Dennis Cooper

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Dennis Cooper
Cooper in 2018
Cooper in 2018
Born (1953-01-10) January 10, 1953 (age 68)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
  • Novelist
  • poet
  • critic
  • editor
  • blogger
  • performance artist
SubjectSexual fantasy, gay desire, existentialism, death, troubled teenagers, drug use, the inadequacy of language
Official website

Dennis Cooper (born January 10, 1953) is an American novelist, poet, critic, editor and performance artist. He is perhaps best known for the George Miles Cycle, a series of five semi-autobiographical novels published between 1989 and 2000 and described by Tony O'Neill "as intense a dissection of human relationships and obsession that modern literature has ever attempted."[1]


Cooper grew up the son of a wealthy businessman in Arcadia, California. His first forays into literature came early, focusing on imitations of Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, Marquis de Sade, and Charles Baudelaire. As he began his teenage years, he wrote poetry and stories on scandalous and often extreme subjects. At the age of fifteen, he began to plan an ambitious novel cycle. This project, which took Cooper nearly twenty years to realize, became known as The George Miles Cycle. Cooper was an outsider and the leader of a group of poets, punks, stoners, and writers. After high school he attended Pasadena City College and, later, Pitzer College, where he had a poetry teacher who was to inspire him to pursue his writing outside of institutions of higher learning.

In 1976 Cooper went to England to become involved in the nascent punk scene. In the same year he began Little Caesar Magazine which included among other things an issue on and dedicated to Arthur Rimbaud. In 1978 with the success of the magazine, Cooper was able to found Little Caesar Press which featured the work of, among others, Brad Gooch, Amy Gerstler, Elaine Equi, Tim Dlugos, Joe Brainard, and Eileen Myles.

In 1979, Cooper published his first book of poetry, Idols, and became the director of programming at an alternative poetry space, Beyond Baroque, in Venice, California. He held that position for three years. Cooper's second book of poetry, Tenderness of the Wolves, published in 1982, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 1983, Cooper moved to New York City, where he published his first book of fiction, a novella titled Safe, and began writing the cycle of five interconnected novels he had been planning since his mid-teens. In 1985 he moved to Amsterdam where he finished writing the first novel in the George Miles Cycle, Closer, which later won the first Ferro-Grumley Award for gay literature.

While in Amsterdam he also wrote articles for different American magazines including Art in America, The Advocate, The Village Voice and others. He returned to New York in 1987 and began writing articles and reviews for Artforum, eventually becoming a contributing editor of the magazine. He began working on his next novel, Frisk. In the next few years Cooper worked on several different art and performance projects including co-curating an exhibit at LACE with Richard Hawkins entitled AGAINST NATURE: A Group Show of Work by Homosexual Men.

After moving to Los Angeles from New York in 1990, Cooper collaborated with a number of artists, including composer John Zorn, painter Lari Pittman, sculptors Jason Meadows and Nayland Blake, and others. For several years, he was a contributing editor and regular writer for the rock music magazine Spin. In 1994, he founded the "Little House on the Bowery" imprint for the independent publisher Akashic Books, which has published works by Travis Jeppesen, Richard Hell, James Greer, Trinie Dalton, Benjamin Weissman, Derek McCormack and others. He completed his ten years of writing the George Miles Cycle with the novel Period in the year 2000. The cycle has now been translated into 17 foreign languages and is the subject of numerous academic studies. They include two volumes of critical essays devoted to the cycle: Enter at Your Own Risk (2004), edited by Leora Lev, and Dennis Cooper: Writing at the Edge (2008), edited by Paul Hegarty and Danny Kennedy. Since then he has written three novels: My Loose Thread, God Jr., and The Sluts (winner of the 2007 Prix Sade in France and the 2005 Lammy Award for best book of gay fiction).

Since the summer of 2005, Cooper has spent most of his time in Paris. While there, he has worked on his blog, which Cooper considers his current major artistic project,[citation needed] and has collaborated with French theater director Gisèle Vienne, composers Peter Rehberg and Stephen O'Malley, and the performer Jonathan Capdevielle on six works for the theater, I Apologize (2004), Un Belle Enfant Blonde (2005), Kindertotenlieder (2007), a stage adaption of his novella Jerk (2008), This Is How You Will Disappear (2010), and Last Spring, a Prequel (2011). These theater works have been highly acclaimed and continue to tour extensively in Europe, the UK, and Asia. While in France, Cooper finished a new book of poetry, The Weaklings, which was published in a limited edition by Fanzine Press in March 2008, a collection of short fiction titled Ugly Man (Harper Perennial, 2009), and Smothered in Hugs: Essays, Interviews, Feedback, and Obituaries (Harper Perennial, 2010).

