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The Marbled Swarm

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  488 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
The Marbled Swarm is Dennis Cooper’s most haunting work to date. In secret passageways, hidden rooms, and the troubled mind of our narrator, a mystery perpetually takes shape—and the most compelling clue to its final nature is “the marbled swarm” itself, a complex amalgam of language passed down from father to son.

Cooper ensnares the reader in a world of appearances, where
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Harper Perennial
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Community Reviews

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Dec 19, 2011 brian rated it liked it
part genius; part indecipherable.
a guy with a giant dong assrapes some kid for so long the kid's intestines fly out of his anus resembling 'a bloody octopus'. i wish dennis cooper was my boyfriend.
Nov 28, 2011 A rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2011
I love Dennis Cooper more than his characters love underage rough trade psycopath nymphet boytoys with daddy issues. But one thing Dennis Cooper is not is subtle. Sophisticated, yes; layered with meaning, absolutely -- but understated, no way. In fact, I would argue that his greatest talent is his ability to be the opposite of subtle: it's his unrelenting repulsiveness that so powerfully drives his work to ever crueler, ever more captivating heights.

Which is to say that I hated this book. I mea
Nov 17, 2011 Tosh rated it it was amazing
A very beautifully layered novel that one can almost taste the narrative. Considering it deals with cannibalism among other things this may not be your type of flavor - but it is an essential read by one of the great English language writers alive. What strikes me about the novel for me personally is the jaded aristocratic voice that runs through it. All of Dennis Cooper's novels have a strong visual sense - and usually with the minimal language. "The Marbled Swarm" is different because the text ...more
Mar 01, 2016 Regan rated it really liked it
The rating I’ve given may pique interest in this book, but caveats are incredibly necessary. If you are someone who needs to identify with the narrator or characters in a novel, do not read this book. If you are a reader who resents being intentionally manipulated by an author, do not read this book. If you are a reader who believes there is not a single thing of value in the works of Marquis de Sade, do not read this book. If you are a reader who cannot tolerate 48 pages of hints, redactions, c ...more
Emma Sea
The book has me at a loss. Layers of story, inside an unreliable narrative, opening out into language, hidden within a secret, artificial tongue that is never used. The book exceeds my ability to comprehend or appreciate it, making any rating I may make pointless.
Nov 06, 2013 M. rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2011
I lucked out, this is the first time I've gotten a galley of a book from an author that I literally fucking love the work of more than anything (got a galley of a Guyotat book once, which was awesome, but Guyotat takes me like ages to read, whereas Dennis books I can't help but tear through). So I of course read this within a 24 hour period, and it's totally fucking fantastic. Even though I hate reviews that draw comparison as a way of highlighting the narrative of a text (mostly because the com ...more
Nate D
Nov 22, 2011 Nate D rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Isabelle Adjani
Recommended to Nate D by: Pierre Clementi
The Marbled Swarm is a performance of gruesome virtuosity, a blood-gilded house of cards that geometrically collapses down to a single card containing the superimposed forms of all that preceded it, at last finding itself reduced, pure and tragic, a simplicity it so desperately attempted to obscure with endless card tricks -- mysteries within mysteries, horrific acts minutely detailed, the ultimate veneer of language itself -- attempted to obscure out of nothing so much as failed self-preservati ...more
Jeff Jackson
Apr 24, 2011 Jeff Jackson rated it it was amazing
Since this won’t be released for a while, I don’t want to say too much. Some quick thoughts: I'm a huge admirer of Dennis Cooper's work and The Marbled Swarm strikes me as a genuine masterpiece. Set in Parisian warehouse apartments and country chateaus, the novel is riddled with secret passages, doubles, cannibalism, and peepholes that reveal both more and less than they appear. Its labyrinthine structure is worthy of Robbe-Grillet and the puppetmaster narrator is an equal of Pale Fire’s Kinbote ...more
Josh Friedlander
Oct 15, 2014 Josh Friedlander rated it did not like it
Shelves: pomo
It wouldn't be correct to say I detested this book: that's the reaction that the author is going for, whereas in fact I was too bored to muster any type of strong feeling at all. Mistaking the use of cannibalism, kiddy rape and incest for some type of cooler-than-thou nihilist credo, and sophomoric pretension for eloquence (the titular "marbled swarm"), this book is something like a French rewrite of Less Than Zero - except stripped of the wit, intelligence, self-awareness and satirical vigor th ...more
Julian Meanchoff
May 22, 2013 Julian Meanchoff rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2013
I tapped out at 140 pages. I still have no idea what this book is about.
Jul 28, 2013 James rated it really liked it
I just finished this.

