Hogg (1969/1973/1995) by Chip Delany

How does one go about describing a novel such as Hogg? When one has reached the end of sanity, logic, and reason, there is no word left. There’s a muted scream that makes the sympathetic throw up; that makes the neutral sympathetic; and even the devilish squirm. Only the vilest of men live at the end of all there is. Hogg has the muted scream locked in a cage. A cage made of human feces. And someone out there is laughing at it. It’s time to put the ethics of nonsense on the scales of justice. You may be surprised what we discover.

Hogg is centered on a twelve-year old boy who has no other name besides “Cocksucker”. He lives in an apartment in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland, and every day he sucks off a Hispanic kid who lives in the same building. The two kids put together a plan to whore out the Hispanic kid’s sister for a quarter per hit. They do so, and end up creating a basement orgy with a bunch of black bikers who end up having purely consensual sex with not only the three kids, but the father of the brother and sister as well. After closing up shop one night, Cocksucker sees a man rape a prostitute, fatally injuring her in the process. He decides to take the kid with him into his life as a serial rapist for hire. This is Hogg, and he is our hero. He is an obese man who never bathes, shits and pisses his pants, has worms, never changes clothes, and has fetishes for people sucking his grubby fingers, eating his toe jam, and swallowing his piss, shit, and semen—often all at once. He hangs around with a group of similar specimens who often have racially offensive names; specifically, “N*gger” and “D*go”. Racism is abundant in this novel, actually. The word “n*gger” (yes, I can scream “shit”, “piss” and “fuck” as much as I care to, but racial slurs are against my code of ethics) is used about ten times per page, other words, like “sp*ck” and “fag” are thrown around just as insanely. (Keep in mind, I do not censor the word fag just because I consider myself, as bisexual, to be a fag. Sexual politics, actually, will come up later in this review. I realize this may take issue with my LGBT brothers and sisters, and, naturally, I understand such sentiment. But anyway.)

Ultimately, Hogg’s gang is hired to pull a couple of jobs, which they pull off in grim detail in the course of a night. At some point, however, Denny, one of the men, decides to shove a nail into his urethra and make a makeshift dick piercing, which gets infected. He goes insane and murders dozens of people before Hogg catches up to him; in the course of all this, two bikers kidnap Cocksucker away from Hogg and sell him as a sex slave (what else?) to “Big S*mbo”, a man who keeps his own daughter in a shed so he can rape her every night. Eventually Cocksucker escapes and before finding Hogg, has sex with two men on the beach and develops a taste for dick cheese, which is essentially dried semen that has coagulated in one’s foreskin. (“Boy, does cheese taste awful good!”) Hogg helps Denny escape the law and gives him a chance to make it, though ambiguously, given that the infection has almost killed him. In the end, we get some fascinating philosophy, and the scales start tipping…

Hogg is disgusting. Hogg is vile. Hogg is sinful, unclean, impure, corrupting, evil, and monstrous. But it is so endearing, so arousing (yes, I got turned on by all this at multiple points), that you realize its true purpose not too far in. Hogg is a tale of how human beings are deformed monsters; and how in particular males are deformed monsters. Hogg himself gives us some interesting commentary on “bitches”—essentially stating that if he were a bitch, and he’s not because he knows what one is, he would kill every man around him for miles, before he was taken advantage of. In this he almost takes regret for his crimes and for his horrific view of women as just “bitches” or “pussy”. But then he goes and rapes a middle-aged woman and her teenage daughter, while molesting and threatening to kill her prepubescent son. Hogg is a monster, yes, but he knows he’s a monster. And whether or not that turns him on more, or creates his crimes as some sort of bitter self-hatred, or something else, it’s up for the reader to decide. There’s more depth here than what you would think.

