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Ugly Man

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  516 ratings  ·  60 reviews
A short story collection by Dennis Cooper.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published May 21st 2009)
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Average rating 3.42  · 
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Mar 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Angsty little boys who have rape-death fantasies run into angsty bigger boys who fantasize about being the active part of the rape-torture-murder scene. And then the angsty little boys die at the hands of the angsty bigger boys. Over and over and over, this man has the temerity to tell the same stupid story in the same vapid tone, using the same puerile style of sentence. Childish writing applied to a very grownup subject matter doesn't make the writing any less childish.

Remember Poppy Brite's _
Yair Ben-Zvi
Nov 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: favorites
Definitely not for everyone, and definitely not for the faint of heart or easily disturbed, this is still a work of merit and intelligence though at times not as brilliant or fulfilled as its initial premise lays out (this is the first of Cooper I've read).

I tried reading this book once before and couldn't get through it. After actually throwing it out it continued to stick with me, a combination of a book unfinished with a definite curiosity to see where the author intended to go with his subje
Jun 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Where does an outsider artist go once the taboos of drug abuse and man/boy love have become played out?

Sexualized cannibal porn.


Frankly, I'm baffled by all the accolades Cooper receives. If you stripped away the outsider lit attributes (illicit sex, fetishized pain, etc.) and substituted it with say long-distance running or extreme hoarding, i.e. something equally dangerous and crazy but doesn't require a victim, would it have the same effect? I can't answer that question because I d
May 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, short-stories
This is so, so messed up. I don't think I've ever read a collection of short stories that is anywhere near as inventive as this collection. Perspectives, narration, everything is fucked with. But nothing is quite as fucked as the subject matter, which is always--ALWAYS--oriented around murder and gay sex. With the possible exception of the one story that is just a survey of the worst russian gay porn sites.
If you want to read a bunch of the most brilliant stories ever written about murder and ga
Ezra Blake
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is masturbatory in every sense of the word.

There’s something to be said for literary masturbation, though. Cooper pushes the boundaries of what literature is and could be, and in that sense, these stories inspire experimentation. In short form, he deals with many of the same themes which crop up in his novels: obsession, ownership, degradation, embodiment, the permeating apathy of modern society, and, as always, the male ass. Cooper knows what he likes.

The experience of reading Ugly Ma
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've read bits and pieces of Cooper in the past, but this was his first book I read front to back. The author's fetishes aren't something that interest me, but there was a lot of very dark humor and a lot of cleverness in these short stories. I read these stories separately over a time span of a couple months, if I read them closer together, I could see them getting repetitive in their themes.
Jul 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-sent-to-me
The Short of It:


My Thoughts:

Ugly Man is a collection of short stories. When I say short, I mean short! Some are just a paragraph or two and most are just a few pages long. The stories center around these themes: sex, death and homosexuality...and then more sex and then more death and then toss in some gore for good measure and you've got an idea of what's contained between the covers.

When I read the first story I was shocked! I gasped out loud. Then when I read the next story I shuddered and
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think the most amusingly subversive thing about this book is the very idea of some uptight straight upper middle class conservative ladies' reading group discussing this book. Because, yes, someone over at Harper Collins thought they were being really, really funny when they earmarked this as a book appropriate for reading groups. I can only imagine the discussions ...

I enjoyed this, but I like Cooper's writing quite a bit. I like his examinations of queer sexuality and self-hatred and additct
John Russell
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
"The Anal Retentive Line Editor" is kinda brilliant, but for the most part this collection is just the same story over and over and over again: under-aged twinks want to get fisted and murdered and dismembered and luckily every guy they meet wants to fist and murder and dismember them. Standard Cooper, plus some inane space fillers. The last story is interesting though. At first I thought it was just another spin on the above, and a very weak one at that. But actually, it seems like it might be ...more
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Just an incredible collection--though, as always, I warn that it is not for the faint of heart. Cooper's use of dismemberment and cannibalism (something of a new twist) as embodied exploration of the metaphors of the "porn reflex" of attraction are just as intense here as in his other work. I love the idea of collecting some of the scattered writing from over the years in one place, too. The only reason this one doesn't get 5 stars is that a few of the pieces sometimes shorthand their Cooper-nes ...more
May 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Dennis Cooper is without a doubt one of the great writers living today. For one, he's hysterical. And two, he has a Beckett type of genius of capturing souls who are traveling from one place to another. Maybe from earth to hell/heaven or somewhere inbetween.

