Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

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A selection of Dennis Cooper’s Little House on the Bowery series.

$17.95 $13.46

Excerpt from Godlike

Chapter 1

It was March and the weather was like a pornographic high-fashion magazine. But Raw’s Drink was a gutter derelict in it. The room was see-through brown broken by a debris of battered tables and cluttered walls. There was a little clearing in the far corner where a stalk of microphone stood leaning thinly.

Paul felt affection for the poor poets, his family. He probably liked them more than anyone else did. He was popular for that.

Tonight’s reader was Tom Bennett. Tom was a filthy drug addict who was too smart for his own good. His face was like a monkey’s carved from a blond wood door-stop wedge, he was going bald, and he wore reddish whiskers that looked like pond scum. He never stopped talking and he considered himself a Buddhist. Whatever else, he was in his element at Raw’s this night, and it was heartening. He was a messenger and Paul was mentally gorging on it. “God made everything from nothing, but the nothing shows through.”

Paul played a favorite mental trick for enjoying poetry readings and imagined the reader had died long ago.


The reading ended, and everyone drank on, and the room got noisier. People went out into the air and smoked grass together and came back. Paul saw the kid. He planned to find him but hadn’t gotten around to it when he sensed the attention shifting in the crowd. The kid’d gone up to three different poets in the room and told each what he thought of him. He told Bill Miller, “I read your latest book and all I can say is that your only virtue is its own punishment.” He told Barret Combs that he’d “ruined frivolity for a generation.” Then he gave each of the poets hand-copied examples of a new poem and told them that they could suck his cock for $20. He arrived at Paul, and just as Paul realized who he was the kid introduced himself. He was the boy who’d sent him a letter a few weeks before. The letter had read:


Mr. Vaughn! Sir!

I write to you most humbly, most presumptuously. I am no one except that I am a poet. And it is because I am a poet that I eat up your books. And that is why I write and enclose the pages you find here. I hope that you will respond to them.

I’m going nuts in this nowhere. Used to be I could twist in my misery and big time lusts, sweating, and the breezes of these suburban streets would cool me a little, the fruity sunsets would bring me something, as would old literature, but now I know too much! One must always move on. (It is not important to live.) I’m rotting here! I will come to New York. Especially since I know of you.

Do you know what I mean that I am no one except that I am a poet? I will explain so that you cannot misunderstand. I do not want to be anyone. I have nothing to protect! I want to see and be seen through. I am given to see and I see aloud. It is necessary that “I,” that cowardly imposition, be discarded, in order that nothing interfere, that nothing interrupt, that nothing pollute what speaks. It isn’t pretty! But it is poetry and all we know of— of—. I know you know what I mean.

Have mercy on me.

Your admiring little bro,

Randall Terence Wode


Paul had written back and told the kid he should come to New York and to call him when he got there.

“I am drunk,” the boy said.

“You are?”

He lowered his voice again. “Come outside and walk with me.”

They left the party behind and the air outside was a nice surprise. The presents kept coming, piling up around them as they walked. Paul got breathless and aroused.

R.T. told him his big ideas. He said honestly there were only two or three poets and that he himself was first among the living, with the possible exception of Paul, though he was in danger of going slack. He talked of how the literary was sacred but the literary was shit. That the poets’ poor knowledge must be advanced in life for poetry to be real. That the poem is everything, but incidental—it’s shit and come, it’s tracks and mirrors, hair, snot, ricocheting beams. It’s nothing, but it’s all we get and if we will be receptive it’s the thing itself, the nothing itself, and what else is there to desire, want, have, be, and it only follows from delirium, which is just ordinary life. “No big deal,” he said, and it was true—Paul’d heard it before (though he hadn’t seen it)—”You want to kiss me, don’t you.” He took Paul’s hand and pulled it to him and pressed the palm on his crotch.

They’d stopped and T. was shuffling Paul back toward a dark building wall on East 3rd Street. Paul’s heartbeat was out of control. He was taller than T. and he grabbed T.’s ruffled head and bumped his mouth on his. The oddness of male on male was sexy. They almost fell over but the wall got there just in time. The mouth was a scooped-out thing that felt unreal; Paul couldn’t adjust, he was still too apart from him, but wanted to feel T.’s cock through his pants and when he did that it went really real for a moment before they separated again.

Paul just wanted to run his finger along the crack of T.’s ass, and T. let Paul turn him to the wall and do that. He reached under and T.’s cock had gotten harder and he squeezed its base through T.’s pants. T. gave Paul charge of himself there for a moment, and Paul took advantage of it by pulling T.’s shoulder to turn him, kissing him once again, and it felt closer to a kiss. Paul started them walking back along the street. He wasn’t going to hurry or let T. think he was at his mercy. It was better to stretch it out anyway.

“So how does it feel to be a faggot?” T. asked.

“What? . . . Uh . . . So far, so good.”

“But you always have been.”

“Whatever you say . . .”


They stumbled into Paul’s rooms on Bank Street at about 4:00 A.M. In the house everything was stagnant and half-size, defensively smug. When the pregnant wife came in, Randall threw up. She screamed and stuttered. She looked inappropriate, like a mangy zoo creature in a fake habitat.

“What a stink,” T. said. “That stuff smells . . . Let’s try to go to sleep.” He looked at Paul and suggested, “Why don’t you slap that thing.”

Paul lurched toward his wife and she fled. Paul turned and grinned as if he’d just scored a goal, started back to T. and slipped in the vomit, then fell to his hands and knees. He laughed. “Ugh.” It wasn’t too bad. T. sat down in an armchair as Paul got up and put one foot in front of the other toward the kitchen around the corner. When Paul came back with a large wet terrycloth, T. had his penis out and was idly playing with it. As Paul kneeled over the pool of vomit he looked at the penis and then at T.’s face. He put his hand down his own pants, but no, he wanted to wipe up the mess. The smell stung, but for a second he liked it: scent of death rot, home, was the sticky inside of his own asshole when he stuck a finger in it masturbating. He was getting a kind of hardon, but he threw the towel over the vomit and tried to wrap it up. His wife scurried through the room holding a soft little overstuffed bag. When she saw them she recovered her dignity for a moment in amazement, and for that moment Paul sank and groaned inside but T. was tougher, and she retired from the house with a sad squeal.

Paul crawled over and pulled T.’s cock in between his lips. He filled his mouth with it most gratefully and T. gazed at him with contempt that was tremendous and delicious. Paul was still a little bit ashamed and that’s what made the cruelty right and the perfection of it pooled them together. After all, T. was Paul’s admirer, and T. was the grateful one, for being allowed to be mean with love.


The world was young.


And in the morning the sun found them out on the floor of the little parlor entangled and gritty, the faint death-smell of the half-digested food and alcohol mixing with the brute light; bodies God’s idle graffito.