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Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper

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Dennis Cooper is one of the most inventive and prolific artists of our time. Working in a variety of forms and media since he first exploded onto the scene in the early 1970s, he has been a punk poet, a queercore novelist, a transgressive blogger, an indie filmmaker—each successive incarnation more ingenious and surprising than the last. Cooper’s unflinching determination Dennis Cooper is one of the most inventive and prolific artists of our time. Working in a variety of forms and media since he first exploded onto the scene in the early 1970s, he has been a punk poet, a queercore novelist, a transgressive blogger, an indie filmmaker—each successive incarnation more ingenious and surprising than the last. Cooper’s unflinching determination to probe the obscure, often violent recesses of the human psyche have seen him compared with literary outlaws like Rimbaud, Genet, and the Marquis de Sade. In this, the first book-length study of Cooper’s life and work, Diarmuid Hester shows that such comparisons hardly scratch the surface. A lively retrospective appraisal of Cooper’s fifty-year career, Wrong tracks the emergence of Cooper’s singular style alongside his participation in a number of American subcultural movements like New York School poetry, punk rock, and radical queercore music and zines. Using extensive archival research, close readings of texts, and new interviews with Cooper and his contemporaries, Hester weaves a complex and often thrilling biographical narrative that attests to Cooper’s status as a leading figure of the American post­–War avant-garde.


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Dennis Cooper is one of the most inventive and prolific artists of our time. Working in a variety of forms and media since he first exploded onto the scene in the early 1970s, he has been a punk poet, a queercore novelist, a transgressive blogger, an indie filmmaker—each successive incarnation more ingenious and surprising than the last. Cooper’s unflinching determination Dennis Cooper is one of the most inventive and prolific artists of our time. Working in a variety of forms and media since he first exploded onto the scene in the early 1970s, he has been a punk poet, a queercore novelist, a transgressive blogger, an indie filmmaker—each successive incarnation more ingenious and surprising than the last. Cooper’s unflinching determination to probe the obscure, often violent recesses of the human psyche have seen him compared with literary outlaws like Rimbaud, Genet, and the Marquis de Sade. In this, the first book-length study of Cooper’s life and work, Diarmuid Hester shows that such comparisons hardly scratch the surface. A lively retrospective appraisal of Cooper’s fifty-year career, Wrong tracks the emergence of Cooper’s singular style alongside his participation in a number of American subcultural movements like New York School poetry, punk rock, and radical queercore music and zines. Using extensive archival research, close readings of texts, and new interviews with Cooper and his contemporaries, Hester weaves a complex and often thrilling biographical narrative that attests to Cooper’s status as a leading figure of the American post­–War avant-garde.

30 review for Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    "Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper is a much-needed study on this author and filmmaker's works and life. Cooper is very much a verb and still extremely active in writing in various forms and formats. Diarmuid Hester has an excellent grasp on what makes Cooper a great writer, as well as a thinker, and dwell into each part of his past novels and projects. Like Raymond Roussel, one has to take Cooper's entire works because, in a sense, it's all part of his world that he constructs very c "Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper is a much-needed study on this author and filmmaker's works and life. Cooper is very much a verb and still extremely active in writing in various forms and formats. Diarmuid Hester has an excellent grasp on what makes Cooper a great writer, as well as a thinker, and dwell into each part of his past novels and projects. Like Raymond Roussel, one has to take Cooper's entire works because, in a sense, it's all part of his world that he constructs very carefully and skillfully. Like Jacques Demy's filmography, one movie leads to another. There is a pathway or string that attaches the entire film works. The same goes for Dennis Cooper's writing and film projects. The beauty of Dennis's work is that it is very much part of contemporary culture. His collaborations with other artists are always of great interest, and true to the nature of his work. Hester also writes about the culture around Cooper, and that is equally fascinating as well. The Beyond Baroque in Venice California years are explored as well as Gay/Lesbian culture of the 1980s, 90s, and beyond. My only (very) little disagreement with the author is how he sees Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center becoming unimportant after Dennis leaving his post as Readings Director. The institution has a long history before and after Dennis. It deserves a full-length biography (or oral-history) of Beyond Baroque. Benjamin Weissman, who became the Readings Director after Dennis, did a magnificent job of organizing readings for the center and connecting to poets/writers from Europe, New York, and beyond. Without a doubt, Dennis's importance to Beyond Baroque was essential, but the organization rocks on in its manner and ways to this day. "Wrong" is an essential read for anyone interested in Dennis Cooper's work. Still, also on a more significant landscape, it's about literature in the late 20th and 21st-century. He's one of my all-time favorite writers, as well as a person of great taste. This book opens up Dennis's world to others who are starting to get their first step into the works of this prominent figure in the arts.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sam Glatt

