Monday, September 3, 2007

for those who asked: 'Period: The Official Strategy Guide' (excerpt, from Dazed and Confused Magazine, 2000) *

* Back in 2000, the English magazine Dazed and Confused asked me to do something special for them to mark the UK release of my novel 'Period.' So I decided to create a strategy guide to what is kind of admittedly a rather mysterious and complex little novel. The 'guide', which was inspired by and modeled on the kinds of strategy guidebooks that accompany the release of video games, was intended to be both a guide and a kind of anti-guide at the same time. There was a pictorial element with with photos, captions, and graphing that explored and kind of detailed the more poetic, non-narrative aspect to the book in a way that only increased the confusion and trickery, and there was a text that kind of counteracted the imagery part of the guide by giving a consolidated, simplified version of the novel's narrative. The pictorial part of the guide has been pretty much lost unless one happens to have a copy of that issue of D&C. The text portion was put online for a while, but has now disappeared. Our goodly blog community member James happened to save this text portion of the guide, which he passed along to me so I could share it with those out there who said they wanted to read it. And this is it:

George Miles (1957 - 1987)

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Teenage alienation, obsession and exploitation are the overriding themes that can be traced through Dennis Cooper's modern noir fiction. His writing stems from a long standing desire to come to terms with all the dark stuff inside him, and articulate his fascination with murder, snuff movies and pedophilia. Yet his work is not all doom and gloom, it is a warm, fiercely emotional and, curiously, morally blank canvas tinged with dark humor. Born in 1953 in Pasadena, California, to wealthy parents Cooper's formative years were spent in the pursuit of the bohemian life. He's spent periods living in London, Amsterdam and New York. In the '70s, he started his own magazine called Little Caesar and self published books of his own poetry and work by others including Bob Flanagan. He considers the five book cycle that began with Closer and ended with Period as a whole piece that resembles "a novel slowly being dismembered down to nothing". Despite being favorably compared to everyone from William Burroughs to Jane Austen, Cooper claims to be inspired more by music than literature. Bored by the conventions of the novel, he says his work is an attempt to translate his wonder at the complexity and wealth of ideas in modern music into a literary form.
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In my new novel Period, a middle aged poet and Goth scenester named Walker Crane is obsessed with Dagger, a young porn star who has appeared in a number of Gothic porn videos, always in non speaking, non sexual, peripheral roles. Crane learns that Dagger is working as a rent boy, hires him, and discovers why Dagger never has sex in the videos. A sullen, mysterious, perpetually stoned young man, he becomes the opposite of that during the sex act – extremely emotional, loving, and needy. Then, as soon as the sex is over, he returns to being his withdrawn, inaccessible self. This fascinates Crane, whose poetry involves disguising his own emotional neediness and romantic nature with complicated linguistic games and a cool, removed lyricism. Seeing Dagger as a kind of human equivalent of his writing, Crane begins an ongoing sexual relationship with the boy in order to study him in regards to his own artistic process. Suddenly Dagger stops showing up or returning Crane's phone calls, and the writer realizes that he has fallen deeply in love with the boy without knowing it. He grows lonely and despondent until, one night, when watching a local newscast, he learns that a boy named George Miles has been found raped, mutilated, and beaten almost to death in the desert, and recognizes the boy in the photograph flashed on the screen as Dagger. George Miles survives his injuries, but is bedridden, and his once neatly contained emotions and neediness are now a constant part of his personality. Crane attempts to continue a relationship with George, but finds that he can't deal with the boy's overt psychological problems and loss of physical attractiveness. Eventually, Crane abandons George and stops showing up or returning his phone calls. Instead, Crane funnels his guilt and thwarted feelings of love into a Gothic novel entitled Period.