Essential collection of short stories that I think eventually will be considered an American classic. I think they are at this very moment.
Boxedrobot James
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Sporting one of the ugliest covers I've ever seen I wondered if I'd not be able to slip under the spell of Mr. Cooper's work for the first time. Then I *felt* the cover and felt repulsed, so I kind of figured this was going somewhere, and I did, in fact, fall lock-step back in love once again. I always feel like his books are some sort of high-school crush I can return to to get jockeyed around, pushed, shoved, kissed hard on the mouth, and then dumped. It hurts so nicely.
May 24, 2010 rated it liked it
This was just OK. A collection of minor "B-Sides" that read more like Cooper's Moleskine jottings on the Métro than actual fully formed pieces. The three diamonds in the rough are (1) the genius cover finish treatment (tickle that pickle!) (2) the hilarious, Waugh-like, nosebleed-inducingly dry copyeditor farce (3) the final rimming treatise/tour de force about cannibals, the Taliban, and the metaphysics of being a twink.
Oct 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
Depraved sex and gory murders, fans of Bret Easton Ellis will undoubtedly appreciate this lurid daring writer. It's just not the book to read when you're fighting a cold because it just makes me want to take a giant butcher knife and dissect my own sinuses. Tempting, but maybe another time.
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2015
I get it, Dennis Cooper. You like little boys buttholes and snuff.

There is one sentence in this book that gives it 2 stars: "But they need the money just like I need to rub my husk against them"
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer, transgressive

3.5 stars median rating overall: I honestly feel that Ugly Man was an enjoyable read overall over the course of 18 short stories told in Cooper's signature apathetic tone. DOo to the varied content of the stories I feel it's only fair to rate them all as individuals.

"Jerk": 5/5 Unlike Closer which came off as linear in plot and literal in storytelling, "Jerk" seems to be a satirical take on the same themes as Closer such as death (and the taboo around it), youthful morality and humanity. "Jerk"

Clem Paulsen
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
With the exception of the one story -- about a pornographic line editor -- it's a de Sade tribute band.

If you're here you probably know the deal with de Sade. The stories here are echos - hell more than echos - direct extensions of the later sections of 120 Days of Sodom.

This is what bothers me. The thing is about 120 Days is its gradual gathering of intensity, from simple ogling, through degrees of increasing sexual stimulation, to acts of debasement and -- only in the end -- of mutilation an
Allan MacDonell
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dry prigs may deride Dennis Cooper as the Harlan Ellison of transgression. I sort of see what they’re getting at, but these aspersions of grandiose humorless self-regard don’t stick once you slide into what serious commentators call “the work.” All that recurring man-on-boy butt sucking and man-on-boy sex murdering in many of the Ugly Man stories is offered up with élan and charm, like as seen in your typical scamp Girl Scout hiking up her razor-slit skirt to expose her panties yanked tight into ...more
Sean McCoy
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Some super interesting stories in this one. Sade-y if Sade had read more, I dunno, Hammett or Carver or something. I like how fast and funny and cruel the stories are.
Mandy Schimelpfenig
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
I thought it would have been funnier than it was.
Feb 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, bdsm
A short story collection where the longest title (One Night in 1979 I Did Too Much Coke and Couldn't Sleep and Had What I Thought Was a Million-Dollar Idea to Write the Definitive Tell-all Book About Glam Rock Based on My Own Personal Experience but This Is as Far as I Got) rivals the length of the shortest story (Santa Claus vs. Johnny Crawford is only one 80 word paragraph) is certainly a curiosity, but I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to anyone. There are images in some of the ...more
Timothy Juhl
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
I've been a semi-closeted fan of D. Cooper's work since the late 80's when I picked up a copy of 'Frisk' at Bookstop in Clearwater, Florida. I was startled by the prose; by words so fraught with moral flashpoints. I consider Cooper's work literary porn (and I've read my fair share of gay porn through the years).

