Friday, July 07, 2006

Dennis Cooper's Try

I recently reread Dennis Cooper's "Try," which I had once thought of as one of his weaker books. Cooper's extraordinary generosity as an artist is located mainly in his two continual projects: humanizing the vilest monsters imaginable and also humanizing their victims. What struck me this time around is the extraordinary catharthis Cooper manages to wring out of the most mundane of moments (mundane, and often also disgusting or horrific if uneventful). It's a wonderful book, with the Bressonian austerity he preaches fitting nicely with the hesitating, inarticulate muddle of his subjects' thoughts and voices. When needed, he musters up passages of extreme honesty and clarity that will knock you on your ass if you're not prepared for them. The cast is larger in this one, which I like, and with strong, compelling female characters, who I wanted to know more about - which is actually exactly what the narrative requires you to feel. The grueling parts of Cooper's work always reveal themselves to be more tragic than sensational once the shock wears off (I nearly cried during "The Sluts" despite the fact that its most affecting passages describe acts more repulsive than anything I could ever conceive of). And the tragic parts manage to contain some faint (or, occasionally, not so faint) glimmer of hope that I can never quite locate. It's the moments in which nothing is happening - miniature revelations that might not even register on a character's face - when the most stirring sentiments are unearthed.

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