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Old 07-09-2009, 07:08 PM
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"Hogg" by Samuel R. Delany

There was a recent thread about "evil books" - some of the ones mentioned were the Turner Diaries, Mein Kampf and other Nazi works, and something called "Hogg." Whoever mentioned it didn't say much about it other than that it was really disgusting and that there was child-molestation, rape and other sexual perversions on every single page. So naturally I had to look it up; after reading the description: "Three days in the life of rapist-for-hire Hogg and his eleven-year-old accomplice" and the label of one of the most "unpublishable books" of all time, I had to order it.

Two days after it arrived in the mail, I finished it.

I figured Crash by J.G. Ballard would be the most perverted and twisted book I ever read. Well, sorry, Ballard, you've been dethroned. There's no comparison between Crash and Hogg whatsoever. The activities depicted in Crash may be perverse, bizarre, sickening and extremely explicit, but everyone is so polite in that book. There's no rudeness whatsoever; in fact, I think there are only one or two swear words in the whole book. Everything is clean, clinical, precise, and medical-sounding, as is Ballard's style.

Hogg is a different ballgame entirely. Here's a little sample:
Quote:
"Okay..." he grunted. I'm shittin' and shootin'..." His asshole, loose as it was, opened further around my tongue. Something nudged my tongue-tip. I held a buttock with one hand, his balls with the other, and tried to scoop.

Shit stinks. But it don't taste like anything.

That nigger shit a horse turd too!

I bit. It mashed out against the corner of my mouth. I chewed. It was like sour starch paste. And grainy. And, when he shot - I felt the under-tube on his cock thicken across the skin between my fingers - my face was pushed back by his clamping butt. When I could go forward, my cheeks slipped on what coated his. I licked some more.
Or how about the introduction of the title character...

Quote:
"They call me Hogg because a hog lives dirty. I don't wash none. And when I get hungry, I eat my own snot. I been wearin' these clothes since winter. I don't even take my dick out my pants to piss most times, unless it's in some cunt's face. Or all over a cocksucker like you. What I usually do is park the truck in the sun with the light comin' in and piss my pants up somethin' terrible." The truck turned another corner; he dropped one hand from the carpeted wheel between his legs, hefted his meat around some - but I couldn't tell if he was doing it or thinking about it. "Yeah, boy, all that nice hot stuff, running down my leg, and squirmin' my ass around in it...I got worms, boy - had 'em ever since I was a kid. But I won't get rid of 'em cause I like the way they make my asshole itch. I gotta drink a lot of beer and eat a lot of pizza pies and French fried potatoes to keep a gut like this and all them little fuckers fed. I got a hairy ass and it sure cakes up crusty. But I just don't believe in wipin' when I got a freaky little son of a bitch like you to eat it out for me. Now, how do you like that?"
Mind you, the narrator is 11 years old. The book starts out with him fucking his 12-year-old male friend; then the friend's 15-year-old sister comes down and fucks both of them. Then a biker gang comes in and fucks the three of them, then a group of black men come in and fuck them, and then finally the 15-year-old girl's father comes down and fucks all of them. Those are the first four pages of the book, described in the most explicit and filthy manner possible.

The whole rest of the book is like that, illuminating the reader with detailed descriptions of things like dick-cheese, self-mutilation of the penis, coprophagy, bizarre gang-rapes and bikers, all narrated in the most enthusiastic tone.

The reader is left with several questions:

Where is this story supposed to take place? It seems to be set in some kind of bizarre industrial wasteland; it talks a lot about truck stations, dockyards, tugboats, "garbage scows," and most of the characters are described as wearing jumpsuits, work boots and other laborers' clothing. Yet nobody is ever described as doing any actual work; the only "job" anyone has is Hogg, who is a rapist for hire. Other states such as Pennsylvania and Florida are mentioned but the location of the story doesn't seem to be clear.

Are Hogg and his crew some kind of allegory? None of them seem even remotely real; they are all so over the top that I tend to think they are intended to represent something. There is Hogg, and two other men known simply as "Nigger" and "Wop," and then a 17 year old boy named Denny, a compulsive masturbator and eventual penis-piercer who is their fuck-toy/accomplice. Nobody in the entire story exhibits any kind of morality whatsoever; they are essentially all sociopaths.

