Visceral Readings: The Sluts
I’ve already read a lot this year, maybe even more than most other years. Though lately, in the past few weeks, I’ve found my attention kind of skewed up, which I guess is part of the pattern of reading: it comes and goes.
When I get out of the dire want to spend hours on my back looking at sentences, certain moods will come where I can’t get more than a page into something, no matter how strong, and it will take something of really strong aura, a riveter, to get me excited again. Something visceral, that grabs me by the throat and says, Bitch, you are going to read this.
This week, for me, it was Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts. I picked this up randomly, realizing it was I think the only title of DC’s that I hadn’t read for some reason. I brought it home in the rain and, having put down the last 8 or 9 books I’d tried to start in weeks beforehand, picked it open just to get a taste.
I literally read the book straight through, without stopping, even when at times, the experience of the book made it feel as if it were going to knock my head clean off. Those familiar with DC will know that he doesn’t fuck around when it comes to heavy, searing, often deeply sexual imagery, the subject matter alone of which will often hold most people’s attention (unless they are, you know, iffy). Beyond that, though, The Sluts got into me and did not let go by the manner of its ingenious construction–its unorthodox and yet still pleasing form, another thing for which Dennis is well known.
The book is mostly centered around a series of forum posting on a male escort service, written amazingly in a way that follows the way message boards often do, and then coupled with a urban-myth meets Clue (the board game) style progression, getting so deeply hooked in your so quickly, and with so many conflicting threads, that the search for the truth, and scrounging deeper and deeper into the black trough of Sade-ian sex torture, domination, prostitution, and internet drama (all in sentences that are as beautiful in making as they are in form), becomes so visceral and compelling that it seems to drag you on inside it. Truly, at certain points during the reading, I felt hands pressing down hard on my chest, and then suddenly I would be laughing, or needing to sit up. When it was over I felt hungry, and wholly lit up, if in the creepiest of ways.
This kind of physical experience, if often very rare in books, is the kind that can shake you back into remembering what a text can do.
Moving from there, I’d love to know: what books have shaken others here in this way? What are some of the most visceral readings you’ve had? I need more.
[As an aside: google image searching ‘the sluts‘ comes up with some pretty rad stuff:]