Cooper grew up the son of a wealthy businessman in Arcadia, California. His first forays into literature came early, focusing on imitations of Rimbaud, Verlaine, de Sade, and Baudelaire. As he began his teenage years, he wrote poetry and stories on scandalous and often extreme subjects. At the age of fifteen, he began to plan an ambitious novel cycle. This project, which took Cooper nearly twenty years to realize, would later become known as The George Miles Cycle. Cooper was an outsider and the leader of a group of poets, punks, stoners, and writers. After high school he attended Pasadena City College and, later, Pitzer College, where he had a poetry teacher who was to inspire him to pursue his writing outside of institutions of higher learning.
In 1976 Cooper went to England to become involved in the nascent punk scene. In the same year he began Little Caesar Magazine which included among other things an issue on and dedicated to Rimbaud. In 1978 with the success of the magazine, Cooper was able to found Little Caesar Press which featured the work of, among others, Brad Gooch, Amy Gerstler, Elaine Equi, Tim Dlugos, Joe Brainard, and Eileen Myles.
In 1979, Cooper published his first book of poetry, Idols, and became the director of programming at an alternative poetry space, Beyond Baroque, in Venice, California. He held that position for three years. Cooper's second book of poetry, Tenderness of the Wolves, published in 1982, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 1984, Cooper moved to New York City where he published his first book of fiction, a novella titled Safe, and began writing the cycle of five interconnected novels he had been planning since his mid-teens. In 1987 he moved to Amsterdam where he finished writing the first novel in the George Miles Cycle, Closer which later won the first Ferro-Grumley Award for gay literature.
While in Amsterdam he also wrote articles for different American magazines including Art in America, The Advocate, the Village Voice and others. He returned to New York in 1987 and began writing articles and reviews for Artforum, eventually becoming a contributing editor of the magazine. He began working on his next novel, Frisk. In the next few years Cooper worked on several different art and performance projects including co-curating an exhibit at LACE with Richard Hawkins entitled AGAINST NATURE: A Group Show of Work by Homosexual Men.
After moving to Los Angeles from New York in 1990, Cooper collaborated with a number of artists, including composer John Zorn, painter Lari Pittman, sculptors Jason Meadows and Nayland Blake, and others. For several years, he was a contributing editor and regular writer for the rock music magazine Spin. In 1994, he founded the "Little House on the Bowery" imprint for the independent publisher Akashic Books, which has published works by Travis Jeppesen, Richard Hell, James Greer, Trinie Dalton, Benjamin Weissman, Derek McCormack and others. He completed his ten years of writing the George Miles Cycle with the novel Period in the year 2000. The cycle has now been translated into 17 foreign languages and is the subject of numerous academic studies. They include two volumes of critical essays devoted to the cycle: Enter at Your Own Risk (2004), edited by Leora Lev, and Dennis Cooper: Writing at the Edge (2008), edited by Paul Hegarty and Danny Kennedy. Since then he has written three novels: My Loose Thread, God Jr., and The Sluts (winner of the 2007 Prix Sade in France and the 2005 Lammy Award for best book of gay fiction).
Since the summer of 2005, Cooper has spent most of his time in Paris. While there, he has worked on his blog, which Cooper considers his current major artistic project, and has collaborated with French theater director Gisele Vienne, composers Peter Rehberg and Stephen O'Malley, and the performer Jonathan Capdevielle on six works for the theater, I Apologize (2004), Un Belle Enfant Blonde (2005), Kindertotenlieder (2007), a stage adaption of his novella Jerk (2008), This Is How You Will Disappear (2010), and Last Spring, a Prequel (2011). These theater works have been highly acclaimed and continue to tour extensively in Europe, the UK, and Asia. While in France, Cooper finished a new book of poetry, The Weaklings, which was published in a limited edition by Fanzine Press in March 2008, a collection of short fiction titled Ugly Man (Harper Perennial, 2009), and Smothered in Hugs: Essays, Interviews, Feedback, and Obituaries (Harper Perennial, 2010).
