- Guide by Dennis Cooper
Serpent’s Tail, 176 pp, £8.99, March 1998, ISBN 1 85242 586 5
Reading Dennis Cooper can make you queasy. This short novel is the fourth in a five-volume cycle concerned almost exclusively, so far, with sexual violence. Closer (1989) subjected an American teenager to anal mutilation; Frisk (1991) concerned the butchery of young Dutch boys; and Try (1994) in which one critic detected ‘a gentler maturity’, saw an adopted son greedily penetrated by his father. In each book, and here, too, such episodes are not just a quick splatter on the page, or the stuff of hints and ambiguity, but drawn-out, physical descriptions. And, all the while, amid the broken bottles and bruised buttocks and the entire ‘fireworks display of blood’, as one of his murderers puts it, Cooper feels no need to emote.