No, this isn’t a post about porn (although I will warn you that this link will take you to an erotica site where this story is posted); it’s about the beauty of Bernard Cooper’s writing. He’s lyric and lovely, but so down-to-earth. In this story, “Between the Sheets”, Cooper tells the tale of a man who is going to have blood drawn for an HIV test and who gets into a seemingly trivial conversation with the “blood-drawer.” The tale wraps around the topics of homosexuality, family, fear, and ultimately laughter. I gave the story to my creative writing students yesterday, as a model of strong flash fiction. They’re writing short shorts this weekend, so I’m hoping that Coopers luminosity infused them with even more lovely writing.
I came to know Bernard Cooper’s work when I was in the MFA program at Antioch. I have the impression now, looking back, that some of the faculty knew Mr. Cooper; they spoke so highly of him, and most faculty there only did so when they knew the person’s work and the person him/herself. (That was one of the things I loved about Antioch – the willingness to see writing as something that happens in community.) Someone – I wish I remember who now – assigned us to read Coopers Maps to Anywhere, and I loved it. The essays are short but detailed with just enough emotion to remind you what it feels like to drive by a place where you once had a good memory, to remind you of that feeling where you pucker inside just for a second before the light changes.
Cooper’s newest book The Bill from my Father: A Memoir is said to be all the things I love about his writing, so I’m putting that on the list, and I hope you will, too.