Dennis Cooper's "Period"
This is not about the book
This isn’t about Dennis Cooper’s novel “Period.”
Rather, I’m curious about why he wrote the thing, and how I can write something better in emulation, Maybe Cooper is making everything up and wants to incite a trauma-bonding memory over some abused white kid from the 1960s that doesn’t exist. Perhaps I could take his same devices and project my traumas and neuroses on the text and then I could see the answers, or self-discovery, on myself.
An important 2002 TV show everyone should watch, is “Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed.” The show’s premise is that a magician and his troupe show how magic tricks and illusions are explained. A Todd McFarlane edge lord named “The Masked Magician” would show exactly how conjuring works. There is no magic, only science.
That’s how I feel about art and its creation. A musician shouldn’t go out of his way how he made his studio recordings. Boards of Canada never once showed what exact synths, samples, and drum machines were used to make Geogaddi. If they did, the “magic” would lose its powers, and the viewer would become disenchanted into a puzzle-solving robot. “magic” is plausible because we can intellectualize over technique and meaning. An artist should never reveal his magic tricks!
But that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the knowledge we get from The Masked Magician. I grew up enjoying the works of Charles Fort, Martin Gardner, Michael Shermer, and James Randi. Only then would these scientists and skeptics turn me on to other such bizarre and fringe topics like holocaust denial and the moon landing hoax. Because once the opposition in question is addressed, it’s hard to believe in science when you want to believe in the impossible.
When asked why I wrote my 60,000-plus word novel, “A Hole In The Wall,” that’s the same as asking if there is such thing as Bigfoot. If I reveal too much, that magic goes away. And yet, the magician must show his trade and why magic is not real. I am not going to reveal everything why I wrote it, as that’s explained about in the “Monica Zang” afterword in the novel, but I rather want to explain how, as an artist, I go about the craft and how to read the poetry at hand.
First, if you don’t know, “A Hole In The Wall” is a song by KMFDM. Listen to that song and read the lyrics.
Next, slang for “a hole in the wall” refers to a seedy bar. Sounds like date rape, yes?
And the word “hole” has a lot of meanings. Albert Borgmann once said that we see holes as distractions, or when someone is high on drugs they see “holes” as distractions.
Also, consider “the wall.” Think of a wall that covers us hides us from reality, and how we can’t see over it. And when we break down that wall, we break down our liberal democratic capitalist society we can’t stand. Then do we get the same prose as an attack against those that constantly insist that we are losing our “mental health” or some bullshit? The voice in our head is the same as we take it to paper.
The chapters in AHITW were written with symetrical intention. The first chapter reads exactly like the last one. The last chapter loops back to the first. The middle part of my work acknowledges it’s somewhere in between. The text is a palindrome. This was written so that the text could be enjoyed over and over again, or viewed at different angles like a diamond in the sun, radiating a new beam of rainbow light. This again likely nods to the work of Boards of Canada, and quite actually, Gene Wolfe. Wolfe once said, “My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.” I’m not sure if I was able to do that, as this was the first attempt at such a riddle.
The text centers around the work of Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock album and everything that Mark Hollis said about art. The theme of the album is about redemption. I wanted to rewrite and create prose similar to that album. It wasn’t going to be about KMFDM’s Angst album, because the music think comes from Haruki Murakami and his novel Norwegian Wood. It’s rather about traumatic events and bad memories than anything.
Sadism plays a huge part as well. It’s this idea I don’t give a fuck about anything. You can say it’s “fun” to see what happens, but that’s not the point.
I also enjoyed “reading” Dennis Cooper’s Zac’s Haunted House. It’s a novel made entirely of animated .gifs. It’s not possible to put this to print, as the pictures are animated. And even if it was a collection of still pictures, would it still be a language, communicating beauty and announcing its aesthetics, or just a picture book of art?
There is a division here. The Chinese language could be interpreted as picture-only communication, especially in its poetry. When we do it with English, we get the minimalism of William Carlos Williams trying to emulate a haiku about a wheelbarrow in the rain. Without any understanding of the English language, its spaces, and word count are aesthetically pleasing. Hence poetry of this kind is not about any complex communication of thought (as that is for intellects and academics), but whatever it is, subjectively speaking, pretty to look at.