In Walker Crane's Period, a reclusive artist named Bob devotes his life to building an artwork. In memoriam to a boy named George Miles, who had killed himself some years before. Bob lives in a tiny, remote town where strange, satanic forces seem to govern the population. Bob's artwork is a replica of the house in which George killed himself. The exterior of this artwork has a normal, house like appearance, but the interior is a complicated black maze that leads to a mysterious room. This room is an exact copy of the bedroom where George died, except that in Bob's version; the only decor is a mirror. Bob believes that this strange artwork, in combination with the town's evil forces, will cause George to return from the dead, pass through this mirror, and be reunited with him in the real world.

Among the town's population are two teenaged Satanists, Leon and Nate, the latter of whom happens to look a great deal like George Miles. They are huge fans of a Death Metal band called The Omen, and take the band's morbid, violent lyrics as a kind of bible. Bob is having a casual sexual relationship with Nate, whose resemblance to George excites him. Unbeknownst to Bob, there is a sullen, withdrawn deaf mute boy living in the town named Dagger, whose resemblance to George is even more uncanny. One day, Nate and Leon decide to sacrifice Dagger to Satan in the bedroom of Bob's artwork. Their ceremony unleashes a strange force that causes the town's occupants to pass through the mirror, and unknowingly become backward, reflected images of themselves. So Nate becomes Etan, Leon becomes Noel, and so on. Dagger appears to survive the boys' attack, and, when he emerges from the house, Bob believes he is the reincarnated George Miles. Bob and George begin a relationship, but Bob gradually realizes that the boy is an empty, shadow replica of the real George. Feeling a profound sense of failure, he kills himself, and rejoins his dead beloved the only way he knows how.

In Period, Walker Crane's Period is published, and is a gigantic flop, trashed by critics as being implausible, overly complicated, and obscure. One day two Heavy Metal musicians and sexual sadists named Henry and Duke find the book in a used bookstore, think it's genius, and form a band called The Omen in homage to the novel. The Omen have a hit song, and, because of their references to Crane's novel in interviews, the band's fans discover Period, and it inspires a crazed cult following. People create websites and newsgroups devoted to the novel, its characters, and its myriad mysteries. The most extreme young fans adopt the novels' characters' names as nicknames, and strive to look and live exactly like them. This cult provides Walker Crane and The Omen with opportunities to live out their fantasies, as Crane has a series of sexual relationships with George Miles alike, and The Omen sacrifice a series of their most devoted, Nate and Leon like fans to Satan. Meanwhile, the real George Miles finds out about the novel, and reads it. George has become very dependent on Walker Crane's love and attention, and feels abandoned and lost without him. In his depressed, isolated, psychologically distraught state, he begins having a Period inspired delusion that his reflection in his bedroom mirror is a deaf mute boy named Dagger, who is encouraging him to kill himself, pass through the mirror, and into the world of Crane's novel, where he will be reunited with the writer. George tries desperately to fight off this psychosis and reconnect with the real Walker Crane, but the writer ignores him. Finally, in his loneliness and confusion, George takes the imaginary Dagger's advice and kills himself.

When Walker Crane discovers that the real George Miles has killed himself in the exact manner that the character George Miles had done so in his novel, he realizes that he has been living out a superficial fantasy of his relationship with George. He can have sex with as many Dagger equivalents as he likes, but what made George so important and specific was the emotional life that Crane was incapable of dealing with. In guilt and desperation, he rereads Period, looking for the clues and answers that seem to enthrall and convince his fans, but all he sees is a fatally flawed magic trick in narrative In effect, he is the character Bob, and the novel is his artwork. Like Bob, he has been unable to make his art replicate the George Miles whom he had loved, but, unlike Bob, he has neither the courage to kill himself nor the belief in a magical afterlife where he and his beloved could be reunited. Instead, he spends the rest of his life writing obscure, secretly heartfelt, unpopular love poems to his dead beloved.

