Dust-jacket from the first edition
|Author||Samuel R. Delany|
|Publisher||Black Ice Books|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
Hogg is a novel by Samuel R. Delany, often described as pornographic. 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.
The preface to the novel is titled "The Scorpion Garden".
The plot features a silent pre-adolescent boy (called only "cocksucker") sold into sexual slavery to a rapist named "Hogg" Hargus, who exposes him to the most extreme acts of deviancy imaginable.—Chuck Klosterman, The AV Club, 2009
These acts include a substantial amount of "rape, violence, and murder", such as "scenes of Hogg and his gang brutally raping various women" and other "extensive scenes involving consumption of bodily waste." Nearly every scene in the novel contains extensive and graphic sexual acts.
The novel is set in the 1960s, but It is not clear where the action of the story takes place. The narrator mentions various nearby areas—"Crawhole," "Frontwater," and "Ellenville"—all apparently fictional locations in a nameless city which is portrayed as a sort of industrial wasteland, with much of the plot occurring at docks, truck-stops, and other seedy locales, and many of the characters described as workmen or wearing work clothes. The atmosphere is one of extreme filth, with most of the characters being both physically and mentally dirty - though this filth is enjoyed enthusiastically by the narrator and his companions, and becomes part of the novel's sexual landscape.
At the start, the narrator is living with a Hispanic boy named Pedro, and performing sex acts on older men in the basement of the dwelling for money, along with Pedro's teenage sister Maria. He engages in sex with Maria, Pedro, a gang of bikers, and a group of black men. The narrator consistently assumes the "bottom" role in these sex acts. One out of the group of black men chooses the narrator specifically, remarking that he appears of possible part-black ancestry.
The next chapter, unrelated to the first, introduces Hogg, first seen raping a woman in an alley. Immediately thereafter the narrator rushes to Hogg who soon explains about "his business," which, while he travels in a truck and is supposedly a trucker by trade, is raping women for hire. Hogg also reveals a bit about himself and his personal history, painting a picture of his overall persona, which is one of extreme filth, violence, and sexual sociopathy. With the narrator, he drives to the house of Mr. Jonas, a very wealthy and mysterious man who pays Hogg to rape various women. For the next job assigned, Hogg states his intention to bring along several other men, and the narrator as well, to participate. At this point the narrator's place as Hogg's companion is solidly established.
The other men—Nigg, Wop, and Denny—are then introduced. Nigg turns out to be the black man who the narrator first encountered at the beginning of the story. Wop is a violent Italian-American workman. Denny is a rather shy and impressionable teenage boy, older than the narrator but quite a bit younger than the other men. The quintet of rapists set about on their mission, which includes raping several different women in a remarkably brutal manner. Each successive rape becomes more and more violent, and the victims' young children (male and female) are also descended on by the pack. During one of these rapes, Denny, in a fit of mania, decides to pierce his own penis using a nail. Soon, Denny's penis begins to swell and bleed, seemingly infected, and at this point he begins repeating the phrase "it's all right," apparently having lost his wits after the self-mutilation.
When their last job is completed, the group retires to the "Piewacket" bar, where they fraternize with members of a biker gang—the same one from the beginning of the novel. Nigg and one of the bikers, Hawk, hatch a scheme to sell the narrator to a black tugboat captain called "Big Sambo." Without consulting Hogg, all three ride away on Hawk's motorcycle to meet Sambo at the docks of "Crawhole," a waterfront area.
Big Sambo negotiates and purchases the narrator for twenty dollars. Sambo is a very large, physically-powerful tugboat operator who keeps his twelve-year-old daughter, "Honey-Pie," around as a sex object for his own pleasure.
The narrator goes walking around the docks at night, where he overhears a radio on the deck of a garbage scow. The newscaster on the radio reports on a series of murders that has occurred recently—as it turns out, the suspect is Denny. This is confirmed to the reader when it is noted that the phrase "it's all right" is written in blood at the crime scenes. The Piewacket bar, where the gang had previously stayed, was attacked by Denny with gunfire, and several people including the bartender and some bikers were killed.
The narrator then meets two garbagemen: "Red," is Caucasian, burly, and red-haired; the other, "Rufus," is black. Assuming correctly that he is Big Sambo's property, the two garbagemen plan to "borrow" the narrator from his owner, and keep him around their scow on a collar and leash.
Hogg eventually rescues the narrator. The two escape in Hogg's truck, where it is then revealed that Hogg had found Denny and is now sheltering him, hiding him from the police. After driving out of the Crawhole area and getting clear of the law, Hogg has Denny bathe himself, dress in clean clothes, and sneak out to a truck-stop to hitch a ride out of town. After more sexual activity, Hogg declares some sentimental feeling for the narrator, and expresses his happiness that they are reunited.
However, unbeknownst to Hogg, the narrator has already tired of Hogg, preferring the docks, Big Sambo, Red and Rufus, and desires to escape eventually and return to them. As the narrator is formulating the plan in his head, Hogg finally asks him "What's the matter," to which he responds, "Nothin," speaking his only line of dialog in the entire novel.
Franklin "Hogg" Hargus
"...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."
Literary significance and criticism
Despite the book's pornographic surface, respected authors have given it their endorsement. Norman Mailer, for instance, said "There is no question that Hogg by Samuel R. Delany is a serious book with literary merit." J.G. Ballard, prolific speculative-fiction author and elder statesman of transgressive literature, also praised Delany's work, citing the medium of pornography as being the most "socially urgent" form of art.
Author Dennis Cooper said in his collection Smothered in Hugs: Essays, Interviews, Feedback, and Obituaries that "Hogg is tiresome and indulgent" and that the "pace is molasses-slow". However, he also goes on to say that "the book is a highly charged object...[and] that's reason enough to recommend it."
Jeffrey A. Tucker, associate professor of English at the University of Rochester, comments in his critical study, A sense of wonder: Samuel R. Delany, race, identity and difference, that Hogg "gave expression to the author's hostility toward a heterosexist society, an anger that had no socially constructive outlet prior to the modern Gay Rights movement."
- Luskin, Josh. "About Samuel Delany" in The Minnesota Review (Spring 2006)
- Sallis, James (1996). Ash of stars: on the writing of Samuel R. Delany. Univ. Press of Mississippi. Retrieved December 26, 2010.
- Branham Weedman, Jane (1982). Samuel R. Delany. Starmont House. p. 22. Retrieved December 26, 2010.
- Klosterman, Chuck (2009). Inventory: 16 Films Featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls, 10 Great Songs Nearly Ruined by Saxophone, and 100 More Obsessively Specific Pop-Culture Lists. Simon and Schuster. p. 75. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- Stevens, Hugh (2010). The Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian Writing. Cambridge University Press. pp. 75–78. Retrieved December 26, 2010.
- Michael Hemmingson (1996). "In the scorpion garden: 'Hogg.'". The Review of Contemporary Fiction 16. Retrieved December 26, 2010.
- Hogg, University of Alabama press
- Cooper, Dennis (2010). Smothered in Hugs: Essays, Interviews, Feedback, and Obituaries. HarperCollins. Retrieved December 26, 2010.
- A. Tucker, Jeffrey (2004). A sense of wonder: Samuel R. Delany, race, identity and difference. Wesleyan University Press. p. 4. Retrieved December 26, 2010.
- Howard Freedman, Carl; Samuel R. Delany (2009). Conversations with Samuel R. Delany. Univ. Press of Mississipp. pp. 125–134. Retrieved December 26, 2010.