I tried to “write” something similar to my Mole Mania poetry. That is if you consider taking or “stealing” pictures and posting them as your language. I could express the Mole Mania aesthetics in the English language. But with picture poetry, I can show you a picture, nothing else, and the picture communicates my thoughts for me.
This is why platforms like Instagram are not about complex thoughts, but shallow and sexually arousing imagery for “likes.” As Vilém Flusser has stated, we are entering a universe of technical imagery. What we think could express our feelings through a single picture, is a giant misconception that we rely too much on the primal beauty we hope that could save us. Writers are just like artists, but instead of focusing on aesthetics through drawing and emulation, the writer requires a reader who can understand complicated and sophisticated thoughts expressed in single words rather than surreal, cartoony pictures. We can understand the image of Batman through a cartoon, but the writer can understand the cartoon of Batman from many angles that the artist cannot express through their one-dimensional medium of choice. Writing contains many mediums and dimensions. It relies on a highly intelligent reader.
Picture Poetry is a conundrum, as it requires literary readers to view the art of one-dimensional production. A prerequisite of reading the language is required. This is why the “graphic novel” really isn’t a novel, as it’s a marketing term for American comics. The only appearance of English is through text bubbles, and without the cartoons, the so-called “novel” in question is the poetry of William Carlos Williams. A true “graphic novel” in a sense would be Jim Woodring’s Frank, which has no English in the cartoons and could be “read” by any human in the world. What’s left is its aesthetics and the ideology behind it. Woodring already communicates a certain bias through his black and white cartoons, that not everyone enjoys surrealism or an appreciation for the 1970s “comix” subculture, as it could be interpreted as a form of ugliness. Cartoonists who draw pictures without any use of English all suffer from the ideology of their aesthetics, and thus none of their work could have the many dimensions of the writer and the interpretations that follow.
Yes, what I am saying is that the writer is indeed more powerful, supremely greater, than the cartoonist. However, the drawback is that not everyone is intelligent or smart enough to understand language. Thus the most popular form of the one-dimensional picture is pornography, and the masses are aroused by these simple forms of penetration. The writer can create complex pornography, but the cartoonist has the advantage of clarity and getting to the point. Sometimes, we need an artist like Kurt Halsey Frederiksen to express a certain zeitgeist, period, and 2000s-era emo whiteboy aesthetic that the writer wouldn’t want to waste time expanding upon. Cartoons fill the void of simplistic expression, as writers only complicate.
The artist expresses greatest when he can be complicated like the writer. The writer is the artist, and vice versa. The picture poem cannot be mediocre. It must envision digital objects as found art. The writer is not drawing pictures, but using them at his expense. These pictures cannot be found in any other human language but as a Rebus puzzle or hieroglyphics. The puzzle in symbols in question, however, has no concrete answers but is easy to interpret. Put these pictures in a downward sequence, like tracker data, and let the reader witness the experience.
I thought about constructing some form of picture poetry in the future, like Cooper’s Zac’s Haunted House. Instead, I saw a greater vision with Period. Ironic, isn’t it?
I already have experience with video art on YTMND. It’s a matter of sequencing the pictures together to create an outside meaning, a feeling, and a greater intimate message I want to share with my reader. I want to create picture poetry around interracial romance, and transgressive topics, and the innocence shown in those pictures, not words, that can be as powerful as a 10,000-word novella.
Next time you find a meme on Twitter, Instagram, Google, or any forum, be sure to save it on your smartphone. Post all said pictures in any order you desire. You will find self-meaning through collage art you have never seen before.
I know for a fact we can uncover our hidden desires under the text.
That’s what I think Period is about. And that’s what I set out to do with this novel.
I didn’t mean to give out the magic tricks like that. I just want you to read the text and think that way before you think I’m illiterate or something. The knives are thrown intentionally for the sake of the computer programmer.
I’ll leave it at that.