The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Please welcome to the world … Dennis Cooper ZAC’S DRUG BINGE, a gif novel (Kiddiepunk Press)

Kiddiepunk Press
96 pp.
Free to download or view online here



Violations: An Evening of Interpretive Readings of Dennis Cooper’s GIF Novels
September 16, 2016

Watch it here


Dennis Cooper
M. Lamar
Dorothea Lasky
Yvonne Meier
Aki Onda
Richard Hell
Chris Cochrane
Brian Chase
Niall Jones

“Violations” was a response to Google’s recent deletion of author Dennis Cooper’s blog (for “violations of terms of service,” without further explanation), and a celebration of the innovations in writing represented by a series of GIF novels he drafted there. In a then-recent article for the New Yorker concerning the Google controversy, Jennifer Krasinski described Cooper’s approach to these novels: “Thinking of [GIFs] as language, Cooper places them together, stacking them or opposing them to create a story—and, in so doing, effectively forging a new form of fiction.” While the contents of Cooper’s blog were eventually returned by Google, the situation prompted urgent reflection on the borderlines of trust, interpretation, and freedoms of speech at stake between users of social media and the corporations who provide such services.

This event convened a small handful of Cooper’s closest friends, allies, and artists whose work he admires to imagine what it might mean to “read aloud” from these GIF texts. The presenting artists work across a spectrum of practices and include poets, musicians, choreographers, and dancers. While the program sought to draw attention to the vulnerability of artworks produced through social media, it also celebrated the highly anticipated release of Cooper’s third GIF novel, Zac’s Freight Elevator (on Kiddiepunk Press), which was temporarily lost when the blog was deleted.




How Dennis Cooper Turns GIFs Into Fiction
Dennis Cooper’s new ‘gif’ novel is his weirdest work yet
A Partial GIF Review Of Dennis Cooper’s New GIF Novel ‘Zac’s Haunted House’
Dennis Cooper’s strangest “novel” yet is written entirely with gifs
Zac Descending: the Attractions of Dennis Cooper
Unfriendly Hosts
Dennis Cooper – Under the underground
GIF of the Day: Dennis Cooper’s Zac’s Control Panel
An American Novelist Wrote a Book Entirely Out of GIFs
The construction of a queer rhizomatic hermeneutics through an exploration of Dennis Cooper’s HTML novels
If You Write A Novel In GIFs, Is It Still A Novel?
This Novel Made Of GIFs Is Strangely Terrifying



from the Cutting Room floor













































by Blake Butler


Blake Butler: What gave you the idea of writing novels using only animated GIFs?

Dennis Cooper: The GIF novels evolved from this thing I was doing on my blog where I would create these tall stacks of images—maybe 70 to 120 of them—that illustrated a particular theme or idea. I began introducing GIFs into the stacks, and then I became so interested in GIFs that I started making all-GIF stacks. That’s when I started to notice all these really curious, unexpected things were happening in them and between them when they were combined.

So I started experimenting with that, trying to create really deliberate effects and to organize the accidental things that were happening. Finally, I got the idea to make fiction pieces out of them. That idea excited me, partly because, as much I love writing language-based novels, I’ve always wanted to submerge the story/characters/plot much deeper within the novels’ structures than I’ve been able to. The closest I’ve gotten was with The Marbled Swarm where the immediate story and characters are just templates of and secret entrances to this whole substructural world existing inside the novel. But they were still there, hogging the novel’s top level.

With a GIF novel, I could see the possibility of those things being built on the bottom, and that the structure and style and trickery in which they were imbedded could be the dominant aspect.

BB: It’s kind of strange how distinctly ‘readable’ the chain of GIFs in the novels are, despite being all image-based. How did you begin to construct the feel of a story underlying the organization of those stacks?

DC: I think the animated GIF is a super rich thing, mostly unintentionally? For the novel, I thought of them as these crazy visual sentences. But unlike text sentences, they do all the imaginative work for you. They render you really passive. They just juggle with your eyesight, and you’re basically left battling their aggressive, looped, fireworks-level dumb, hypnotizing effects to see the images and the mini-stories/actions they contextualize. I think, ultimately, they’re mostly rhythms, or they reduce their imagery and activity, etc. to illustrative components of these really strict rhythmic patterns that turn the eye into an ear in a way.