I hadn't read anything by Cooper in many years and bought 'Ugly Man' on impulse when I saw it on a bargain table. Like any of his books, I couldn't stop reading, but it's not because of t
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
Credit due: Cooper is not swayed from writing about what he wants (or needs) to write about. He neither ducks nor hides behind euphemisms, nor does he censor explicit or disturbing content. He throws it down raw, tackles it head-on, and tries to make art out of it.

So, is it art, literature, or what? It would be stupid of me to entertain a verdict after reading only 1 (slim) volume of short prose; but judging from this collection alone, I sense a very singular and controlled talent. While all (a
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I finished this, my first book of 2014, today. This is the closest I’ve ever seen Dennis Cooper to being funny, and even here, the work is not so much funny (it’s still gory, sexually graphic, and nihilistic) as it is self-parodying. The final story in the collection, "The Ash Gray Proclamation," is so bizarrely silly it reads like a "South Park" script.

I think Cooper finally realized that a good number of his readers are thoroughly creeped out by him, and while they’ve still continued to read h
Chris Gugino
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
this brief collection (i think i read the whole thing in one go on the bus home from work) stands as dennis' funniest stuff, without a doubt. as previously mentioned, some of the stories are resurrections of posts on his blog, of which some are a little lacking without the pictures ('the boy on the far right,' for example, just feels like it's missing something without the screencaps of a threeway from some russian twink video), but it still works. 'ash gray proclamation' is amazing, and shows d ...more
Andrew Rimby
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: experimental
Dennis Cooper 19s short story collection Ugly Man: Stories contains a mix of satire and the macabre; when Cooper uses gay stereotypes and combines it with gore, some readers may feel uncomfortable and dislike Cooper 19s prose. However, I think that the satirical portrayal that Cooper presents in each story allows for a humorous and cutting edge way of presenting stereotypes that exist toward the gay community (e.g., being extremely promiscuous). The outrageous, sadistic, and drugged-out characte ...more
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book, short-stories
This is the first work by Dennis Cooper I have ever read and I think what has struck me most about it is how Cooper manages to make material I would normally think of as something I’d have no interest in reading about into fiction that is completely readable and, yes, even enjoyable. I can see where the topics and means and portrayals and blah blah blah would make some of the more sensitive readers around here uncomfortable, and I’m most certainly not saying that this is a book that everybody wi ...more
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Stories" here includes various formats. Some are 1-2 page prose pieces. Some are scripts. Some are just lists with commentary (e.g. a list of bad russian gay porn sites). The general unifying vibe is gross-out humor in combination with DCs typical themes of failure of language or language-as-artifice, death-as-beauty, and so forth. Took me two readings to enjoy it. The edition I have is Harper Perennial which includes some solid supplemental content that's worth the price of admission: lists of ...more
Dec 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I know that Cooper can be a little twisted in his stories and what is characters do, but I was shocked that in one story, three characters kill and have sex with (while kiling) other boys whom they have convinced have a desire to die, while in the last story two characters are literally cannibalizing a third character after giving him so much heroin that he died. All in all, though, I did enjoy the stories and, in fact, read the book in one day.
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
I forget where I read it, but somebody said this collection was like an album of B-sides. I usually only like a B-side if I already love the flipside. This is the first Cooper book I've ever read, so maybe I'd feel differently if that wasn't the case. These stories are meant to be shockingly funny, I think, but for the most part they're just boring. Depressed twink seeks older man to maim, murder, or make a meal of him. Rinse, repeat.

That said, "The Anal Retentive Line Editor" is a gem.
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Interview with Dennis Cooper about Ugly Man 1 21 Jul 08, 2009 02:18PM  

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Dennis Cooper was born on January 10, 1953 and grew up in the Southern California cities of Covina and Arcadia. In 1976, he founded Little Caesar Magazine and Press, which he ran until 1982. In 1985, he moved to Amsterdam for two and a half years, where he began his ten year long project, The George Miles Cycle, an interconnected sequence of five novels that includes Closer, Frisk, Try, Guide, and ...more

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  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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“So I thought, you know, Teach me about death, Satan, I don’t care. And it was all about murder, which was great because when you’re not the one getting murdered, murder’s the ultimate interesting thing. I totally agree with that.” 56 likes
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