In 2011, Cooper completed his ninth novel, The Marbled Swarm. He played a small role in Christophe Honore's feature film Homme au Bain. The year saw the publication of three books by Cooper: The Marbled Swarm (Harper Perennial, November), Jerk/Through Their Tears (DisVoir, March), a book/CD collaboration with Gisèle Vienne and Peter Rehberg, and the reissue of his and the artist Keith Mayerson's 1997 graphic novel Horror Hospital Unplugged (Harper Perennial). Them, a performance art work Cooper originally created in 1984 with choreographer/director Ishmael Houston-Jones and composer/ musician Chris Cochrane, was restaged very successfully in New York and Utrecht. Them won a 2011 Bessie Award for best performance of the year, and it will be touring Europe and the United States in 2012.

In 2012, Cooper and his frequent theater collaborator Gisèle Vienne co-curated a section of the annual Un Nouveau Festival at the Centre Pompidou in Paris entitled TEENAGE HALLUCINATION, featuring art exhibitions, films, lectures, live performances, concerts, an installation of the visual components of Cooper/Vienne's works to date, and performances of their theater pieces Last Spring, a Prequel (2011), Jerk (2008), and Cooper/Cochrane/Houston-Jones' Them. Last Spring, a Prequel also appeared in the 2012 edition of the Whitney Biennial. From March to June, Kunstverein Amsterdam hosted CLOSER: The Dennis Cooper Papers, a three-month celebration of Cooper's five-novel sequence The George Miles Cycle featuring an exhibition of Cycle-related materials, artworks especially commissioned for the occasion, lectures, performances, and the publication of a book.

2013 saw the publication of Cooper's latest poetry collection, The Weaklings (XL), by Sententia Books. The Pyre, his seventh theatrical collaboration with Vienne, composers Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehberg, and lighting designer Patrick Riou, had its world premiere at the Centre Pompidou in May and is currently touring internationally.

In addition to their United States editions, Cooper's novels and books of poetry have been published in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Israel, China, Japan, and Lithuania.


In mid-2016, Cooper engaged in a two-month standoff with Google after it deleted his blog[2] and Gmail accounts without warning, due to what the company described as unspecified violations of their terms of use policy. Ten years of Cooper's writings were lost, including a novel. Cooper termed the situation "a nightmare".[3] Cooper's plight attracted media attention,[4][5][6] including from The New York Times,[7] The New Yorker,[8] The Guardian,[9] Le Figaro,[10] and Die Welt.[11] Google's attorneys contacted Cooper and after long negotiations, returned his data.[12]


Cooper's work has been acknowledged as an influence on a number of younger writers, including Travis Jeppesen, Tony O'Neill, Noah Cicero, Dominic Lyne[13] and Poppy Z. Brite.[14] Cooper's poetry, including the first poem he ever wrote (about David Cassidy) appear in the film Luster as the work of lead character Jackson.[15] American indie rock band Deerhunter, and grindcore act Pig Destroyer have both cited Dennis Cooper as a lyrical influence.[16] Cooper has also influenced a number of artists such as Jonathan Mayhew, Math Tinder, Lizz Brady, Chris Kelso, Daniel Portland, Jared Pappas-Kelley, Kier Cooke Sandvik, Ken Baumann, Blair Mastbaum, which he has included in exhibitions such as the Weaklings or who he has showcased over the years.[17][18] Within his work Cooper is often inspired by and quotes from underground and independent music; as with the lyrics of the band Hüsker Dü in the novel Try, and the naming of the 1992 curated show The Freed Weed, from a compilation by the band Sebadoh - which has been discussed in a number of interviews and analyses.[19][20]

George Miles Cycle[edit]

In the spring of 2000 Cooper published Period, the last of a series of five novels known as the George Miles cycle (ISBNs refer to the Grove Press paperback editions):

  • Closer (1989), ISBN 0-8021-3212-X
  • Frisk (1991), ISBN 0-8021-3289-8
  • Try (1994), ISBN 0-8021-3338-X
  • Guide (1997), ISBN 0-8021-3580-3
  • Period (2000), ISBN 0-8021-3783-0

"… [I]n the ninth grade Cooper met his beloved friend George Miles. Miles had deep psychological problems and Cooper took him under his wing. Years later, when Cooper was 30, he had a brief love affair with the 27-year-old Miles. The cycle of books … came later, and were an attempt by Cooper to get to the bottom of both his fascination with sex and violence and his feelings for Miles."
      — 3:AM Magazine, November 2001, "American Psycho: An Interview With Dennis Cooper" by Stephen Lucas[21]

