TRY by Dennis Cooper


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 Caveats often accompany reviews of Cooper's work (Frisk, Wrong, etc.), and it's not hard to see why. His novels (including this one) depict a nasty, brutish kind of gay sex, shadowed by violence and exploitation, yet they also have an inescapable power. We're in California, though you'd never know it; nearly all the scenes are interiors. Ziggy McCauley is a dysfunctional 18- year-old who checks into his high school just long enough to see his therapist. When Ziggy was two he was adopted by two gay fathers. After a while Roger, the ``less evil'' one, split; the other, Brice, has been raping and beating up his son for years. Ziggy, bisexual and ``needy,'' has one friend, Calhoun, ``the only human being...who definitely gives a half-shit about him.'' The problem is that Calhoun is both straight and a heroin addict who likes to keep the world at a distance, so Ziggy must keep his expressions of love to a minimum while simultaneously dealing with Roger, who has flown in from New York for some hot sex. Another sinister influence is Ziggy's Uncle Ken, who makes porn videos starring young teens; when 13-year-old Robin OD's, Ken summons a necrophile and collects a finder's fee before burying the corpse. Here, Cooper goes over the top; more chilling is the moment when Roger and Brice snare Ziggy, befouled by vomit, spaced-out on heroin, and do ``every lascivious thing you can do to a putrid and comatose male.'' Though Cooper's adults are beyond redemption, his kids achieve a genuine pathos, for despite their best efforts they never stop feeling; at the end Ziggy and Calhoun snuggle up together like babes in the woods. There is no narrative momentum in what is essentially a tableau of victims and predators; even so, the power is there.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8021-1542-X
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993


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