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My Loose Thread

Dennis Cooper

My Loose Thread

Author:Dennis Cooper
Publisher:Canongate Books Ltd.

By Rupert Wondolowski | Posted 6/19/2002

In My Loose Thread, Dennis Cooper peers through the eyes of a teen psychotic to paint a convincing portrait of contemporary high school as a limbo of repressed and confused sexuality, inhabited by teens experiencing various gray shades of depression and blood/drug/alcohol toxicity levels. It's not a novel to sit down and savor, but one that yanks you in, perhaps against your wishes. By the end, you no longer wonder how tragedies like Columbine happen, but why they don't happen more often.

The dissociating narrator of this disturbing tale is a convincing psychotic named Larry whose dad has debilitating cancer and whose mom is an alcoholic. Larry fears that he might be gay, and lashes out violently in moments of uncomfortable sexual ambiguity: "I just hit Pete, not that hard. It was either hit him, or turn gay. I think I was gay for a minute."

Larry has been sleeping with his brother Jim (but it's Jim who's gay, not him, Larry thinks); meanwhile, he has been hired by the school nazi, Gilman, to kill Bill, Jim's best friend. Gilman seems to draw people to him simply because his beliefs remain fairly constant, even if they are rancid. In an emotionally harrowing scene, a physically scarred, martyrlike Bill makes an impression on Larry with his honesty, both in person and in the journal notebook he's written, which Gilman wants destroyed. But Larry decides the notebook contains truth and that it should be burned because truth is what he and all his friends are most afraid of.

Cooper's novel reads a bit like a macabre after-school-special enactment of Wilhelm Reich's The Mass Psychology of Fascism, narrated in a flat free-verse style by a trailer park Holden Caulfield with serious rage issues. But My Loose Thread depicts an all-too-believable battlefield of teen insecurity where the characters' fear of their own sexuality and lack of ability to express affection drives them to grotesque acts of violence against innocent others: If they strike first, then maybe no one will find their soft underbelly.

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