Dennis Cooper's Zac's Haunted House
April 14, 2015 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Zac's Haunted House, the latest by Dennis Cooper, is a free HTML horror novel consisting entirely of animated GIFs. Notre Dame English professor Joyelle McSweeney discusses the book with Mr. Cooper.
posted by Rykey (9 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This is going to be more murdered twinks, isn't it?
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's Cooper, it's all murdered twinks all the time, but b/w this and the scans of Little Cesaer, I am reminded about how much formal innovation he ends up working thru, and had half a thot about how it used to go Porn--->Avant Garde Poetry---->Mainstream, but then the 70s happened and it was like Po/Av/rn/etry and then the web happened and it's like things you can jerk off to and things you can make art out of and ironic reconsturctions of modernsit gestures that can hytbdize the fuck out of anything, and the hi/lo idalectic is just a steamy pair of wranglers on the floor of a bathroom you can't afford .

this is so beautiful and i think "impt" more than good
posted by PinkMoose at 11:51 PM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

but it's still part of Cooper's grammar, and his obsessions, constructions...maybe not so novel.
posted by PinkMoose at 12:02 AM on April 15, 2015

the website for the download opens four windows for various ads automatically. really, really annoying. I know creators like Mr. Cooper need to generate a revenue stream, but there must be a better way of doing it. ESPECIALLY since the work is amazing.
posted by TMezz at 12:17 AM on April 15, 2015

That's mediafire (similar to YouSendIt, Wetransfer, Megaupload, etc). He's not hosting the file himself. He's mitigating hosting costs, not generating revenue.
posted by kmz at 5:44 AM on April 15, 2015

Prof McSweeney's reading of the piece strikes me as very generous, almost as if she were a fan of this author already and really really wanted it to work as a novel with deep meaning and not just a mildly interesting, tumblr-esque collage of other people's work.

Though I didn't care for the work itself, I found this post very interesting. Thank you.
posted by GrapeApiary at 5:46 AM on April 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is this the same Dennis Cooper who outed Bob Mould In 1994?
posted by pxe2000 at 6:33 AM on April 15, 2015

This is a bad, clumsy bit of art. Infuriatingly so, really. I half expected to see a "best viewed in Netscape" icon at the bottom of the page, which would've encapsulated my fury nicely, both from the technological side, as well as from the absolutely retrograde safety of the piece. It's like a badly-stitched quilt your grandma gave you; ugly, but it keeps you warm and comfortable.

Where to even begin? Not with the images themselves, I think; those can be forgiven, because you could imagine something interesting being constructed out of their mix of the familiar vs new and surprising, the known and recognizable, the cliched and obvious and silly. It would be like criticizing a novel because it used known words.

Maybe my qualms begin with form. The idea of an internet-based narrative that is transgressively violent, queer, sinister and troubling has to live between two imaginary worlds: First, the imaginary ease with which that violence can be accessed, like googling "disemboweled twink livecam." The internet is terrifying in that regard, it is suspenseful, you live with a constant sense of worry that you will see something you really, really did not want to see. But the other side of that is the imaginary world of constant surveillance; that there is an intelligence watching you from the other side of the screen, that it is noting what you see, what you return to. That is constructing a doppelganger built out of your desire, a locus of judgment, a terror of being seen.

But this piece sits, not uneasily, but rather in a self-protective manner between those worlds. Rather than engaging the fear, it substitutes a sort of mawkish faith in the symbols of horror movies. The onslaught of gifs from these movies seems to want to ask you what you are doing recognizing them, what have you become having watched the movies or even just having been exposed to these brief glimpses, but the answer is too easy: We have not been implicated at all; we did not create the images, we did not celebrate them, we only half-recognize them. They are not ours. We remain unchallenged, and our disconnection from the images is not some greater statement about disconnection/boredom in the face of a constant stream of violence, it is a side-effect of the stream being badly constructed and disengaging. We feel nothing, but not a "feeling nothing" feeling nothing, if that makes sense.

And you sense, too, that there was a way to have done this, to have told this story (in the interview he quickly distances the piece from the idea of a unitary story and then from the idea of narrative at all, which is cheating), that would engage, challenge, terrify or at least remind.

I feel uncertain about this next point. This is a new language, and the experiments one is allowed in a new language are limited, because to try to immediately subvert the new language leaves you with nothing to hold on to (and again, not in that clutching-but-failing way), as opposed to the subversion possible/necessary in older and more established forms. I almost want to say the very first thing to do with this piece, would be to reconstruct it to form a very traditional, straightforward, chronological narrative, just to see if/how it could be done. (I feel like there is some potential in the "falling" sense they talk about in the interview, and which is explicitly described in the piece itself, but it too quickly becomes a comment with all the depth of "look how my eyes move left to right when reading English prose!")

There. My soul is unburdened.
posted by mittens at 9:06 AM on April 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

Dennis Cooper took my high school ex to Disneyland when we were 23. (The same ex who asked me to marry him when I was 17, during a screening of Naked Lunch). His work has just never been my cup of tea. Kathy Acker? Sure. Cooper? Nope.
posted by at 6:42 PM on April 15, 2015

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