God Jr.
Dennis Cooper

Rather than a deserved reputation as an innovative stylist, Cooper is best known for the deviant subject matter of his previous novels—fisting, erotic snuff films and violently victimized teens—and critics have long pleaded with him to turn his prodigious talents to other topics. In answer, he offers God Jr., perhaps the first truly great literary treatment of playing videogames stoned.

Having never put much effort into understanding his teenage son Tommy until after he kills him in a car crash, Jim seeks posthumous connection by constructing a massive monument to a drawing he has discovered in his son's notebook. His marriage and financial stability already suffering, Jim learns that Tommy had copied the image from his favorite videogame and receives an intellectual property lawsuit from Nintendo's attorneys. It's a funny and disturbing moment as a father attempting to understand his dead son finds nothing but mass-produced fantasies handed down from pop culture—Tommy's closest emotional connection seems to have been to Thrasher magazine, Christina Ricci and his heavy metal action figures.

Smoking joint after joint, Jim begins playing where Tommy left off and hazily discusses philosophy with the ferrets, chimpanzee gardeners, and mountain-sized snowmen which populate the videogame. It's a fitting topic for Cooper, whose writing has always included trick structures, puzzles, and literary gamesmanships. He brings the tropes of videogame death to bear on genuine mourning: trinkets received after killing opponents seem suddenly morbid and as the game's protagonist, a digital bear, comes back to life repeatedly to attempt the puzzle again, Jim finds hope that death is not the end. One of the pleasures of God Jr. are the descriptions of familiar phenomena we've never seen verbalized, like the chunky flowing of pixilated water. Jim is a God-like figure to the creatures in the videogame and his actions beg the question why does God let's terrible things happen?

As with his other works, Cooper uses simple language and intricate structures, building meaning from nearly inarticulate dialogue. This novel, his least graphic and disturbing, makes for a good introduction; one would be hard pressed to find another like it.