The Marbled Swarm
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The Marbled Swarm

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  355 ratings  ·  74 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...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Harper Perennial
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Community Reviews

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brian
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.
A
Nov 28, 2011 A rated it 1 of 5 stars
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...more
Tosh
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
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.
M.
Nov 06, 2013 M. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011, fiction
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
Julian Meanchoff
I tapped out at 140 pages. I still have no idea what this book is about.
James
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...more
Jacob
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
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
i have never read anything like this before. one of my favorite novels.
Daniel
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...more
Jimmie
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...more
McKenzie Wark
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...more
Josh Friedlander
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
Rjyan Kidwell
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
Jan 01, 2013 Carly added it
Shelves: discarded
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...more
Emilio
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
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.
Barry Levy
I have now read nine of Dennis Cooper's books. I liked the first five. After reading "The Sluts" (my eighth), which physically nauseated and, in the end, angered me, as there was no catharsis for either the main character or the reader, I swore off reading any more of his books. Unfortunately I did not keep my promise. "The Marbled Swarm" is his worst and is nearly unreadable. If this is his way of emulating de Sade and (Heaven help us!) Robbe-Grillet, he has failed miserably. In the future I su...more
Corey Ryan
Warning: A rather low brow review. I finished this book and immediately I thought, welp, I need to read that one again. This is the first book I've read by Dennis Cooper. I had a friend who loved him, but for some reason I never sought out any of his books until I read his Art of Fiction interview in The Fall Paris Review. I specifically found Cooper's comparison of his writing to The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Psychocandy," which has been spinning on my record player as of late. Call it coincidenc...more
Caleb Wilson
Here's a book where tone of voice is so important that it even has a name, like a Zoolander pose. It's a Byzantine and hypnotic method of speech, transcribed by the hero into short, even paragraphs--he makes much of the fact that his speech is a weakened form of his father's, as the book's text is presumably a weakened form of his own speaking voice. And yet even "weakened" this is still one of the best first person narrations I've read in a long time.

It also might be the best blend of imagery,...more
Christopher
I liked it. It reminded me a bit of Myra Breckinridge, while less specifically about cinema it is about the pornographic nature of contemporary culture (in 2011, not 1968). In Myra Vidal says that the French won't write novels and the Americans can't and throughout the book Myra looks back fondly on the films of the 1940s. Similarly in a key scene towards the end of Cooper's book his main character finds himself in front of the television "showing an older film, not so old it lied the world was...more
Poy Born
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michelle
Before anyone contemplates reading The Marbled Swarm by Dennis Cooper, please note that the language is extremely rough, but more importantly the subject matter is seriously disturbing. One could take this as a sign of Mr. Cooper's genius in that he challenges the reader's sensibilities, or one could believe that Mr. Cooper may need to seek psychiatric help for his depraved subject matter. No matter what one feels about the main character of his novel however, one must laud Mr. Cooper for his ab...more
Kate
May 31, 2012 Kate rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: books
I have no idea what the ^#$@ I just read.

Cooper clearly had a plot here, because this is a book and even the most nonlinear, experimental book encompasses a plot, because otherwise it isn't a "book," it's just words on paper; but the way in which he told the story, the sentence structure and formulation and syntax used, obscured whatever he was trying to tell as if the words were a wall blocking comprehension of the meaning they were supposed to convey.

The above sentence is reflective of the way...more
Megan
MIRROR TRICKS, ALL OF IT!!! i need to read this again to fully grasp 'what happened' both on the referential level and on the level of form -- but was deliriously riveted by the language and syntax play which is frequently hilarious, and very similar to Urs Allemann's BABYFUCKER w/r/t the comically disorienting syntax providing an uncomfortably comfortable distance from the horrors it's describing, though enacted in a much different way, a mode of rather hilariously insufferable linguistic exces...more
Brendan
The ornate prose that replaces Cooper's normally sparse, brutal writing in The Marbled Swarm is absolutely perfect for the telling of this tale. Perfectly morbid, explicit and brutal, as is all of his writing, the gory details here are shrouded and almost obscured by the language used. Unsettled and disturbing, this may be my favorite book by Cooper so far.
J.
Cooper is working his usual dark magic, here, but in a new form. Normally something of a minimalist, here he attempts to reverse that trend. In fact, you might think of the titular "Marbled Swarm" as a 180 degree rotation from what Nabokov did with "Lolita"--an attempt to cover a central truth with convoluted sentence work and dense plot layers (some leading nowhere) like a honeycomb covered in bees. It's genius that only he could create. A word of warning, though: as I've said before, this is d...more
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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
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“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.” 5 likes
“Why is it I feel a new nostalgia for the era of the guillotine?” 3 likes
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