Academic journal article The Review of Contemporary Fiction

In the Scorpion Garden: 'Hogg.'

Academic journal article The Review of Contemporary Fiction

In the Scorpion Garden: 'Hogg.'

Article excerpt

The secret is never the repressed . . . it is that which no longer

pertains to the order of truth. That which, saturated with itself,

withdraws from itself, plunging into the secret and absorbing

everything surrounding it.

--Jean Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication

In his response to Fiction International's Fall 1993 forum on "Pornography and Censorship" Samuel Delany referred to a "serious" porn novel he'd begun in 1969 and finished in 1973, Hogg. Pulled at the last moment from the original publisher's list, the novel remained unavailable. Fiction International co-editor Larry McCaffery asked to see it for possible publication under FC2's Black Ice Books imprint. Narrated by an eleven-year-old nameless boy who starts off as a prostitute and later hooks up with putrescent, murderous Hogg in a weekend of sexual lechery, scatological waywardness, and Vikingesque "raping and pillaging," the book would undoubtedly offend many readers. Not to mention that this novel might be construed as child pornography-a weighty point, if the book were to be published by a press associated with a university and supported by public funds and grants. FC2, however, decided to go ahead. With favorable blurbs, one from Norman Mailer, Hogg was published not as a paperback of the sort Black Ice Books is noted for, but as a limited edition hardback. Hogg appeared shortly after a more recent pornographic novel by Delany, The Mad Man.

Delany had previously published one porn novel, Tides of Lust, as well as sexually oriented science fiction (Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand and Triton), memoirs of sexual adventures and coming out in the sixties (The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction in the East Village), and a large tome on AIDS encoded as sword-and-sorcery (the Neveryon series). None of these explored the extremities of carnal violence as does Hogg. One question certain to be asked as Hogg becomes known as part of Delany's body of work is why an award-winning science fiction author, noted theorist of such critical books as The American Shore and The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, would write (and, two decades later, publish) such a book. Hogg is not merely a book with graphic scenes; it begins with a sexual act, with violence and filth, and continues, page after page, scene after scene, until the end. all the while interposing necessary ingredients of plot. character. and dialogue among large doses of bodily fluids and contumacious behavior.

Much as in Jerzy Kosinski's first novel The Painted Bird, in Hogg we apprehend a mad world through the unemotional eyes of a young boy who does not speak. In both The Painted Bird (about atrocities of the Second World War) and Hogg (written during Vietnam) the young narrator is moved from one grotesque, prurient scene to the next like an automaton, by the will of others. We never know the names of these narrators or their backgrounds, even less their thoughts--only the actions they perform. Delany's narrator becomes an object of use, a toy, for Hogg, perhaps more animal than human. He does anything Hogg commands him to, without hesitation or comment.

The narrator first encounters Hogg raping and beating a woman in an alley; next, he couples with Hogg through fellatio and sodomy. Hogg, we learn. is a thug, a "rape artist" and terrorizer for hire, with inclinations more homosexual than heterosexual. Hogg may very well be the most vile, disgusting personality to emerge from contemporary American fiction: he never bathes or changes clothes, urinates and defecates in his pants, eats his own various bodily excrete, drinks a lot of beer and eats plenty of pizza to "maintain" his large gut--he has worms and likes it--and enjoys bringing suffering to others, male or female, mostly for pay but sometimes for his own delectation. Yet he is also fascinating: the embodiment of what our society can turn people into, the decaying condition of the human soul. …

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