“Now is all of forever that we can ever have”: a heavy thought for an adult-film hero, but then Lucky Pierre is no ordinary star. The featured performer in pomo grandpappy Robert Coover’s latest novel, L.P. (a/k/a Peter Prick, Crazy Leg, etc.) spends almost as much time worrying about what’s real as he does getting laid. Which is to say, a fuck of a lot.
As the priapic muse of all Cinecity, a frozen metropolis where armed revolutionaries seek to liberate sex from aesthetics and doting parents take their children to orgies, Coover’s protag is at the mercy of the nine women who are simultaneously his directors and co-stars. The Adventures of Lucky Pierre accordingly allocates a “reel” (i.e., chapter) to each, wherein L.P.—ever willing to thrust himself into unusual situations; or, perhaps, simply unable to resist—is manipulated as they see fit. “His pleasure is his duty,” and his co-stars’ sexual and filmic topographies are the mediums wherein he fulfills it. Time, space, and identity splinter relentlessly here, and stepping outside the frame into a place where “there are no jump cuts, no reversals or lap dissolves” is the one great impossibility.
All of which would make for a messy, dreary feature, were Coover not more optimistic (and traditional) than his hyperfictive proclivities initially imply. He’s also disturbingly funny—a send-up of pious Griffith one-reelers, for instance, boasts the intertitle “What a delicious expanse/of snow-white bottom! How I long to cut it into ribbons/of wealed flesh & blood!” and climaxes with the death of its innocent starlet. L.P., for his part, cannot recall if her demise was real or staged. Later (or possibly earlier) we’re told that “He knows there are some early films of his for which there are no longer any projectors on which they can be run. In fact, this might be one of them . . . ” Memories, life, up in smoke like so much nitrate stock. Yet Coover ultimately suggests that the terrors of a spent reel or blank screen may be eclipsed by the fleeting joys of the motion preceding them, the film that danced before one’s eyes, the purity of a mindless orgasm. Tenderness, not meta-gimmickry, pervades when L.P.’s tale ends mid-hump—an ardent acknowledgment of the transient surfaces upon which our lives, our selves, flicker and play before they dim, and fall forever into silence.