"George in Closer, whose room is full of Disney figures, himself becomes the toy of two forty-year-old men obsessed with the beauty of pain and suffering. In Frisk, an ex-friend is writing Julian letters: reports or fantasies of sex and violence. The description of the sexual murdering of young men is a melange of blood and slippery internal organs, too unappetizing to quote. The letters are being sent from a Holland windmill, in its isolation an ideal place for exploring the raw reality of sex, violence and death."
      — VPRO Television; article in Dutch[22]

Other books[edit]


  • Antoine Monnier (fiction, Anon Press, 1978)
  • My Mark (fiction, Sherwood Press, 1982)
  • Safe (novella, SeaHorse Press, 1985)
  • Wrong (short fiction, Grove Press, 1992)
  • My Loose Thread (novel, Canongate, 2002)
  • The Sluts (novel, Void Books, 2004; Carroll & Graf, 2005)
  • God Jr. (novel, Grove Press, 2005)
  • Ugly Man (short fiction, Harper Perennial, 2009)
  • French Hole, being 15 outtakes from 'The Marbled Swarm' (Kiddiepunk, 2011)
  • The Marbled Swarm (novel, Harper Perennial, November 2011)
  • The Pyre/Le Bucher (short fiction, limited edition book given to the audience of Gisèle Vienne's performance work 'The Pyre', Editions POL, 2013)
  • Zac's Haunted House (HTML Novel, Kiddiepunk, 2015)
  • Zac's Control Panel (HTML Book, Kiddiepunk, 2015)


  • The Terror of Earrings (Kinks Press, 1973)
  • Tiger Beat (Little Caesar Press, 1978)
  • Idols (SeaHorse Press, 1979; Amethyst Press, 1989)
  • Tenderness of the Wolves (The Crossing Press, 1981)
  • The Missing Men (Am Here Books/Immediate Editions, 1981)
  • He Cried (Black Star Series, 1985)
  • The Dream Police: Selected Poems '69–93 (Grove Press, 1994)
  • Thee Tight Lung Split Roar Hums (with Thurston Moore, Byron Coley; Slow Toe Press, 2004)
  • The Weaklings (with illustrations by Jarrod Anderson, Fanzine Press, limited edition, 2008)
  • The Weaklings (XL) (Sententia Books, 2013)

Collaborations and nonfiction[edit]

  • Jerk (collaboration with artist Nayland Blake, Artspace Books, 1994)
  • Horror Hospital Unplugged (graphic novel with illustrations by artist Keith Mayerson, Juno Books, 1997)
  • All Ears (criticism and journalism, Soft Skull Press, 1997)
  • Weird Little Boy' (provided texts for CD collaboration by John Zorn, Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, Chris Cochrane, William Winant, Avant, 1998)
  • Violence, faits divers, littérature (non-fiction, POL, France, 2004)
  • Dennis (CD/book, Don Waters Editions/AK Press, 2006)
  • Two Texts for a Puppet Play by David Brooks (with Stephen O'Malley, Jean-Luc Verna; DACM, limited edition, 2008)
  • SAFE with Dennis Cooper Ugly Man CD (Dot Dot Music, 2008)
  • Peter Rehberg/Dennis Cooper Music for GV (Mego Records, 2008)
  • Smothered in Hugs: Essays, Interviews, Feedback, Obituaries (Harper Perennial, 2010)
  • Jerk / Through Their Tears CD/book (w/ Gisèle Vienne, Peter Rehberg, DisVoir, March 2011)
  • Last Spring: The Maps multi-volume zine (w/ Gisèle Vienne, Le Cooperative Fanzine, 2011–2012)
  • Gisèle Vienne 40 Portraits 2003 - 2008 (Editions POL, 2012)
  • GONE: Scrapbook '80 - '82 (Infinity Land Press, 2014)

Works written for the theater[edit]

  • The Pyre (Director: Gisèle Vienne, Score: Stephen O'Malley, Peter Rehberg; 2013)
  • Last Spring, a Prequel (Director: Gisèle Vienne, Score: Stephen O'Malley, Peter Rehberg; 2011)
  • This Is How You Will Disappear (Director: Gisèle Vienne, Score: Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehberg, Visual Effects: Fujiko Nakaya & Shiro Takatani; 2010)
  • Dedans/Dehors/David (Writer/Director: David Bobee, based on Cooper's novel "Closer", 2008)
  • Jerk (Director: Gisèle Vienne, Score: Peter Rehberg/Pita; 2008)
  • Jerk, radio play (France Culture/Radio France, 2007)
  • Kindertotenlieder (Director: Gisèle Vienne, Score: Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehberg/Pita; 2007)
  • Une Belle Enfant Blonde (Co-written with Catherine Robbe Grillet, Director: Gisèle Vienne, Score: Peter Rehberg/Pita; 2005)
  • I Apologize (Director: Gisèle Vienne, Score: Peter Rehberg/Pita; 2004)
  • The Undead (Director: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Score: Tom Recchion; Visual Design: Robert Flynt; 1990)
  • Knife/Tape/Rope (Director: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Sets: John De Fazio; 1985)
  • Them (Director: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Score: Chris Cochrane; 1984, 2010)

