First published on 27 Jan 2012. Updated on 3 Feb 2012.
Dennis Cooper’s brief and viscerally disturbing new novel is a puzzle in every regard. The 194 pages are packed to the rafters with rape, torture and cannibalism, along with hidden passageways, doppelgängers and other well-worn totems of the horror and mystery genres.
Set in modern France, and narrated in the first person by a Parisian aristocrat, the novel is a contest of wills between reader and author. Cooper’s narrator makes a habit of directly addressing his readers with an ongoing commentary about the relative success and failure of his storytelling.
The Marbled Swarm touches on the margin of many significant themes: the lack of humanity that can occur alongside excessive privilege, the cycle of abuse that can affect families and the confused sexuality of adolescence. But ultimately, Cooper’s elliptical resolution makes this vicious account nothing more than Saw-style torture porn.