Frisk by Dennis Cooper - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

Frisk by Dennis Cooper

by Kristopher Cook
Frisk by Dennis Cooper Book Cover
In unsparingly confessional mode, Cooper leads the reader into a confrontation with what they get out of fantasized scenes of violence. A brilliant novel -- not a genre horror work but, rather, a critique of the power of genre.
Genre: Contemporary
Available from: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Frisk is one of those books that tries to do too many things at once; pulsating, transgressive, horrific, erotic, and mysterious. And like a lot of those books, it falls short of being a great read.

However, There’s still enough to like here; the mood is incredibly atmospheric, the characters appear sinister with ulterior motives, and the book is relatively easy to read – in terms of the language used.

Strangely, Frisk fits into the genres of both LGBT literature and horror, not a mix I see every day. This is mostly due to the narrator sexual relationships with other men, and the masochistic acts that take place between these individuals.

Dennis Cooper has managed to create a profoundly horrific book, mostly due to its graphic depictions on violent sex. The problem with this though, it can start to border on the low-levels of The 120 Days of Sodom or Blood and Guts in High School.

An Image Burns

Focusing on the narrator of the story, Dennis discusses his current relationship, while several chapters tell stories of his adolescence where he was deeply disturbed by the exposure to snuff pornography.

One image, in particular, stays burnt in his memory – that of a 13-year-old boy with long hair tied to a bed. He’s naked and looks to have been raped, tortured, and then killed.

In the present day, Dennis’s lover Julian leaves him to travel through France.

At this point, Dennis, aged 18, decides to begin a sexual relationship with Julian’s younger brother, Kevin. This leads to hard drug-taking, psychotic relationships and dangerous sex with others.

Several years on, Julian receives a letter from Dennis who claims to have gone on a killing spree in Amsterdam. To check the validity of the letter, both Julian and Kevin travel to Holland to check out Dennis’s claims.

Cooper uses Dennis’s letter to shift the book into a more hallucinatory tone. While the violence described is both detailed and graphic, it’s also beyond the books more sombre tone.

I guess this is where I begin to have problems with Frisk.

Human bodies are such garbage bags.
Dennis Cooper, Frisk

On the one hand, it tries to remain grounded with its relationships, using the fantasy elements to explore darker sides of human sexuality, but on the other, the line between the two is far too blurred.

I admire that the book is different from much that I’ve read before, but that doesn’t suddenly make it groundbreaking.

Just because the structure is mixed up and the actions taken by the characters are extreme, the book still lacks an enjoyable plot – similar to Blood and Guts in High School.

Closing Thoughts

Frisk is one of those books that’s incredibly difficult to recommend, and not just because of its deplorable nature.

Parts are well written and engaging, atmospheric and absorbing. But for all these chapters there are at least two bad ones, droning on and not supplying much substance to the overall reading experience.

With that said, if you feel like reading something completely off-the-wall bonkers and incredibly graphic, then go ahead.

For anyone looking for a more straightforward read, then it has to be avoided at all costs.

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