Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cooper's "Closer" — Follow-Up "Answers"

Giogio's questions deserve more than a "comment" so herewith a full-fledged "follow-up". During our discussion he said he had found the Paris Review interview to be the best he had found so here's a link.

1. Partly what Cooper is writing about is pedophilia and partially how he writes about it is pornography. He addresses the pedophilia in his books in the 15th Q&A of the Paris Review interview.

The fact that teenagers were routinely disrespected, objectified, exploited, and disempowered was a huge issue to me then and one that has remained very important to me as I’ve become an adult.
Now I can inhabit the thoughts and emotions and motivations of adults who see teenagers as problems, as reminders of their own youth, as sex ­objects or triggers of sentimentality, as a dismissible, transitional, short-lived species that occupies some sort of dark age between childhood and adulthood, both of which are seen as more legitimate stages of life. But my concentration is on resisting that supposed wisdom.

In the 10th Q&A he addresses the issue of pornography.

I think pornography is a very rich medium, and I’ve studied it closely and learned quite a lot as a writer from it. Porn charges and narrows the reader’s attention in a swift, no-nonsense way, and it creates an anxious, intimate, and secretive atmosphere that I find very helpful as a way to erase the context around my characters and foreground their feelings, their psychological depths, their tastes. But I’m also always interested in subverting and counteracting porn’s effect, and the sex in my books is never merely hot. It challenges the objectification that is porn’s stock-in-trade by removing the central conceit that people having sex are in a state of supreme relaxation and self-confidence, wherein their worries and individuality are muted and beside the point. It uses hotness as a kind of decoy.

2. "Is art worth the nausea?" It better be! But we shouldn’t be doctrinaire about this. Some people, for any number of reasons, will be so sensitive about a subject that no degree of art will carry them through the experience.

3. "Who is the ideal reader?" Keith suggested at the meeting that the genre of Closer is what the French call expérience des limites. He pointed out to me later that expérience can mean both experience and experiment. We experiment with limits—not just when we're young—to find out what they are, where they are, and whether they are something we can or wish to go up to or beyond. This becomes a species of the examined life and the worthwhileness of life's living.

1 comment:

Keith Cohen said...

I got some details wrong in my references to "l'expérience des limites" - which comes from Philippe Sollers's book L'ECRITURE ET L'EXPERIENCE DES LIMITES. It's been translated and issued by Columbia UP. Here's how the author defines his term, roughly and quickly translated:
"These are borderline texts, refused or cast aside by our culture and whose actual reading might be liable to blow the whistle on the very conditions of our thinking: those of Dante, Sade, Lautréamont, Mallarmé, Artaud and Bataille. The decoding we're trying here aims at the labor that made the production of these "limits" possible, the reasons why they have been censored and their transgressive force."

While I personally am not convinced yet that Cooper's writing rises to the level of superlative imagination that characterizes the above authors, I think it might be better understood in their company--at least as explicated by Sollers.