Why is it I feel a new nostalgia for the era of the guillotine?
For a writer of your generation, you’re kind of incongruously overflowing with optimistim about the future of literature, aren’t you?
Dennis Cooper: There’s this weird thing among writers of my generation: they just stop paying attention to young writers. And I don’t, obviously. To me, something like alt lit is just the most exciting thing ever, because there’s so much work out there now. I just don’t see any argument against it. In your own career or whatever, you end up being pigeonholed - and I certainly have been - and you end up being left in this corner. That’s never really bothered me, but I think it bothers other people; that younger writers get a lot of attention, and the older generation of writers, who are already known, don’t get that kind of flashy attention. But I don’t care about that at all.
But it’s not unusual for a writer getting into his sixties to bemoan the effect that the internet has had on literary culture. Your view seems the opposite of that…
Dennis Cooper: Oh completely the opposite, yeah, absolutely. The internet created this whole new space for writers to connect and create these communities, with new presses and online presses and stuff. All these new writers that I really like; a lot of them are using the internet the way we used paper, you know? So the internet itself is a form for literature now. I mean, it’s against the whole idea of the book, in a way. But that’s really exciting. It makes it more accessible, and it’s affordable. I think the internet’s been a huge, huge, huge help. Plus it gives you all these new forms to co-opt and manipulate into your writing. Language is being reinvented really fast now, because of the way people write on the internet. I see it all as an extremely positive thing.
So it’s an enrichment, rather than an impoverishment of language that’s going on?
Dennis Cooper: Yeah! When I was a kid and there was psychedelic literature and all that stuff, people said that about that stuff too. It’s just nonsense. It’s conservatism. I have no patience for that. It’s ridiculous. I mean, music keeps changing, and reinventing itself all the time. Why shouldn’t language? Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram and all these things: they’re giving you all these new spaces to work in, and ways to think about structure, and the way things are placed on the page and all that stuff. It’s a totally rich vein to be mined. People get stuck in this thing of wanting to write conventional literary novels – and that’s fine – but I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to keep getting better, and to try and do more with writing. But people don’t. They just get stuck in their ways, and that’s the way it is.