Further reading[edit]

  • Earl Jackson Jr. "Death Drives Across Pornotopia: Dennis Cooper on the Extremities of Being, Strategies of Deviance (Indiana University Press, 1995)
  • Elizabeth Young and Graham Caveney "Death in Disneyland: Dennis Cooper", Shopping in Space: Essays on America's Blank Fiction (Serpents Tail, 1996)
  • James Bolton, director, Dennis Cooper, a 20-minute documentary film (2000)
  • Julian Murphet,"Postcards from Sim City," in *Literature and Race in Los Angeles* (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
  • Elizabeth Young "Dennis Cooper: Closer", Pandora's Handbag (Serpents Tail, 2003)
  • Leora Lev, editor, Enter at Your Own Risk: The Dangerous Art of Dennis Cooper (FDU Press, 2006) Includes essays on Cooper's work by William Burroughs, Michael Cunningham, Dodie Bellamy, John Waters, Kevin Killian, Matthew Stadler, Robert Gluck, Elizabeth Young, and others.
  • Avital Ronell "The Philosophical Code: Dennis Cooper's Pacific Rim", The ÜberReader: Selected Works of Avital Ronell (University of Illinois Press, 2007)
  • Paul Hegarty and Danny Kennedy, editors, Writing at the Edge: The Work of Dennis Cooper (Sussex University Press, March 2008)
  • Martin Dines Gay Suburban Narratives in American and British Culture (Macmillan, 2009)
  • Marvin J. Taylor and Krist Gruijthujsen Geometries of Desire: An Interview with Dennis Cooper (Kunstverein Amsterdam, 2012)
  • Stacey D'Erasmo The Art of Intimacy: The Space Inbetween (Graywolf Press, 2013)
  • Christopher Hennessy Our Deep Gossip: Conversations with Gay Writers on Poetry and Desire (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2014)
  • Diarmuid Hester Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper (The University of Iowa Press, 2020)


  1. ^ O'Neill, Tony (4 October 2007). "A good writer as bad as you'll find". Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Dennis Cooper - The Weaklings".
  3. ^ "Dennis Cooper's Blog | Facebook". Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  4. ^ "Google borra el blog de Dennis Cooper - Estandarte". Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  5. ^ Romano, Aja (2016-07-30). "A writer kept a blog for 10 years. Google deleted it. Why?". Vox. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  6. ^ "Dennis Cooper: erased by Google | Pixarthinking". 2016-08-08. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  7. ^ Gay, Roxane (2016-07-29). "The Blog That Disappeared". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  8. ^ "Why Did Google Erase Dennis Cooper's Beloved Literary Blog?". The New Yorker. 2016-07-24. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  9. ^ Sidahmed, Mazin (2016-07-14). "Dennis Cooper fears censorship as Google erases blog without warning". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  10. ^ Romanacce, Thomas (2016-07-22). "Le romancier Dennis Cooper trop hardcore pour Google". Le Figaro (in French). ISSN 0182-5852. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  11. ^ Reichwein, Marc (2016-08-01). "Google schaltet Blog von US-Schriftsteller ab". Welt Online. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  12. ^ "Dennis Cooper's Blog | Facebook". Retrieved 2018-02-14.
  13. ^ "Crushed by History » 3:AM Magazine". 2006-02-02. Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ Lewis, Everett and Shulevitz, Robert (2001). Commentary, Luster (DVD). TLA Releasing.
  16. ^ "Deerhunter: Cryptograms | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. 2007-01-30. Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  17. ^ Cooper, Dennis. "Some recent works by artists who also hang around here sometimes, Volume Four". The Weaklings. Archived from the original on 18 February 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  18. ^ "The Weaklings - Curated by Dennis Cooper". Five Years. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  19. ^ Hegarty, Paul; Kennedy, Danny (2012). Dennis Cooper: Writing at the Edge. ISBN 9781845195526.
  20. ^ [2][dead link]
  21. ^ "Literature: Interview With Dennis Cooper". Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  22. ^ [3] Archived July 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]