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Closer: A Novel


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In chapters titled with the names of the characters on whom they focus, this brief novel links together a small, bleakly debauched cast of gay men. Dedicated to sex and violence for the catharsis these acts would seem to promise, the men settle into a dull grind of physical encounters that, no matter how searing, fail to provide transcendence. The fault of their miserable existence seems to lie not in them, but in existence itself; life by its very nature can offer little but a thrillingly painful prelude to death. The novel's problem is not Cooper's point of view but the monotony of his spare, honest treatment: his deadpan look at chronic sexual anomie is so faithful to the phenomenon it describes that the work succumbs, laconically, to weariness. Scope is further limited by Cooper's decision to address the condition of despair more than its cause. Though convincing, sometimes darkly funny evidence of dissolution and decay abounds (`` . . . men had worn him away. They'd fastened him to a treadmill that spun until there was nothing around but a vague outline, smeared in blood''), memorable details tend to languish in dolorous prose. (Apr.)

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