Yes, it's delightfully perverse to think of the outrageously transgressive fictionist Dennis Cooper as any kind of puritan, but my idea is more than a piquantly perverted postmodern play (More pee, Mr. Trump? Say when...) of paradoxical (Ahhhh...) signifiers. As Joyce's Buck Mulligan might've put it, had Our Mister Cooper come traipsing up the Martello stairs in Stephen Dedalus's shabby shoes: Dennis has the cursed puritan strain in him, but it's injected the wrong way. (An appropriate reference and metaphor for Cooper's oeuvre, which frequently dilates upon acts the heterosexist world considers wrong-way injections.) Cooper's strain of puritanism is perhaps most evident in the second novel in his George Miles cycle, Frisk, where sexuality is imagined as a site of unrelieved, murderously Sade-istic grimness. The imagination of eroticism as obscene violence (as in Sade, Bataille, Cooper) rather than obscene joy (as in Catherine Millet, early Erica Jong, and much of Samuel Delany's The Mad Man) is as sure a sign of puritanism as buckled hats or witch-burning. Cotton Mather would certainly have disapproved of everything about Dennis Cooper, but old Cotton might have heard the grimness of Cooper's sexual imagination chiming weirdly in tune with his own.
The American-living BritLitCrit James Wood's puritanism reveals itself most obviously in those passages of his criticism where he writes of 'aestheticism.' By this he means prose that exists primarily as an art object: the kind of prose commonly found in Ruskin, Pater, Proust, Woolf, Faulkner, Hawkes, Gass, Lobo Antunes, Vollmann, and any other writer you've ever heard accused of writing "purple prose." Wood typically treats this style as some kind of fatal, sexually-transmitted disease against which all writers (but especially the talented ones) must encondom themselves. He even goes so far as to congratulate Roberto Bolano's Savage Detectives for the "amazingly unliterary" tone of its prose--as though that were some kind of accomplishment. (What it is, by the way, is an amazingly dimbulbed description of Bolano's multivocal and very literary novel.) First grade primers and cookbooks are also 'amazingly unliterary.' Does Wood consider Betty Crocker the aesthetic equal of Hemingway and Carver? Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway; I say, therefore I am) I reject this Wooden dogma like a knot-holed stick of lumber; I slap it with the back of my baroquely beringed hand. Contra James's condom, I prefer the unapologetic barebacking of an ornate prose style, a style that SCREAMS style. That style-less style of no style, flat as an Iowa cornfield, that ain't my style.