Friday, September 18, 2009

TOUCH ME, Joseph Cooper

TOUCH ME by Joseph Cooper
· Paperback: 94 pages
· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books]
· ISBN: 9781935402190

In TOUCH ME, his latest release from BlazeVox Books, Joseph Cooper ignites a deft tension between the alternating frictions of electronic and visceral forces as they chew through the emotional states of their narrator.

Organizing his exploration of an amorphous and plaintively devastating love affair through the lens of the 1980’s Milton Bradley game “Simon,” Cooper invokes and desecrates both the basic machinery of flesh and the inherent humanity of mechanism. The book pronounces itself a game and, indeed, patterns itself as such. Yet the language at play here is more dangerous than a bag of vibrating knives:

Strung between paranoia and poison, sustenance feeds on organized repetition. Body of nails begins a mother-speaking being. Maternal body is nourishing, murderous, and fascinating. Serrated errantly her blouse stitched hormonal derangement. Chiropractic embraces.

-from “Difficulty Level 2”

This passage, compared to much of the text, is fairly tame, containing no overt slang references to the interaction of bodies, human or otherwise. In fact, by way of warning: Mr. Cooper’s language is aggressively pornographic at times, much of it perhaps unfit for re-publication in review before mixed audiences. And yet, this tendency for verbal transgression is immediately tempered by the simple, almost adolescent honesty of the narrator. It is as if a clever, and perhaps psychotic, twelve year old were given expert command of a diverse and disturbing lexicon of images and set loose to describe the intricacies of love against the template of an anatomical textbook. From the graphically naïve comparison of the vagina to a slice of cantaloupe (explored to its ultimately confused conclusion involving a bicycle) to the complex and x-rated adult relationship that repeatedly develops and unravels throughout the course of the narrative between the primary characters Elle and Simon.

The resulting sympathies that arise between reader and text, if not narrator, is at once tantalizing and disturbing, as if the dangerous affair described were being occasionally transposed upon the reader-writer relationship. Indeed, the frequently repeated “Dear Player” sections serve to further reinforce this effect, drawing the reader or “player” in as complicit witness to the violence and lust at hand.

Let me be clear: this book is not meant for the faint of heart or stomach. Please don’t attempt to read it if you are overly conservative, squeamish, puritan, uppity, prude, naïve, lacking a crude sense of humor or otherwise easily offended. Unless of course, you are currently in search of a cure for one of these conditions…even then, something tells me you probably wouldn’t enjoy it properly.

On the other hand, if you’re the kind of reader that likes the top of your head taken off and the depth of your most basic human fears and insecurities plumbed with alien poetic technologies, then this book is required course reading. With language that might of made Bukowski blush and Ginsberg giggle, Joseph Cooper has churned out another little-known knockout of experimental fiction in what promises to be a noteworthy body of work.

TOUCH ME is available from BlazeVox Books for $16 plus shipping and worth every cent. Check it out.

-Travis Macdonald

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