Why Did Google Delete Dennis Cooper’s Blog?

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Over the years, Dennis Cooper’s blog has become a go-to spot for those who appreciate challenging, bold, experimental literature. Cooper has frequently championed books on indie presses and literary work in small journals, using his own influence to point readers in the direction of other work that they might enjoy. (Many writers I know have been thrilled to have been included in lists of highlights from Cooper’s recent reading.) Over time, the site has gradually become a place where devotees of avant-garde fiction can learn more about what’s new in that particular corner of literature.

You’ll notice, however, that I didn’t link to it in the paragraph above. That’s because, late last month, Google deleted both Cooper’s blog and his Gmail account without providing any advance notice to him. Visiting the URL now brings up an error page stating that the page has been removed, and that “[t]his address is not available for new blogs.”

In a post on his Facebook page, Cooper noted that Google hasn’t been particularly forthcoming about the deletion. “Other than being shown a general ‘violation of our terms of service’ statement, I have been given no explanation for this, and I have not received any response to my questions and complaints thus far,” he wrote on June 28th.

In the weeks since then, Cooper has been updating readers with progress on the case via Facebook. So far, there hasn’t been much change in the situation: as of July 5th, Cooper wrote, “there are now three separate and simultaneous ‘internal investigations’ into the situation going on at Google.” There remains no indication of whether Cooper’s account has been entirely deleted or whether some form of recovery is possible–or, for that matter, of why Google felt the need to delete Cooper’s email account and blog to begin with.

For any writer, the loss of their email address and several years’ worth of online work is huge–the sort of thing that gives many in the literary world uncanny shivers at night. In 2011, The Atlantic‘s James Fallows wrote about his own experiences having his Gmail account reinstated after a hacker deleted its contents; it’s a nerve-wracking account, especially for those of us who don’t have direct and high-ranking contacts at Google, as Fallows does.

The loss of Cooper’s blog is also something that affects the larger literary community. Given that experimental literature is generally not something that’s widely covered in literary sections across the country, a write-up on Cooper’s blog could end up being the highest-profile recommendation a book on a small press might get. Given Cooper’s long-standing history of writing challenging literature, his readership is not exactly small, and his endorsement can make a significant impact on the books that he highlights. Losing that space is another blow against some of the most vital literature out there–and a worrisome reminder than a vital literary community can be only one keystroke away from vanishing.

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