Is the narrator supposed to be black or white? Sometimes he's referred to as having yellow hair and being a "white boy," then others in the story call him "nigger" and insist that he's at least partially black, though Hogg denies it vehemently. Or is his race deliberately ambiguous?

What on earth is the connection between this book and gay culture? The back of the book notes that it was "written days before the Stonewall riots" and that its author is one of the people "who has most changed our concept of gayness in the last century." But I can find no genuine "gay" content in the book whatsoever. The characters have no sexuality; they simply fuck anything and everything. They're sex crazed monsters who will rape any available living thing, including mules.

And finally - the book was written in 1969, yet there is not a single reference to drugs in the entire story. This surprised me; do you think it was a deliberate attempt by the author to avoid mentioning drugs because he perhaps thought that doing so would provide an "excuse" for the characters' insane behavior, and that he wanted to emphasize the innateness of their mentality?

Has anyone else even read this?
Old 07-09-2009, 07:35 PM
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I hadn't realized that Hogg had even been published. I assume you know something about the author: Chip Delany is black and gay (though he was married in the 60s). He's also one of the smartest people I've ever met -- he can't talk for more than five minutes without giving some sort of unique insight into the subject at hand.

Chip also likes writing about ambiguity*; his book Dhalgren is full of ambiguous events, as is Triton and his Neveryon** books. I'm not surprised that there's be a lot of it in Hogg.

From his comments, I think it was primarily an exercise in writing the most sexually depraved things he could imagine -- pure sexual id without anything holding him back, including every form of sex he could imagine.

IIRC, he once said that he wrote the book with an erection the entire time he was at the typewriter. This wasn't because the writing aroused him; it was that he wanted to be aroused before he even thought about writing. It seems to tie in with the opening of Ray Nelson's comment in "Time Travel for Pedestrians" that "Masturbation fantasy is the last frontier," explaining that it leads you to all sorts of odd places.

*And, no, the ambiguity is not in the box.

** Pronounced Nuh-VAIR-e-on
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Old 07-09-2009, 08:07 PM
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Is the last line of the book "The Aristocrats!"?
Old 07-09-2009, 08:28 PM
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It's fetish porn for Delany. Based on some autobiographical details Samuel R. Delany IRL really, really gets off on extreme filth as part of his erotic landscape, and now apparently we can add coprophagy to the mix.

Quote:
Bread & Wine" recounts the beginnings, a decade back, of Delany's relationship with his current lover, Dennis (we never learn his last name), when Dennis was a homeless man selling books from a blanket on West 72nd Street. Delany's abstractions about interclass contact come sharply into focus here -- and so does the fetishization behind them. It wasn't just democratic idealism that made Times Square one of the centers of his sex life. Looking Dennis up and down when they first begin to discuss the possibility of sleeping together, Delany admits to the reader, "I found him attractive, underneath (and, hell, just a bit because of) all the dirt." The dirt is, in fact, epic. When Delany rents a motel room for the two of them, Dennis has his first real bath in six years, and the scene is -- well, it's amazing:


The high laced workboots and the three layers of socks beneath them came off -- and out of them came a stench that, frankly, beats anything I've ever smelled before! The inner pair of socks had simply decayed around his feet ... I've seen people take baths where the water turned grey from the dirt. But five minutes after he got started I looked in to see how he was doing. He could have been sitting in a tub of India Ink!

I'm fastidious, I know, but -- yucch. The "shit-and-vinegar" stink of Dennis' feet was so pervasive, Delany tells us, that the room was going to be "unrentable for the next few days." And yet, and yet � there's something almost fairy-tale-like about the occasion. It's as though we're seeing Dennis emerge from the misery of a long and terrible spell. Delany tells their story simply and heartbreakingly, sequinning the text with glittering nocturnal quotations from "Brod und Wein," an early 19th century elegy by the German poet Friedrich H�lderlin. (At the time of the events, he was studying Paul de Man's reading of the poem.) They make a haunting overlay.
Old 07-09-2009, 08:33 PM
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The Amazon comments are interesting
Old 07-09-2009, 08:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
I hadn't realized that Hogg had even been published. I assume you know something about the author: Chip Delany is black and gay (though he was married in the 60s). He's also one of the smartest people I've ever met -- he can't talk for more than five minutes without giving some sort of unique insight into the subject at hand.
He did not, however, have the unique insight that Hogg should have never been published.