My idea is that if you make a novel out of them, the visuals in the individual GIFs can serve double duty in the same way that the instrumentation and vocals in music samples do. They become just the texture of the loop’s rhythm, and that somehow seems to isolate the GIFs’ content from their source material. When you combine and juxtapose the stacks, if you do it carefully, you can break or disrupt their individual rhythms in a way that makes their imagery either rise to the surface or become abstractions. Basically, you can then use their content and appearance as sets and actors and cinematography in a fiction. They can hold their references, if you organize them to do so, and you can use those associations to create short cuts to some idea or emotion you want to get across, or they can become quite malleable and daydream-like, or you can empty them until they’re just motions that are as neutral as a text.

The really exciting thing for me is that the narratives can be as unrealistic or abstract or senseless or trivial or abject or unreadable as you want, and they will always remain inherently pleasurable.

BB: You are a super intense mapper and organizer with your novels, so I was constantly looking for keys to the system, things that linked the project throughout. Is the inspiration of these thru-ways all gut, or gut at first and then figuring the gut out and building outward? Or something else entirely?

DC: It starts with a series of motifs or even of things I want to use. So I just set off in search of related GIFs. Basically, I just did what I think you can only do—use keywords plus the words “animated GIF” in a general Google image search, and also on Giphy, Tumblr, etc. And then I would add in adjectives to try to get into the less public recesses where GIFs reside. If there aren’t very many interesting GIFs in the motif I’m trying, I find other motifs in the garbage that ends up contextualized in the original category, and those are sometimes useful and end up mutating the original motif. It’s not really very different than the way I write text novels because I always construct dense subsystems in my novels involving motifs and images that work together via what I call “internal rhyming” of different sorts. The main difference formally is just that you’re limited by online resources with a GIF novel rather than being limited by your imagination when it’s text.

Long story short, making the novels involves a weird and excitingly difficult combination of working in an extremely planned out way and also kind of in an extremely intuitive way too. Sometimes gut comes first, sometimes it’s the opposite, and often it’s simultaneous.



The promos




p.s. Hey. So my new GIF novel has been born this morning. You can download it for free or view it on-line using the link up at the top of the post there. And the blog has been temporarily commandeered for a little celebration. I’m very proud of ‘Zac’s Drug Binge’ and think it’s my best GIF novel yet, so, of course I hope you’ll grab and read it. Thank you in advance, everyone. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Thank you for the history lesson. And I’m glad you and Bill are well! Everyone, Mr. ‘knows of what he he speaks’ David Ehrenstein marks the occasion of Stonewall’s 51st anniversary on his FaBlog, and do go get enlightened and entertained as well. Here. ** Bill, Hi, B. Nice that Ferdinand successfully introduced to the label. It’s chock full of cool and odd stuff. Did you hit the march? I guess you guys, unlike LA, have been spared the new bars closure measure. It all looks so grim from over here. Ugh. I know this is heresy, but I don’t like Shane Carruth’s films. I’ll look at the teaser though. Thank you. ** h (now j), Hi! I hope you like the GIF novel, duh. ** Ferdinand, Thank you so much, man! It was quite the hit. Serious, heavy traffic and all. Very best to you! ** Damien Ark, Hi, Damien. All thanks to Ferdinand. Is that true about chubby guys being mostly non-entities in gay fiction? I confess i read little lit that falls under that rubric. Surely there must be ‘bear’ or ‘chubby chaser’ fiction out there, but I suppose it’s probably pretty rote and pulpy. Anyway, be the fixer, yes. Bon day from Paris. ** _Black_Acrylic, Thank you so much, Ben. I really enjoyed your selections. Oh, excellent on both of your fronts! ** Thomas Moronic, Thanks, T. Yeah, there are, like, dozens of those old posts, but I’m going to be sparing with the rebirths for … well, I can’t think of a reason. So maybe I won’t be sparing. Lovely to see you, maestro! Oh, I found a funny (as in awesome) old guest-post of yours that I’ve restored for … soon. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Glad the post insinuated. And speaking of … Everyone, Here’s Mr. Erickson. Listen up and click accordingly, not necessarily in that order. Steve: ‘Here’s a song I wrote today, “Minesweeper”. It’s mostly an exercise in using chords rhythmically and percussively, with little melody.’ Well, your description of the Johnnie To makes it sound very him and like his other films, no? Although I’ve never found the earlier ones exhausting, but they are a particular taste thing. Anyway, thank you for the report. His films do tend to open over here, so I’ll have a peek. ** Right. Today is fully introduced, and I hope you enjoy, and I hope you’ll want to get my new GIF novel. Enough said. See you tomorrow.


  1. Scunnard

    Hi Dennis, just “read” through and you make me happy that you’re in this world. There are some brilliant sequences going on… it’s amazing to see how the logic has grown with each one.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    Today is GIF-TASTIC!

