cover image The Marbled Swarm

The Marbled Swarm

Dennis Cooper. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-171563-1

Full of peepholes—bodily and architectural—Cooper’s twisting, twisted novel, set in contemporary Parisian lofts and French countryside chateaus, brings to mind the fractured narratives of Alain Robbe-Grillet and the sexual intensity of the Marquis de Sade. The nameless, untrustworthy narrator travels from Paris to northern France to view a villa for sale, which seems above board until the talk turns from real estate to the current owner’s recently deceased son and the narrator’s intense interest in the son that remains, 14-year-old Serge. The narrator dips and weaves in and out of the present as he talks around his designs on Serge, which go beyond rough sex into the entirely unexpected realm of murder and cannibalism. When the narrator recounts the “marbled swarm,” a loquaciously bombastic manner of speaking learned from his father, the act of storytelling itself is called into question. In addition to double-speak and red herrings, the narrator also inherited a penchant for secret passageways, spying, and cruelty. Almost every physical structure has hidden catacombs within, mirroring the narrative layers, the stories within stories. The sex—more often rape—is graphic and Cooper doesn’t always justify the shock. (Nov.)