WRONG by Dennis Cooper


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 Those familiar with Cooper's graphic homoerotic oeuvre (Closer, Frisk) might find this collection--impressions of sadism and pornography that too often lose their aesthetic distance- -interesting commentary from a writer compared to Sade and Genet. Be prepared, though: This is adolescent sexual aimlessness and psychotic violence with a vengeance. In ``Dear Secret Dairy,'' a series of pseudo-autobiographical reflections, a typical Cooper character, one who loves to fantasize about graphic homosexual sex and its relationship to death, complains that AIDS has ``ruined death.'' That is, it has all become too real--with the result that Cooper's odd mix of sociological perspective and grotesque hormone-driven narrative is almost dated. Even so, ``A Herd'' is a scary portrait of a killer, Ray Sexton, who abducts aimless boys (``stoned, standing or rocking from heels to toes in front of various backdrops'') and kills them: ``Ray loved being close to an almost dead body, smelling its haplessness, utilizing it as a lover.'' In the title story, there's more sadism: ``When Mike saw a pretty face, he liked to mess it up, or give it drugs until it wore out by itself.'' Unfortunately, Cooper, whose earlier books chronicled (and projected) a haunting world--a working-class gay version of Less Than Zero--is self- conscious in these tuneups. His prose is often mannered, his characters automatons who, despite lots of sex, never achieve fictional life. ``Dinner,'' for instance, is a verbal homoerotic equivalent of Hustler magazine, despite its lyricism, whereas the long ``Safe,'' despite its craft and moving passages, is a gay version of Ann Beattie--long on regret, failed relationships and texture, short on drama. ``Dead boys were floating up in the headlines....'' Here, Cooper is part psychic, acutely probing the blank frightening faces behind the news, and part sicko, getting off on gratuitous, and often very graphic, sex.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1992
ISBN: 0-8021-1401-6
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1992


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