Period is the final novel in a cycle that also includes Closer (1989), Frisk (1991), Try (1994), and Guide (1997). I've devoted ten years of my life to this project, which is my memoriam to a friend of mine named George Miles, who killed himself in 1987. Like Walker Crane's Bob, I have hoped against hope that this work would somehow reconnect me with my late friend, but, on that level, the cycle has been a failure. In the end, all I can do in this final novel is try to make my work disappear, cancel itself out, commit suicide in George's honor. This is what I've done, or tried to do in the puzzle of a novel that is Period. Since the novel was published last March in the United States, I've been overwhelmed with requests to explain Period's layered and interconnected mysteries. I can't do that, since this would defeat the purpose of the book. But with this piece of writing and the accompanying images, I am providing all the clues, hints, and behind the scene glimpses that readers will need to begin to solve the puzzle on their own, if they so choose. Anyone, who wants further hints or would like to share their findings or opinions on Period, can contact me by email at

Period by Dennis Cooper is published by Serpent's Tail


p.s. I'm not sure if this is of interest, but, while I'm on the topic of my work, here is the tentative table of contents of my recently completed book of short fiction. No doubt there'll be some cuts and changes in the order before the book becomes reality, but here's the raw data circa now:

title: Ugly Man
pp. (in mss.): 263


-Ugly Man
-The Boy on the Far Left
-Graduate Seminar
-Santa Claus vs. Johnny Crawford
-The Hostage Drama
-The Brainiacs
-I Heard You Were Looking for Food
-From the Cannibal’s Porn Stash
-The Guro Artists
-The Anal Retentive Line Editor
-Oliver Twink
-Brian aka ‘Bear’
-Three Boys Who Thought Experimental Fiction Was For Pussies
-The Worst
-One Night in 1979 I Did Too Much Coke and Couldn't Sleep and Had What I Thought Was a Million-Dollar Idea to Write the Definitive Tell-all Book About Glam Rock Based on My Own Personal Experience But This Is as Far as I Got
-Great Moments in Gay Porn: The Noll Dynasty
-The 15 Worst Russian Gay Porn Websites
-The Ash Gray Proclamation


tomkendall said...

wow this looks great!!!!!! really excited!! also i well want the ash gray glad its gonna be included.

vomitingghosts said...

Dennis, that's a great title for the new book and a lot of the pieces sound familiar. A lot started on the blog here, right? Beautiful stuff and looking forward to everything. And what about "The Weaklings"? Any idea when Void is going to publish it? Their website has been cryogenically frozen since 2004 apparently. You probably already said something about it but I must have missed it. Anyway. It's perfect weather in Massachusetts right now. All weekend actually. It's like three o'clock and I haven't done anything except wake up and drink lemonade watch Bush's address from Iraq and then hear CNN talk about brain trauma and the suicide rate of soldiers. So if you don't die in Iraq, you have a pretty good chance of either killing yourself when you get home or getting your brain so fucked up you can't do anything ever again. Either way most likely you'll die soon. No wonder the army is promising signing bonuses now in upwards of $20,000 dollars. People's brains are worth $20,000 dollars apparently. Brains and families and life are just shit in wars. I don't get it. It's just really sad to see all those people over there. Isn't Britain pulling out their troops now? I read that somewhere, I think. Pulling out their troops in the dead of night because it's safer. Anyway. Speaking of brain damage, Dennis, you should totally put up some of that brain fucking guro art on here. Another day dipping into your guro collection would be much appreciated in these fucked up times. Whatever that means. Guro makes reality seem less cruel is what I mean, I think. I don't know.

Paul Curran said...

Congratulations on finishing the story collection, Dennis. The titles sound great. Can't wait to hold a copy.

I really enjoyed the Period article too. Expanding the mysteries and (dis)solving them.

you-x said...

I just reread this. Really beautiful. I love your work Dennis, I can only begin to tell you how much it means to me and how deeply it's changed my life.

Reading this strategy guide, again, had me experiencing life in a sadder but all the richer way. I love what your words do to my brain. Not only that, but reading this overview I was struck by how filmic Period is, especially when explained as you have done here, ages ago. I felt as though I was watching it, and it was like seeing Period, thinking about it, in a whole new way. Because, the moments were slower, and aquamarine.

joshposh said...

Oh my, what will happen when I read Period. I even cried while reading this post xD

stk said...

This is helpful. Plus, it reads as a really good story on its own.