by Dennis Cooper (Grove Press, $21)
LIKE COOPER'S four previous novels (Closer, Frisk, Try, and Guide), Period, his supposed final "Sex and Death" novel, is littered with the usual sick-and-twisted subjects: two adolescents who plan on raping and killing their deaf-mute peer; a Satanic rock band (called the Omen, of course) that murders lanky teenage hitchhikers; and a man who's constructed a spooky house as a monument to his suicidal lover. Cooper understands that without wit, a book full of such over-the-top scenarios would read like a bad B-movie—hence Period's brief bouts of humor. Some of the dialogue reads like a parody of teenage waste-oids, and the seemingly ever-convenient swamp for stashing corpses evokes a few grins. Period's mazelike, self-referential structure also detracts from the novel's schlock factor while maintaining a creepy cloak of mystery. Packed with anonymous voices, parallel worlds, philosophical musings, and multiple characters that possess the same name, the book hints at a higher meaning hidden within its foggy plot and surrealistic tangents. At one point, an Omen band member recalls watching a pornographic videotape of two boyfriends screwing, during which the screwee places a pistol in his mouth and pulls the trigger. The band member says of the surviving lover, "He looked in the camera, and I swear the expression on his face was so heavy that his features couldn't handle it." If we reread and ponder this 109-page haunted house of mirrors, we can perhaps share the surviving boyfriend's experience. Overwhelmed by all this death and grit, our mortal fears fall to the floor while some transcendent understanding holds us up. The big question is, do we have the patience?