I'm sick and tired of authors who believe that their early work is worth plastering their now-known name on solely for some extra bucks. I'd be embarrased. "Yeah, I used to write like a piece of shit, but I got better."
Old 07-09-2009, 08:43 PM
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I didn't know that Hogg had ever been published either. I did read his The Tides of Lust, which must have been written, or at least published, around the same time. It's extremely graphic and had way too much scatology to be interesting to me. It doesn't seem as extreme as Hogg, though.

Delany has written of the early years of his marriage to poet Marilyn Hacker. Although they had a child, both primarily identified themselves as gay. Delany spent much of his time in rough trade anonymous gay sex, possibly to satisfy his needs, possibly because he needed some freedom from his position as a "gay black Marxist science fiction writer" the most despised species on earth.

The Tides of Lust was published in 1973 and apparently Hogg was rewritten and finished in 1973. It may not be a coincidence that Hacker became pregnant in 1973. Or it may.

To second what Chuck said, probably the most brilliant talk I've ever heard at an sf convention was delivered by Delany at a con in Buffalo in the early 1970s. I remember being just spellbound and awed. Unfortunately he disappeared up his own tail as a writer - a metaphor not to be confused with the activities portrayed in Hogg - after, maybe during, 1984's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.
Old 07-09-2009, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank View Post
He did not, however, have the unique insight that Hogg should have never been published.

I'm sick and tired of authors who believe that their early work is worth plastering their now-known name on solely for some extra bucks. I'd be embarrased. "Yeah, I used to write like a piece of shit, but I got better."
"Piece of shit." How apt.

This wasn't for the bucks, though. Delany didn't need the money (for a time, Dhalgren was the all-time best selling science fiction book for Bantam Books), and he knew the book would have limited interest.

It isn't juvenile work (read his first book, The Jewels of Aptor, published when he was 19, and you'll see a surprisingly mature author). It wasn't writing ability -- at the time he was writing it, he had published nine novels and had won three Nebula Awards and had four Hugo Award nominations (he eventually won two Hugos and an additional Nebula). He was one of the top writers in the field, and one of the most influential (William Gibson has cited him as an influence in writing Neuromancer).

No, the problem wasn't the writing. It was the subject matter, which was just too raw for publishers to deal with. People agree that it is well written, but the subjects covered are just too distasteful.

I agree with Exapno that Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand was the last good Delany novel.
Old 07-09-2009, 09:27 PM
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Like Crash by Ballard, I basically believe that regardless of whether one can stand the content of the book, it takes serious writing skills to be able to maintain that kind of obsessive intensity consistently throughout the book. A lesser writer, attempting something like Hogg, would be able to produce maybe ten or fifteen pages of incredibly filthy, vile descriptions, and then he would run out. He wouldn't be able to keep up the intensity of it.
Old 07-09-2009, 10:37 PM
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I had him as my Intro to Science Fiction teacher at UMass Amherst. We never read any of his work (I tried later on and just didn't like his style), but he was perhaps my favorite college professor. It was also the first time I realized that college professors were sometimes famous. We were reading I think "On Wings of Song" by Thomas Disch and there was a part we didn't get, the next day Prof. Delany comes in and says "I talked to Tom last night...what he meant by that was..." What? You can just call Hugo winning authors up on the phone just like that? That is so cool.
Old 07-10-2009, 08:22 AM
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Well, it helps if you're a Hugo winning author yourself.
Old 07-10-2009, 11:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Argent Towers View Post
The book starts out with him fucking his 12-year-old male friend;
Nitpick: his friend was 13, not 12.

What's really amazing about Hogg is that the story's written in literary style, it's not just some lurid Nifty Story. Delany makes you feel for the characters, depraved as they are, and even the narrator comes across as someone who's content with who and what they are, since they just don't know any better. Also, reading the story was a highly frustrating experience, because it's always been my goal in life to write the most depraved, disgusting, puke-inducing novel ever, and there's simply NO WAY I could top this one -- not even Dennis Cooper comes close.
Old 07-10-2009, 02:30 PM
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I told ya. When you asked how it compared to Crash, I knew you were in for a ride.
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