In 2011, Cooper completed his ninth novel, The Marbled Swarm. He played a small role in Christophe Honore's feature film Homme au Bain. The year saw the publication of three books by Cooper: The Marbled Swarm (Harper Perennial, November), Jerk/Through Their Tears (DisVoir, March), a book/CD collaboration with Gisele Vienne and Peter Rehberg, and the reissue of his and the artist Keith Mayerson's 1997 graphic novel Horror Hospital Unplugged (Harper Perennial). Them, a performance art work Cooper originally created in 1984 with choreographer/director Ishmael Houston-Jones and composer/ musician Chris Cochrane, was restaged very successfully in New York and Utrecht. Them won a 2011 Bessie Award for best performance of the year, and it will be touring Europe and the United States in 2012.
In 2012, Cooper and his frequent theater collaborator Gisele Vienne will co-curate a section of the annual Un Nouveau Festival at the Centre Pompidou in Paris entitled TEENAGE HALLUCINATION. Running from February 22 to March 12, TEENAGE HALLUCINATION will include art exhibitions, films, lectures, live performances, concerts, an installation of the visual components of Cooper/Vienne's works to date, and performances of their theater pieces Last Spring, a Prequel (2011), Jerk (2008), and Cooper/Cochrane/Houston-Jones' Them. Last Spring, a Prequel will also appear in the 2012 edition of the Whitney Biennial. Beginning in late March 2012, Kunstverein Amsterdam will host a three-month celebration of Cooper's five-novel sequence The George Miles Cycle featuring an exhibition of Cycle-related materials, artworks especially commissioned for the occasion, lectures, performances, and the publication of a book.
In addition to their United States editions, Cooper's novels and books of poetry have been published in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Israel, China, and Japan.
Cooper's work has been acknowledged as an influence on a number of younger American writers, including Travis Jeppesen, Tony O'Neill and Noah Cicero. Cooper's poetry, including the first poem he ever wrote (about David Cassidy) appear in the film Luster as the work of lead character Jackson. American indie rock band Deerhunter, and grindcore act Pig Destroyer have both cited Dennis Cooper as a lyrical influence.
Cra - cra and yet more cra (crazy), So Many Ways to Sleep Badly by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, The Sluts by Dennis Cooper & Lithium for Medea by Kate Braverman would make Sybil (a patient made famous for her multiple personalities) look like Heidi (Johana Spyri's classic novels about a girl who lives with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps.) The authors - Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Dennis Cooper, and Kate Braverman - serve up emotionally and physically battered characters who are all in the grip: of sex, drugs, and trauma (most of it induced by monstrous parents.) Existentialism souped up on pain meds, desire, the "internet" and Mom. Wildly different (stylistically), these novels are relentlessly grim yet impossible to put down. Page turners, as it were, for the depressed and disaffected. Cooper's The Sluts is the apotheosis of a story he's been reworking for years: the elusive central character - a generic boy - appears in variation incarnations (Safe, Try) taken to dizzying heights. However, Cooper remains in control of the narrative and, while The Sluts comes close to unraveling, it never succumbs to collapse. --Tomas Mournian
Sweetness under the guise of horror. In the opening scene of Try, a teenage kid called Ziggy is sitting in his bed editing his zine about being abused. A kid gets killed by an evil pornographer. Yet you’re rooting for these people, you feel their heartache and lonliness. --Blair Mastbaum
Dennis Cooper, 1986, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123752)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digital
The Sluts by Dennis Cooper
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (October 19, 2005)
Amazon: The Sluts
Set largely on the pages of a website where gay male escorts are reviewed by their clients, and told through the postings, emails, and conversations of several dozen unreliable narrators, The Sluts chronicles the evolution of one young escort's date with a satisfied client into a metafiction of pornography, lies, half-truths, and myth. Explicit, shocking, comical, and displaying the author's signature flair for blending structural complexity with direct, stylish, accessible language, The Sluts is Cooper's most transgressive novel since Frisk, and one of his most innovative works of fiction to date.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
More Spotlights at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Lists/Gay Novels
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