guide by dennis cooper


after getting through this drug-blurred, blood-oily, post-sex sense-deracinating–i decided that DC is not so much a sadist or even really, fundamentally, a provocateur. that that’s not his primary impulse, but rather it’s indeed some kind of exploration of the ecstatic–in all its forms. and the ecstasy-explorer is searching out taboo and murder and drug-experience not out of a negative motivation, not for rage or violence against society, but much more basically out of a movement toward the transcendent.

that’s prolly too reductively dichotomous… another way: i wouldn’t think of his project as wish-fulfillment and certainly utopian isn’t the first adjective that crosses the mind–but that’s just what the DC character claims: “Then I remember what I do when I’m not stoned. You know, write novels that are essentially long, involved wishes for offbeat utopian worlds that I can’t realistically enter” (65), which might in fact be one way to conceptualize this novel of kiddie-porn snuff films and HIV-infected rent boys and rape of all kinds.

…part of how GUIDE functions as (a kind of) wish fulfillment fiction is by maintaining an aura of non-fiction. (the fantasy is best for the narrator when it seems real / the fantasy is possible for the narrator because it isn’t real.) and one very impressive thing about GUIDE is how its subtle structure effectively conflates reportage with fiction. as well, almost lost due to the virtuosic handling of its extreme materials is the sensitivity cooper has for tone-shifts, his beautifully efficient characterization, and the ability for just setting up and moving us almost breezily through his complicated apartment-scapes.

should say too: the feeling while reading it is pretty intense. “edgy” and “risky” seem too corporatized a language to describe it. i finished it maybe twenty minutes ago, and i still feel like it’s a little hard to breathe. a gut-punch of a book.

from this interview:

Q: How did you protect the kids?
DC: Well, I used my late, beloved friend George Miles as the model for all the major young male characters in the cycle because he’s the one person I would have protected at all costs. I think the way this protection panned out is that when most of the violence happens, the story becomes unrealistic and fantasy-like, as though it might or might not really be happening. Also, the young characters are always the most sympathetic. So I didn’t manage to completely protect them, but the books (and I hope my readers) always care about them.

and on method:

Q: Kathy Acker published first drafts of things, wrote at the point of orgasm in order to hit on something true, but you polish and refine. Would you ever go down the automatic, exquisite corpse sort of route?

DC: It wouldn’t work, because my first drafts are crap for the most part. I try to let myself go all out at first, then go back and rip apart what I’ve written then rebuild it, then shred it again, and so on. My real voice isn’t exact or careful at all, and I spend much, much more time refining my prose than writing it. On rare occasions, a piece will come out nearly perfect the first time, but almost never.

find it at a library or find it used

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