American Psycho, and like that horrendous novel it revels in grossly repellant violence, and just like American Psycho, you have to ask yourself what the point is. And it's hard to say. Ellis's novel was supposed to satirise the yuppie greed-is-good 1980s. Okay, it does. But the violence towards women in that book goes on for page after page after page. And after say 15 pages, the reader is justified in saying Okay Brett, I Get The Point Already!! But on and on the violence goes. And so I get to figure that what's happening is that Ellis actually LIKES writing this stuff. Otherwise why go on at such length? And why does he like it, all that describing women being chopped up and tortured in so many disgusting, amusing ways? Well, I have to leave that to each reader to answer, and likewise answer why the reader likes reading it as well, and why so many many readers (vastly male it seems from the Amazon reviews) think American Psycho ROCKS! So, Dennis Cooper writes about gay sadomasochistic sex and murder. And in this book, plenty of coprophagy. The style he uses to do this is uniformly dull, lifeless, enervated, flat, affectless. It's... oh, I dunno, whatever. One critic describes it as "cool, immaculate prose [which] manages to convey intense romanticism alongside the macabre temptations of taboo." Yeah, right. Does that make it good, this breaking of taboos? Dennis Cooper does step out of his cool, immaculate style and gets quite excitable when he gets to the part about carving up teenaged boys. But then he lapses into a kind of boredom again. And the Los Angeles Times Book Review critic says in the blurb on the front "destined to classic status". And I say, these critics are degenerates. This book serves no purpose, except maybe, you know, if people like to read about torturing boys to death. I mean, some people might. So to them, it's good. Might even be a classic, I guess. Do I have the right to say that people shouldn't get their fun reading about pain and death and sadistic torture for page after page?
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on 8 February 2001
When I finished this book, I threw it against the wall. By far the most unnecessarily graphic novel I've read to date, I will forever carry images this plot created stocked inside with all other baggage of sin I've witnessed. This book is seriousily wrong, and if you see it in a high school library, throw it away. Beyond the fact that he (narrator Dennis) spends a whole letter recounting the fantasies of senseless murders; exploring the anatomies of his victims; vicous rape Genesis 19 style ... what's it all mean? To his credit, Cooper does show the relationship between pornography and violence and how a dabbling interest develops into obsession. Cooper has a relaxed enough style to get through this small text (my soon-to-be-burned edition is 128 pgs. w/ a 12 font) but it doesn't need to go any further: He reaches unknown heights of dementia with this text. If you have a knack for gay porn, slasher violence and drug abuse, please make yourself that much more embedded into a subculture that will pave that smooth road to hell.
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on 8 January 2001
If the idea of "Novel as Endurance Test" appeals then you are so lucky that you might just cry. "Frisk" is simply horrible - and more importantly - not accomplished enough to keep you reading. There is no tension in the writing: no beauty or intellect or prowess that encourages the reader to believe that this is anything other than an experiment in reader-bating. But readers can stop reading (much more easily than an audience can leave the Theatre or Cinema) and unless you are the kind of boy who likes being kicked in the head repeatedly (for that is the nearest sensation there is to reading any of Cooper's monotonous, fetid and amateurish shockfest), you probably won't bother slogging through to the irritating and mundane conclusion.
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