Closer - Denis Cooper
I hope that this is the most hardcore, extreme gay book I ever have to read. I canít say I enjoyed it. Iím not even sure that itís not a huge conóEmperorís new clothes kind of thing. I canít help but wonder if itís sold to us on a false premise that because it is extreme gay sex, including snuff and scat, you have to like it or youíre not cool. Well, Iím happy not to be cool. Iím happy to find scat (eating shit) utterly repulsive and dangerous. Snuff (killing someone for sexual gratification) surely doesnít me to say itís sick?
I found the whole structure of the book very hard to follow, too. You have a group of young men (most still in high school) relating their experiences with something or someone and the person they mention then becomes the next person to narrate. Sometimes itís told in the third person by an anonymous narrator. By the end, I couldnít remember or care who George, Steve, Cliff or any of the other boys were. The closest weíve come to this is actually a movie, Bully, which also showed American teenagers as drug-ridden, sexually and morally corrupt deviants. I didnít like that movie either.
Really not a pleasant read, so unless youíre writing a paper on pornography versus art or some such clichťd title, then I wouldnít bother with this one.†
This is the first in a set of five novels about George Miles, a character inspired by a real life friend of the writer.† It isnít as well defined as FRISK, its sequel, the only other Cooper novel I have read.† In a series more like short stories than a novel, weíre introduced to George through those who know him, high school friends, teachers and a couple of older men.†
George is one of Cooperís archetypal beautiful lost boys: a blank slate with orifices waiting to be filled, by which he hopes (I think) to bring meaning to an existence he believes pointless.† Whether this is intended to stand for the human condition in general Iím not sure.†
Everyone desires George, wants a piece of his delectable ass.† Each chapter (or story) has an angle that contributes something to pin George down like a butterfly on a pin.† Except George remains unknowable, a fascinatingly passive object of adoration and obsession no one really bothers to talk to, not even those who claim to be in love with him.† Drawn by his uncanny ability to play dead, they use him up then discard whatís left like worn clothing thatís outlived its purpose.†
George gets two chapters.† Heís a drugged out mess, an only child of well-off parents whose mother is seriously ill.† He escapes to an imaginary kingdom defined by Walt Disney.† He has no normal, no way of dealing with the world of other people.† Things happen to him and he submits, hoping I guess maybe this time heíll FEEL something; but he never does.† He doesnít care about anything, least of all what happens to him.† Itís like heís trying to disappear.†
Cooper is obsessed with sex & violence, stripping away layers to reveal the guts and bones inside the human body like a deranged serial killer looking to find truth and purpose.† Itís all familiar if youíve read FRISK.† A progression perhaps, taking the reader deeper into dark hearts and twisted souls exploring the difference between desire and intent.†
George is picked up by Frenchman Philippe who is afraid to give George what he wants.† But he knows a man who does.† Tom.† Who does what Philippe can only fantasise about doing.
I donít know what it is about Cooperís writing thatís so compelling despite being unsettling, even odd.† He writes about the most disturbing things beautifully, with a stark simplicity where every word counts; so you follow willingly to places your mind really would rather not go.† Itís a slight book, only 131 pages, but itís not an easy read.† One of those novels that sticks in your mind; so you find yourself thinking about it at odd moments that upset your cosy existence.† Presumably thatís the intention.† Appropriate, too, perhaps for those of us who have pushed our own boundaries through exposure to images of extreme sex & violence through the medium of the internet.
However it left me empty and frustrated because I couldnít really sympathise with the characters (except George) let alone understand them.† I think itís partly down to the fragmented narrative, seeing the same events from different POV like that cop show that was on a while back.† Isnít the point, though, that eventually we see the whole picture more clearly?† Well I didnít.† I wonder if perhaps because itís a series you have to read the whole to get its parts?
Cooperís characters inhabit a world where misery, loneliness, and despair lead to darkness and depravity, as the lost and the fallen come together in a compact of destruction where everything is rotten and horrible.† Young people have no guidance from adults who either use them or absent themselves from their lives.† They use drugs, alcohol and sex as self-medication that only sinks them deeper into the mire.† Really, all George Miles wants is someone to love him.† But the other characters are more interested in themselves.† It is a very sad