The whole novel’s theme, as you may have guessed, is sexual abuse. It’s not just a glorified tale of one group of people raping and molesting the other, though—although this book does definitely glorify beating, murder, rape, molestation, and pedophilia. (As well as a number of frankly unsettling fetishes.) It talks about relationships. Cocksucker isn’t Hogg’s victim. Cocksucker is Hogg’s boyfriend, taken to an abusive extreme, yeah, but still with some romantic ties. It’s a cyclical relationship, actually. At first, Hogg is the abuser. Cocksucker feels uncomfortable around him but still consents to sucking him off, eating out his ass, and letting him fuck him. Eventually, after Cocksucker is kidnapped, he realizes he loves Hogg, and actually almost starts crying because he misses him. When Hogg gets him back, he admits he really missed Cocksucker too, and sees that something is wrong. Cocksucker, however, is actually plotting to escape Hogg and go back to the men whom he had sex with on the beach, if anything to get more cheese, which Hogg doesn’t have. Hogg is shown to actually care about his feelings, but we the reader know that Cocksucker has turned into the abuser. It’s funny, almost, how that all works out. Eerily enough, when in the captivity of Big S*mbo, one of the bikers asks S*mbo’s daughter what’s wrong, and she replies distractedly “Nothin’.” And at the end, when asked what’s wrong, Cocksucker utters his only line of dialogue in the whole book: “Nothin’.” It’s obvious that the Big S*mbo’s daughter, unlike Cocksucker, does not enjoy her sex life; she is truly abused. It makes you think.

The sexual politics in this book are bizarre. Samuel “Chip” Delany is the writer here, and it is worth pointing out that Delany is both black and gay. Thus, the race-based elements seem neutralized, and also perhaps satirical. Thus perhaps also the homosexual elements—the over-exaggerated pedophilia, the apparent casualness of bisexuality—are satirical in nature. This book, as has been said before, was written not long before the Stonewall riots in June of 1969, when there was a lot of tension in the air concerning gay rights; something gives me the hint that Delany might have just seen some of the innate and ultimately false-faced horror of classic wretchedness like Boys Beware, where all gays were pedophiles and rapists. Hogg is the homophobe’s ultimate nightmare—a filthy homosexual rapist pedophile lunatic, who is also a murderer for good measure. He is the antithesis of “pure” society, corrupting everyone around him and wounding those who don’t fall under his sway. He crushes the world beneath his mammoth and hideous girth and shits on his face so he can whack off when he goes to bed. But in the end, he’s still a human being. He lives, he breathes, he prospers. Should mankind accept…or beware…?

Perhaps a little of both. He represents the unknown element of homosexuality. The uncertainty that with the “legalization” of the pure packing of LGBT rights, there will come unhinging disruption and social agony; and yet all the same, the casualness of what is, in comically outdated fashion, “hedonistic” and “poisonous” (to borrow some of the terms from the nominally pro-gay Picture of Dorian Gray). He is the sin within us all made real, turned into an elephant in the corner that suddenly grabs our women, rips their skirts, and forces his mutant member into them. He is the force coming soon, in a theatre near you, promising the seeds of revolution. In the days of now when change seems just around the corner, not just for the LGBT community, but for many other liberal debates, this is bizarrely modern.

Hogg is not for the faint of heart. The scene with the nail piercing in done in such loving detail that my eyes started vomiting. It is really sick. The other stuff isn’t that comforting either. But I will say this. Do not be scared if Hogg arouses you. I said that I had a boner on several occasions from reading it; I’m not aroused by rape. I’m not aroused by poop, or pee, or anything like that. But Hogg himself, and even Cocksucker too, have such a raw sexual dynamic that you can’t help yourself. I feel horrible because Cocksucker is a kid five years my junior and yet his compliance and eagerness in sexual acts with other men is so endearing that I got turned on. That is how this book works. You become the monster. It is inevitable. And thus the characters fly at you better than a 3D movie could ever pull off.

This is horror of the most grotesque caliber. Minds will warped, and people will vomit. You are warned. But I cannot let Hogg fly by without a note; that is one of the most fascinating and gripping pieces of literature ever written. Beware. It lives.

Side note: today I was possessed by the ghost of Truman Capote. No joke. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and saw the pre-Botox endearingly boyish features of Capote looking back, and then I wrote his name on a worksheet as my name automatically, without thinking. Then I said something that came out in his voice. I blinked, and I was suddenly aware of the ghostly presence not only of Capote, but of Freddy Mercury, Clark Gable, and several others. One of them was Chip Delany. Yet I know he is still alive. In fact, I hope to meet him someday. Professor Delany, I will try to trek to Pennsylvania one of these days. I imagine you are super cool.