    Diarmuid Hester has managed to write a thoroughly researched critical analysis of the life and work of Dennis Cooper that is both thought-provoking and entertaining. This is first and foremost an academic work, but Hester reveals the life of Dennis Cooper in a way that keeps you furiously turning the page. You will learn a lot here, whether it's about Cooper himself or the theoretical and artistic implications of his work and the parts of culture he has been and is involved in. I loved this, and Diarmuid Hester has managed to write a thoroughly researched critical analysis of the life and work of Dennis Cooper that is both thought-provoking and entertaining. This is first and foremost an academic work, but Hester reveals the life of Dennis Cooper in a way that keeps you furiously turning the page. You will learn a lot here, whether it's about Cooper himself or the theoretical and artistic implications of his work and the parts of culture he has been and is involved in. I loved this, and it's a great read for anyone who already loves Dennis Cooper or wants to learn more.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben Robinson

    With his lifelong study of youth and the abject, Dennis Cooper has achieved big things in a multitude of art forms. His complex, ever-shifting oeuvre would make major demands of any critic and Diarmuid Hester's compulsively readable overview is very highly recommended. With his lifelong study of youth and the abject, Dennis Cooper has achieved big things in a multitude of art forms. His complex, ever-shifting oeuvre would make major demands of any critic and Diarmuid Hester's compulsively readable overview is very highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robert Vaughan

    Illuminating study of one of our most innovative contemporary writers and artists.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian O'Connell

    A remarkable, incredibly accessible work of scholarship that uses Cooper’s life and work as a jumping-off point for consideration of multiple different theories, disciplines, and histories. I don’t agree with all of Hester’s analyses—I think he sometimes overemphasizes the anarchist element, and he seems to use The Marbled Swarm mostly as a gateway to explore (admittedly highly interesting) archives of subcultural queer codes, not (in my humble opinion) an especially relevant framework when talk A remarkable, incredibly accessible work of scholarship that uses Cooper’s life and work as a jumping-off point for consideration of multiple different theories, disciplines, and histories. I don’t agree with all of Hester’s analyses—I think he sometimes overemphasizes the anarchist element, and he seems to use The Marbled Swarm mostly as a gateway to explore (admittedly highly interesting) archives of subcultural queer codes, not (in my humble opinion) an especially relevant framework when talking about the actual substance and structure of what is surely Cooper’s most complex text—but his attempt to forge a new pathway toward understanding the artist’s oeuvre by examining its meeting place at the confluence of multiple contexts and influences is an admirable, worthwhile, inspiring, and mostly successful one. It’s a real page-turner too: this is academia, but it’s never stuffy or opaque, and the biographical structure ensures that there’s enough real-life intrigue (fuck you Laura Albert!) and behind-the-scenes tidbits to keep one attentive between the more theory-laden passages. Ultimately, this is both a much-needed and highly thought-provoking study of an oft-overlooked artist, and a broader examination of numerous avenues of interest that involve Cooper’s writing (and the reader) in a richer tradition of study. Recommended for fans and newbies alike.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt T

    A strangely brilliant scholarly reckoning with Dennis Cooper's works. Initially, I was a bit puzzled by all the digressions into the cultural history of the artforms Cooper's works are contiguous with, and then the scope of Hester's project struck home: aside from being a groundbreaking novelist, (and to my mind, no one has shown better the perplexing LIMITS of sex as the most intimate expression of romantic desire since Proust's estrangement of the kiss), Dennis Cooper has been éminence grise t A strangely brilliant scholarly reckoning with Dennis Cooper's works. Initially, I was a bit puzzled by all the digressions into the cultural history of the artforms Cooper's works are contiguous with, and then the scope of Hester's project struck home: aside from being a groundbreaking novelist, (and to my mind, no one has shown better the perplexing LIMITS of sex as the most intimate expression of romantic desire since Proust's estrangement of the kiss), Dennis Cooper has been éminence grise to the developments of the novel form in and through a post-internet world. Consequently, reading Hester's WRONG will show you one pathway to the crux of literary art today. So why explain the genius of Cooper through hoary old notions of genes and daimons, when we can see how circuits of ideas and affections beyond the nuclear family play a more pivotal role and produce something which we might call a 'community', or, what was once known as 'the society of the friends of crime'?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    As a teenager reading Cooper’s novels, I never could have imagined this book would exist. Cooper always felt like a bit of a secret between a handful of readers. This critical biography is everything!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Merlin

    I love Dennis Cooper as much as the next person, but over $30 for the ebook?! No way, not even for the godhead.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nie Toll

    neither fish nor fowl

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shane

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  13. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Stevens

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Antoniello

  15. 5 out of 5

    Apistatcommander

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adam Hudson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Nelson

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marc

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jamie McMorrow

  22. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Moore

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bill Hsu

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  25. 4 out of 5

    James

  26. 5 out of 5

    Екатерина Головлева

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jay Slayton-Joslin

  28. 4 out of 5

    Colin

  29. 4 out of 5

    cc

  30. 4 out of 5

    NLK

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