    You’re right about the Gif having a dual purpose for you. They “advance” a “ploy” and delineate “characters” yet are things in and of themselves at the same time. Certain aspects of the Gif remind me of the films of Bruce Conner and Wheeler Dixon

  3. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Congrats on the new GIF novel.

    Any word re: release or anything like that for the print novel?

    So no wine festival. It was in the 90s and we didn’t want to be outside in that. Went to a restaurant, got a private room (not intentionally–they just sat us there) and had dinner. I spent the last half of our time playing with my friend Katelyn’s kids. I’ve mentioned them before. Six-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl. Afterwards, they left and the rest of us went to a bar.

    Approaching the bar, it looked like a nice superspreader event. Once we got inside -it was all outdoors and on the water- it wasn’t as bad as it looked. We found our own little niche/nook and hung out for a few hours, everyone else drinking and doing shots and stuff.

    But yeah, a good time was had. Thanks.

  4. Damien Ark

    so…. there’s this metal band that kidnaps some kids part of a satanic sacrifice thing and they get money by their concerts for drugs, kids are with them as they’re getting fucking high, start fighting, they’re killing each other, the kids killed them, then one of the kids actually drugged the other kid, feeling betrayed, he kills himself, plus all the trauma of the drug binge event. that’s my take lol.

    Yeah, there’s a few books on chubby gay guys but they’re not that good at all. I even bought a history guide on chubby culture but that was kind of boring and focused on specific places and communities. There was a book that featured a bunch of different stories but only three were good. Mostly, the focus is specifically on sex, eroticism, you can’t have fat gay characters in an artistic story platform, it seems. That bothers me I guess. IMO there are so many types of LGBT+ stories yet to be told and are still actively being silenced, possibly.

  5. Thomas Moronic

    Happy release day, Dennis! I’ve been counting down the days to this. I’ve got a bit of work to do and then I’m going to start reading this before bed. So excited! And viva Kiddiepunk! Congratulations, Dennis! Will let you know what I think!


    Thomas xoxo

  6. Ferdinand

    Congrats on the new gif novel. The promos look enticing. Im watching the interpretive evening as a primer. The presentation of haunted house with the two musicians makes for an awesome experience.

    Think you will enjoy these two fairly short performance pieces by Adult. members:
    “Uncomfortable positions” involves two restless blindfolded vocalists being led to their uncomfortable seats at a sewing machine that somehow operates a synthisizer.

    “The perfect accent piece” streamed live last week and involves vacuum cleaner hosting a synth and an over zealous figure with a pink vase. Skip intro to 3 minute mark.

    Querelle film wasnt good. Many factors that dont work but I wont bore with those. Murder scenes also just not effective.

  7. _Black_Acrylic

    I just read this thing and must say it feels like the zenith of your GIF practice up to right now. Just spent the first few screens grinning like a loon, the marriage of form and content is so spot-on to me. Also my brain’s a bit frazzled having spent all day putting this radio show thing together but that sensory derangement must surely be apt here.

  8. Steve Erickson

    Congrats on the debut of ZAC’S DRUG BINGE! But the link at the top of the page doesn’t work for me, even when I right-click and hold down the button. Has anyone else had this same problem?

  9. Bill

    Wow, congratulations on the new GIF novel, Dennis! What a collection of promos and outtakes. Look forward to sitting down with the novel soon.

    SF has actually been very cautious about reopening. Outdoor bars that serve food have been open. The plan was to have outdoor bars without food reopen today, but that’s been delayed. We’re making fine distinctions here. But I suppose when you’re eating, you can handle more alcohol before you get drunk and irresponsible. Or something.

    In any case, it looks like the EU will continue barring US visitors. Can’t blame you guys! It looks grim from here too. A couple weeks ago, I was cautiously optimistic about a possible late October trip to Germany to play a couple gigs, see friends and collaborators, etc. Now I don’t think it’s realistic.

    I did check out one of the unofficial marches. But they took so long with speeches etc, by the time people started walking, I was ready to go home. And I did.

    h (now j), we’ve also been getting a lot of fireworks action in the past week or two. Probably only going to ramp up for the holiday weekend, sigh.


  10. Nik

    This looks amazing Dennis! Congratulations, I really can’t wait to read it! I hope you are well. What have you been up to, with the total chaos (and in some senses clarity) of right now? Also, I loved the Dark Entries day! I’ve been really getting into their projects Xex and SMERSH, so this is perfect for me right now.

