Queer, controver- sial and over here
Dennis Cooper is an author familiar with controversy, though Toni Davidson discovers that there’s more to his work than gay snuff-porn and violent death.
'l’l’ell. you raped and whateversomeone who maybe didn't deserve it. ' Ziggy bane/res his lips. still scratching. weighing positives and negatives, 'And is that. . . coo/f"
Welcome to the world of Dennis Cooper. Dragged-up . rent boys. makers and purveyors of near snuff porn; the abused and the abusers; the used and the users. It's not for the faint-hearted. nor for harbingers of politically correct reassurance. Cooper's previous books such as Tenderness of the Wolves. Frisk and Closer dealt with a whole range ofextremes. from the abduction and dissection of boys and the aphrodisiac of violent death to the social numbness of teenage America — the blank generation. choking slowly in the glittering ignorance ofshopping-mall expectations.
Cooper: ‘I don’t relate to adults very well. Most at my friends are younger than me . . .’
Ziggy is the adopted son oftwo fathers who having failed at an idyllic attempt to create a nuclear family continue in their roles as sexual abusers. Ziggy. both laid back and tightly strung. staggers through the turmoil and understated horror of the lives of his Uncle who shoots and sells homemade boy-pom and Calhoun whose own vulnerability in the face of a consuming heroin addiction inspires and strengthens the nervously hopeful Ziggy.
It is difﬁcult for a book with such extreme subject matter to be both provoking and thoughtful; both in yer face and in yer heart but Try has accomplished all ofthis and more with its elegant. spare prose. the music soundbites and culturally specific quotations. Cooper is no Bret Easton Ellis and balks at any comparison. There is substance to his characters‘ excesses; sexual. sociological and personal reasons are all available to those who need them but beyond that and deeper into the book. Cooper uses a calculated rhythm honed to a specific tempo to relate l his ideas. He creates space in his work for his ideas whereas all Ellis has is a hole where ideas should 5
have been. Cooper explains. ‘I wanted to relax with Try. its very controlled. the writing is spare. It is very
black but it's also much more laid back than my other
It may be more laid back and in many ways the characters excesses are emphasised through the cool distraction of the narrative. but try selling that to either a gay readership reared on the—boy-next-door type prose that has dominated gay writing since the year dot. and try selling that to readers of non—
specific sexuality introduced to the acceptable face of
being gay through the books and Channel Four production of Armistead Maupin‘s 'la/es o/‘the (.‘it_\'. Indeed. Edmund White. a long time fan of Cooper‘s writing. wrote about the growing divide between the world of gay literature characterised by PC images and perennial banality and the queercore movement from the High Risk anthologies to films such as The Living lind. Maupin. White writes in The [fuming Library. along with Michael Cunningham and David Leavitt concentrate on showing gay men living in the larger context of straight friends and relatives while writers such as Cooper concentrate on gay singularity. Cooper is critical ofthe state of so-called gay literature. He says. ‘l'm tired of the argument about being gay and being a gay writer. People are so caught tip in their lack of identity. so immersed in reading about it. It will be interesting to see if we can
separate ourselves from all of that in the future.‘
But don‘t get the impression that Cooper is all nihilism and no joy. ‘l‘ve always used humour as a
sedative.‘ says Cooper. There are some brilliantly
crafted. darkly humorous moments in Try. \Vhilc Robin ()l)'s on drugs. Ziggy's Uncle makes a sexploitation film of him while Ziggy himself
' attempts to interview the film‘s star. Robin for his
fanzine l/lt't‘ll.\'(’.’ .tl niagarine/or the .S'esua/ly Abused. Cooper‘s skill lies in his ability to gross out the reader with a smile; it lies too in exposing through humour the relationship between the volatile adults and the fragile and bewildered sons of
In many ways (‘ooper appeals and partially seeks to represent the outsiders from whatever scene. the apathetic and apolitical of whatever sexual hue. Cooper has more in common with Burroughs and .larman than he has with Maupin or Leavitt. just as he feels he has more in common with a younger generation than his own. He explains. ‘I don't relate to adults that well. Most of my friends are younger than me and it's their music I listen to.‘
And music plays a big part in his work. Robin. the star of the homctnade boy-porn listens to metal music with lyrics such as — ‘l.ying still unknowingly/prepare for the impaling‘ ~- while Ziggy gets fttcked to the reassuring. blank generation paens of lliisker l)ti. The book isn't so much about intergenerational sex. it's more about the intergenerational gap. (‘ooper's love of punk or alternative music can be seen in the distrust of his young characters. Not so much a feeling of being let down bttt a sense of numbness. He says. ‘The blank generation isn‘t a thing of the past . . . it‘s very much still there.‘
One of Cooper‘s current projects is recording the blank generations underground. Underworld existence and the similarities with rave culture and the way the two are evolving in the [1.8. He says. ‘I was ney er really into dance music but a friend introduced me to the ideas and experience ofthe underground rave scene and I'm working on a book at the moment about the effect and lifestyle of rave culture.‘
If ('ooper's notion and narrative Use of the blank generationlifestyle could be transmitted to Scotland. in the here and now. it would come not in the form of lliiskcr l)ii but The lime l’rctiucncy Dennis (tin/NW is reading v. it/i li’arrv (irahion on Thurs 3‘). 7.30pm at Haters/one 's. /.t' /’I'll1t’('\ Street. lir/itt/nrre/t. Try is [)lt/)/I\/I(’t/ /)\ Nit/Wit '\ Tit/i, at £709
Tilt list 3.: Settlclliltct’ () ()t‘lnhcr l‘NJ