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Hogg (novel)

Hogg is a pornographic novel by Samuel R. Delany. It was written in San Francisco in 1969 and completed just days before the Stonewall Riots in New York City. A further draft was completed in 1973 in London. At the time it was written, no one would publish it due to its graphic and copious descriptions of murder, homosexuality, child molestation, incest, coprophilia, coprophagia, urolagnia, anal-oral contact, necrophilia and rape. Hogg was finally published (with some further, though relatively minor, rewrites) in 1995 by Black Ice Books. The two successive editions have featured some correction, the last of which, published by Fiction Collective 2 in 2004, carries a note at the end stating that it is definitive.

Plot summary

The novel is told from the perspective of an eleven-year-old boy who, after being pimped in his friend's basement, joins up with Franklin "Hogg" Hargus, a trucker and rapist-for-hire. The boy, without name but frequently referred to as "cocksucker", satisfies the extreme sexual demands of everyone around him without, until the novel's final word, ever speaking. The narrator witnesses brutality after brutality, describing events in a flat tone of realism. He is treated by the men as property or disposable, even being sold to an unemployed dockworker for $15. The book's climax comes when Hogg finally expresses some affection for the boy, who is already plotting an escape.

Setting and characters

The novel takes place in 1960s America, and draws on several controversial groups in 1960s culture. For instance, the propensity for violence, murder, and rape found in several of the characters is likely inspired by the Hells Angels.

Hogg himself is most likely born of several sources, two of which can be found in Delany's autobiographical work: In The Motion of Light in Water (1988, ISBN 0-87795-947-1), Delany describes meeting a young woman who was sleeping on a school yard bench because her roommate had been the victim of some paid rapists. And in "The Scorpion Garden Revisited" (an essay collected in The Straits of Messina, 1989, ISBN 0-934933-04-9), Delany describes spending an evening at a bar with someone who claimed to have worked at that very profession. Some readers of Delany's autobiographical essay, "Eric, Gwen, and D.H. Lawrence's Esthetic of Unrectified Feeling" (collected in Atlantis: Three Tales, Seattle: Incunabula, 1995) have surmised that Eric, the foulmouthed milkman, was a prototype for Hargus, though the connection is tenuous at best. Eric's transgressions, unlike Hogg's, are entirely verbal; as Delany writes there, "Eric did not have an iota of the child molester in him . . . He would have been outraged by any such idea." Aside from the few minor characteristics in common (blond, nail-biting, truck driver), there is nothing of Hogg's despicable nature in the good-natured and friendly Eric, and no way to reconcile the two. Hogg's behavior comprises many elements of an all-but-insane sociopath, though he speaks coherently and appears to think rationally. He believes truly in the worth of his profession. He claims that to a sexually normal man, there is only what he wants and what should be. It follows that any deviant knows that there is what he wants, what should be, and what is, and those don't have anything to do with one another. Hogg's interpretation of the Is-ought problem shows that there is some rational thinking behind his heinous actions.

One of Hogg's gang of rapists, Denny starts out as a chronic masturbator but soon becomes a mass-murderer. The extensive media coverage turns him into a kind of celebrity. In a reflection of Aleister Crowley's "EVERYTHING IS PERMISSABLE," found written at the scene of some ritual murders several years before the novel was written, Denny scrawls his catch-phrase of "ALL RIGHT" in blood on the wall of a bar, the window of supermarket, and the walls of several homes where he commits his crimes. This actually presages the Manson Family's notorious rampage (with its "DEATH TO PIGS" written in blood) which occurred less than two months after the completion of Hogg's first draft.

Delany provides little information about the 11-year-old boy who is the narrator. Much like the questionable Hogg/Eric connection, some readers have suggested that the narrator is a veiled version of the author himself. The boy is, like Delany, a light-skinned African American, though he is frequently mistaken for white. He has blond hair and is a little over five feet tall. He is sexually mature, able to have frequent orgasms, and seems to have a high level of intelligence. He describes how he enjoys all the perverted sexual acts and participates willingly in all Hogg's excesses. The incidents in the novel bear no resemblance to Delany's descriptions of his own middle-class, cultured childhood. The narrator speaks only one word in the entire book--the last word in the novel. According to all accounts of Delany's early years (including the above-mentioned works, The Motion of Light in Water and "Eric, Gwen, and D.H. Lawrence's Esthetic of Unrectified Feeling", and his pseudonymous autobiography.), such silence would have been all but impossible for Delany at that age.

Literary significance and criticism

Despite the book's pornographic surface, respected authors have given their endorsement. Norman Mailer, for instance, said "There is no question that Hogg by Samuel R. Delany is a serious book with literary merit."

See also

References

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