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The Marbled Swarm by Dennis Cooper
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The Marbled Swarm

by Dennis Cooper

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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 refers to the narrator's manner of speaking. It's a style that is both intricate and convoluted, but the most interesting thing about this Marbled Swarm is how it is also reflected in the plot itself: the plot continually stops, regresses, or goes off on a permanent tangent. The language is formal, and this formality is represented by a stunning lack of emotion in the narrator. Cannibalism, incest, rape, and abuse are revisited again and again as the plot circles around and around, attempting to avoid the whole point of the novel entirely. The events are terrifying and, in some ways, darkly funny. Yet it is an emotionless journey for the narrator, until the time comes when the heart of the novel cannot be avoided any longer.

In short, it's The Story of the Eye for the 21st century. (Which I had no problem sharing with all my friends. I was too enthralled by my own deviousness.) This novel is hard to simplify and dismiss it as a gross-out novel, because there is some real pain here. Cooper is too intelligent to let himself be reduced so easily. I don't want to call it a masterwork, but it's damn brilliant. ( )
  sighedtosleep | Sep 1, 2014 |
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 dark, dark magic--not for the faint of heart. But if you want to see an artist who is truly unafraid to dance on the edge (as trite as that sounds), then Cooper is your guy, and this novel is an absolute masterwork. ( )
  JWarren42 | Oct 10, 2013 |
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 ability to play with the language, rendering it completely unfamiliar and forcing the reader to wrest any meaning through painstaking and careful reading.

To say The Marbled Swarm is a difficult read is an understatement of the greatest magnitude; it makes Nabokov's Lolita seem like a children's bedtime story. First off, there is the narrator and his actions as he takes the reader through his horrific past and gruesome present. He surrounds himself with friends who share his more perverse proclivities, and some of the scenes about his "hobby" that ensue make the bloodiest horror movie pale in comparison. Even worse are his actions towards his brother and the horrible mental game his father unknowingly played with both his brother and him. The entire backstory of the narrator is enough to send shivers up and down the spine of the reader or send one running to the bathroom before losing one's stomach contents.

Yet, this is a novel that one is compelled to continue reading. The reader never really knows if the narrator is telling the truth or presenting his past as he would prefer it to have happened. The Marbled Swarm could be construed as one huge psychological study on the use of language to obfuscate the truth. As upsetting as the narrator's story is, the possibility that it is all a delusion allows the reader to power through to the end in order to resolve the mystery without having to question one's own mindset.

The Marbled Swarm is disturbing in its depravity but absolutely brilliant in its use of language. It is one novel that is not going to attract a large following because it is one of the most challenging reads ever published. For those readers who persevere, one will be rewarded with an entirely new appreciation for the English language and the power of words to hide or tell the truth.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Erica Barmash from Harper Perennial for my review copy and for bringing to my attention some of the most challenging books I have ever had the pleasure of reading!
1 vote jmchshannon | Apr 24, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061715638, Paperback)

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 the trappings of high art, old money, and haute cuisine obscure an unspeakable system of coercion and surrender. And as the narrator stalks an elusive truth, traveling from the French countryside to Paris and back again, the reader will be seduced by a voice only Dennis Cooper could create.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:37 -0400)

The literary cult hero's latest novel takes readers into the mysterious world of a father who raises his son in secret and, keeping him isolated from outside influences, teaches him a special language that only the two of them will know.

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