Voyeurism, incest, molestation, pedophilia, child rape, murder, cannibalism...just another day at the office for Dennis Cooper.

If you've read his earlier works--for instance, the George Miles cycle--the disturbing themes should come as no surprise, but here his writing style is quite different. Whereas in his earlier works the style was flat, laconic, and minimalistic, here it is wordy and intentionally convoluted.

I think in the earlier books his characters didn't know how t
Bud Smith
Nov 10, 2014 Bud Smith rated it it was ok
Got to page 160 and had to quit. Ya know, it's a book about the brutal rape and murder of adolescent boys. At one point I was at a bar and set the book down on the bar and the bartender asked me, "Hey what's that about?" And I had to say, "Oh it's about the brutal rape and murder and digestion of adolescent boys." The other bar patrons slid away from me, which was fine because I like elbow room. But the next morning when I woke up, I decided to throw the book in the trash and when I felt bad abo ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Jacob added it
Do you ever read a book and go, ew! Like out loud? Like you're reading it and you stop and say, ew. This book made me do that a lot and I kept following and saying, what the fuck is this? Then I got to the end and I put the book down and I looked around the room and I said, what did I just read? How did he do that? I felt as if the entire book had fucked with my brain and caused me to distrust the world around me, the books on my shelves, the walls of my house especially. Ornately styled and irr ...more
Neil Griffin
Feb 04, 2012 Neil Griffin rated it really liked it
To distill this review into one sentence, I suppose I could write Lolita and David Lynch have a baby in the dungeon of a chateau, who grows up being filmed by his father, who hides with his camera behind fake walls that contain secret rooms and tunnels that eventually lead the boy to deviant cannibalism and and a gift for unwielding long stories within stories attached to houses within houses, which he narrates to a mirror with us on the other side.
Richard Chiem
Nov 14, 2011 Richard Chiem rated it it was amazing
i have never read anything like this before. one of my favorite novels.
Jun 08, 2016 Charlotte rated it did not like it
Actually read 33 pages. I am guessing that the point of this novel is to feel disgusted. Well, success there.

This book was recommended to me because I like unreliable narrators and I don't mind reading things that have bad taste. At times. I'm stopping because I hated the tone (I didn't find it amusing or clever), and I don't find reading about cannibalistic pedophiles interesting or amusing.

I very much wish I'd read more reviews before borrowing this one. Apparently the main character has sex
Glenn Conley
Nov 01, 2014 Glenn Conley rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
This book is just a long literary excuse to write about pedophilla, necrophilla, incest, and cannibalism. There is no real story in this book.

It's just one rich-ass nancy-boy of a narrator's account of the comings and goings of various relatives, groundskeepers, housekeepers, and whoever else may have passed by this strange chateau. And this house of torture just happens to have secret passages in the walls, where perverts can hang out and jack off. Like you do.

Then, there's the constant murmur
Jun 13, 2012 Daniel rated it really liked it
I just bought Dennis Cooper's Closer on my Kindle and I am already terrified that someone is going to look at my Kindle and start reading it and see that it is not only pornographic, but pornographic in the most disturbing sense possible. I am fully convinced that e-Readers were invented for the sole purpose of being able to hide all your erotica from your friends.

Dennis Cooper scares me, yet The Marbled Swarm was still one of the most interesting novels I've read this year. The Marbled Swarm re
Nov 22, 2011 Jimmie rated it liked it
Shelves: queer
Whenever people talk about transgressive fiction, they always bring up three (and only three) names: Kathy Acker, William S. Burroughs, and Dennis Cooper.

Until she tragically died of breast cancer in 1997, Acker was batshit crazy and was, therefore, completely sui generis. Burroughs' world is rather what you'd expect from a drug-addled queer who shot his own wife in the face.

And then there's Dennis Cooper. If you're familiar with his previous work, The Marbled Swarm will not be particularly surp
McKenzie Wark
Nov 28, 2011 McKenzie Wark rated it it was amazing
I think its a novel about the French language, especially literary language, how seductive it once was and how it declined. And oddly enough is written is wonderfully capacious english. Dennis Cooper is a ####ing genius.

