FRISK by Dennis Cooper


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 Cooper (Closer, ) specializes in graphic forays into the punk/gay subculture of pornographic sex and mad-slasher violence. To justify such indulgence, he layers the narrative with references to Sade and Genet, his patron saints--but his latest, about a narrator obsessed with fantasies of sexual mutilation, fails to transform voyeurism into art, despite its pretensions. Narrator ``Dennis'' is fixated on death and sex, especially when the two are combined as a way to gain esoteric knowledge. While AIDS has made it more difficult here to romanticize death in that way, Cooper assembles his usual assortment of fetishes, embodied in such characters as Julian (``as far as I'm concerned, love's what you feel for someone you don't know very well, if at all''); Julian's kid brother Kevin (``a Julian replica, only shorter, and sort of too pretty''); and Henry (``Sometimes...I wish I could just sort of temporarily die''). Cooper on one level paints a grotesque, effective portrait of disaffected and marginalized homosexuals, but he overplays his hand so garishly that much of this reads like self-parody or black humor, depending on your tastes. At any rate, it comes to a finish in Holland, where Dennis has gone to live, writing back to Julian about men and boys he has murdered in a series of ritualistic killings. But Julian, fascinated, arrives with Kevin only to discover that it's all a figment of Dennis's imagination. On the train, Julian is left with pleasant memories of Dennis--not ``the psychotic me, but the teenager gazing purposefully into the holes in boys' bodies.'' Only Cooper's ability to get away with murder saves this from being a total put-on, for at least he does offer a sober glimpse of aimless dissipated lives. It's too bad that his conventional pseudo-clinical treatment of such lives is more jaded and monotonous than revelatory.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8021-1399-0
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1991


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