  11. chris dankland

    hi dennis !!

    congratulations on the new gif novel !! the more of these works I read, the more ideas I get from them – it’s so wonderful and so impressive how u’ve spawned something that’s unprecedented in literature. it’s so exciting to live in a time where all these brand new things can exist !! w/o the internet, not only could these novels not be constructed, but there’s no way they could be shared – they only exist in this digital format, and I get so hyped up to think about that, how shakespeare or somebody would shit his pants to see something so magical. sometimes I forget about all these new innovations and take them for granted.

    I like the new format of having stand alone pages instead of the tower – the tower is nice too, because it’s faster to see what came before and after, but I think the stand alone pages drew more of my attention to each gift set. I love the surrounding white space.

    the main thoughts I had while reading it was how the gif works feel like some sort of proto-story in the sense that sometimes when I’m imagining a story or planning a story, it tends to start with a more abstract series of images or feelings, like emotional or a conceptual bullet points that later get articulated and polished and turned into sentences. I imagine a lot of ppl do that. and that original proto-story is always the best version of the book, the purest version, the dream version, and the end product never fully measures up to it even when you’ve achieved everything you wanted to achieve. fuck, I hope that doesn’t sound too trite or stupid. I guess I’m trying to say there’s something about the gif works that feels like they exist before language in a very beautiful and mysterious and resonant way.

    I also started thinking about how I feel the gifs function like words and sentences in the way that they convey meaning (an abstract meaning that can be interpreted much more subjectively than words with their more limited and specific defintions), but it struck me how the gifs mostly don’t convey sound in the way that words do, with specific phonemes and syllables and such. And the idea that it’s a silent book that can’t be read out loud seems very cool and interesting to me. some of the gif sets do convey sound to me, like sound effects, and some of the gifs have words in them that I read and pronounce in my head, but most of it is this weird silent speaking. Like maybe the gif works are what wordless telepathy would feel like, or telepathy with an animal that can’t talk, or a ghost or an alien or something.

    maybe that’s part of why I enjoy reading yr gif novels when I’m stoned (tho I didn’t smoke when I read it tonight), because that state of mind allows for more direct apprehension of something that isn’t immediately filtered through linguistic articulation.

    im sorry for that long clumsy rant, but those were the main things I was thinking while reading the book. I enjoyed the rock and roll parts a lot, especially the gif set where the guy is playing guitar in space and the two tiny astronauts are flailing around in the darkness. I enjoyed the coke parts as well, and it made me feel like this gif novel was maybe more humorous than past ones, although I should reread the other ones before saying that for sure. I liked how it ended too. seemed very violent and sad. I’m very intrigued by the colored circles that keep showing up, and I like that I can sort of identify the main characters of the story, although I think I’ll have to reexperience it more before I can start to make out the contours of the ‘secret narrative’ that is mentioned in the introduction.
    kiddie punk has done a terrific job of presenting the novel in such a clean, user-friendly, eye catching way, as they’ve done consistently with yr other works. I also appreciate the download option, it makes flipping through the book a bit faster.

    anyway just want to congratulate u again on the new book !! I enjoy yr gif books a lot, they always get me excited b/c I feel like they are true 21st century literature. thanks for making them and sharing them with us !!

    district emailed us today and said that school is going to start out completely online, no one will be in class. which sucks for the kids b/c it’s not the same quality of education, and I know they miss seeing each other, and I miss seeing them. But I’m relieved that they’re going in that direction, b/c that’s the safest option for all involved. the virus is out of control down here. I imagine that school will stay online until the situation drastically improves, and then hopefully they can change things up. unfortunately I don’t see that happening anytime soon, especially with the current leadership. but it’s good to have some certainty, so I can better prepare.

    have a great morning !!

  12. Corey Heiferman

    Dennis, you’ve truly outdone yourself! I enjoyed your previous GIF novels but this one took it to the next level. I’ve gotten into Tarot over the past year and the GIF images and sequences remind me of Tarot spreads. How did you arrive at the Next/Back buttons instead of the scroll?

    Things are going well. I’ve been out a lot on the Tel Aviv poetry scene getting acquainted with the various cliques. I haven’t collected anything since I was a little kid but I’m on a kick with signed poetry books. This super cute girl runs a new small press bookstore/literary salon. It seems like we’re mutually charmed. My palindromist friend got a long positive review in the newspaper of record.

    Taking notes on the Tel Aviv literary scene for a possible book or documentary about it. Would appreciate any recommendations you have for this kind of project (I realize the range of possible recommendations is huge and that’s OK).

    Getting help from an immigrant aid organization on my job search. Lots of networking opportunities. Dad’s handling chemo OK and my sister and I are planning a visit in September.

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