Literary French seduced a continent for several centuries, but its descendants have misheard it, in this account. And in any case the world now speaks English. So this is more an elegy for the 'marbled swarm' of FR writing, from Laclos and Sade to Rimbaud. The beginning of the en
May 25, 2012 Rjyan rated it really liked it
Chasing the intriguing mystery-story plot as it reflects down and back a hallway of mirrors may set you up for a slight feeling of disappointment on the last page, but this book isn't actually quite done with you yet, and there's much fun to be had arranging and processing this books many vivid symbols with the benefit of hindsight. Even if the repulsive brutality sours you on prolonging your exposure to the marbled swarm, I'd still say this narrator's voice alone is kind of unmissable. It's lik ...more
Carly Svamvour
I got this book free from the Toronto Public Library online discussion book.

On our Christmas drive up to Peterborough, I read through it as Jeff drove. In fairness, and prompted by the promises of the narrator that it would get better, I gave it more than the usual fifty-page-rule.

I questioned myself; was it because I'm homophobic ... nawwww ... I've read same sex stories before and liked them, even though I'm not gay.

What made me toss this thing was the sheer vulgarity of the action in the st
Leo Robertson
Oct 05, 2014 Leo Robertson rated it it was ok
Strange writing experiment marred by its hyerverbosity, as it acknowledges itself doing throughout. Fussy pretentious style masks all the violence, creates uninteresting characters... falls under the category of not-badly-written-nor-enjoyable.
Alec Eberhardt
Nov 30, 2014 Alec Eberhardt rated it really liked it
Note to self: re-read.
Robert Vaughan
Jan 17, 2016 Robert Vaughan rated it liked it
This was disturbing in the most strange and offensive ways. Especially as a gay man, I found it oddly unappealing, and also, as Cooper is one of my favorite authors (especially his early poems), I was disappointed. Still, for taking on such provocative material, the rare complexities and for the attempt of this novel about such violent things as cannibalism of young boys and more, I give it these stars.
Apr 22, 2015 kim rated it liked it
Shelves: horror, lgbt-fiction
If this book had cut the bullshit (which we are told is deliberate from the get) and remained 50 pages rather than the 200 Mr. Cooper had agreed upon with his publisher I might have enjoyed it. Creative yes, I'll give him credit but in the end it proved ultimately boring. I spent 75% of my time figuring out individual components of a sentence to make sense of what I was reading. Mr. Cooper has written better. This isn't worth your time, honestly. I finished it because I have to see things throug ...more
David M
Jul 22, 2015 David M rated it it was ok
This book reminded me of that Onion headline Marilyn Manson Goes Door to Door Trying to Shock People. Or of Anthony Hopkins reprising Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon. It's clear no one took the role seriously at that point. Hopkins just played it for laughs.

Does Dennis Cooper still take his subject matter seriously? I really can't say. With God Jr., he seemed to be striking out in a fascinating new direction. No rape or dismemberment? How provocative, seriously. Marbled Swarm is a return to form -
Cassandra Troyan
Apr 14, 2012 Cassandra Troyan rated it it was amazing
seemed like a mix of bret easton ellis and edgar allen poe.
unapologetically violent, yet all said with a cool baroque flair as the book pushes you off while pulling you back in by your hair.
Jan 11, 2014 Emilio rated it liked it
I have mixed feeling about this book, it was good but bad. It lacked any plot development, and any time the story began to push forward the narrator hit a wall and continued on with a bunch of nonsensical gibberish. I understand there is some kind of puzzle to put together and to some extent the book is supposed to be confusing, but at times it became unreadable really. The prose seemed a bit pretentious at first but after a few chapters I came to understanding of it. Now for all the child rape, ...more
Andrew Nolan
Dec 15, 2011 Andrew Nolan rated it did not like it
For a book that starts off so promisingly, my interest in it crashed spectacularly to the point where i put it down less than 10 pages from the end in protest.
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Dennis Cooper was born on January 10, 1953 and grew up in the Southern California cities of Covina and Arcadia. In 1976, he founded Little Caesar Magazine and Press, which he ran until 1982. In 1985, he moved to Amsterdam for two and a half years, where he began his ten year long project, The George Miles Cycle, an interconnected sequence of five novels that includes Closer, Frisk, Try, Guide, and ...more
More about Dennis Cooper...

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“Why is it I feel a new nostalgia for the era of the guillotine?” 9 likes
“When a child grows old enough to know J.R.R. Tolkien was just staring at a typewriter, the truth can be a wounding exposé.” 6 likes
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