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The Marbled Swarm

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,220 ratings  ·  110 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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Average rating 3.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,220 ratings  ·  110 reviews

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Nov 09, 2011 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.
Feb 28, 2016 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
Oct 11, 2011 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 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
Nate D
Nov 17, 2011 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
May 20, 2012 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
Jul 28, 2013 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
Richard Chiem
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
i have never read anything like this before. one of my favorite novels.
Jeff Jackson
Mar 21, 2011 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
Neil Griffin
Jan 28, 2012 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.
Josiah Morgan
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Abuse as a system of language. A stunner.
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
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
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Feels like Cooper was impatient to finish this. Similar to the Wallace-circa-Jest in its focus on communication and in the style of its prose, at times funny, at times surprisingly, commendably poignant.
McKenzie Wark
Nov 28, 2011 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
Josh Friedlander
Jul 17, 2013 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
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.
Alec Eberhardt
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Note to self: re-read.
Eoghan Keegan
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rugs pulled from under rugs pulled from under rugs pulled from under rugs pulled from under rugs all founded on the charisma of a contrived dialect that haunts the pages, completely unspoken. And apparently that's all a misdirection. ...more
Dan Riaz
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most unique novels I have ever read.

But agree with the other reviewers, this is definitely NOT for everyone. The subject matter is extremely transgressive and will put off most readers from finishing the book.

That said, if you're up for a dark adventure (which in the age of Jeffrey Epstein, maybe even received as a social commentary), the writing is brilliant...

I would sum up the novel up as journey into the twisted psyche of a sociopath...think Jeffrey Epstein meets Patrick Bateman
Cassandra Troyan
Apr 14, 2012 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.
Sam Glatt
Dec 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It’s Cooper at his best—his most fucked up, his most unique, terrifying, perverse, and morbidly profound. It’s a classic, and the one that brings everything he does best into one, tight narrative. It can be hard to stomach it but you won’t stop turning the pages. The marbled swarm itself is hypnotic, dizzying. I love this book.
Ben Manners
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The most horrific, offensive, depraved acts of (sexual) violence seem to wash over me and leave me unaffected when they're described so simply and matter of factly; drained of any emotion with no sense of impact or consequence for anyone involved. Not to mention the assumed willingness of the victims to engage in these extreme scenarios of BDSM – seemingly aware that they won't survive them – feels like a minor copout on the author's part (although I recognize and appreciate the darker interpret ...more
Glenn Conley
Oct 26, 2014 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
Hm, I could not finish this. Maybe I've outgrown the content Cooper writes. I might go back to it. For the most part it was uh, wordy... and the narrator even tells you he has trouble with being wordy. Too verbose for my liking.

I think this was intentional, but I didn't enjoy it.

The narrator explains the 'marbled swarm'. What is it, you ask? A verbose way of speaking that takes from many dialects. It's makes you sound knowledgeable but sends you into a loop. That's what this book did to me.

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
Jun 08, 2016 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
Robert Vaughan
Jan 19, 2015 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.
Leo Robertson
Sep 17, 2014 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.
Andrew Nolan
Dec 04, 2011 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

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