Monsters: What Do We Do with Great Art by Bad People? (Hardback)
  • Monsters: What Do We Do with Great Art by Bad People? (Hardback)

Monsters: What Do We Do with Great Art by Bad People? (Hardback)

Hardback 288 Pages
Published: 11/05/2023
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Waterstones Says

A forensic and incisive exploration of the relationship between creativity and morality, Dederer's volume questions to what extent it is acceptable to appreciate the art of monstrous individuals in a supposedly compassionate society.

A passionate, provocative and blisteringly smart interrogation of how we experience art in the age of #MeToo, and whether we can separate an artist's work from their biography.

What do we do with the art of monstrous men? Can we love the work of Roman Polanski and Michael Jackson, Hemingway and Picasso? Should we love it? Does genius deserve special dispensation? Is history an excuse? What makes women artists monstrous? And what should we do with beauty, and with our unruly feelings about it?

Claire Dederer explores these questions and our relationships with the artists whose behaviour disrupts our ability to apprehend the work on its own terms. She interrogates her own responses and her own behaviour, and she pushes the fan, and the reader, to do the same. Morally wise, deeply considered and sharply written, Monsters gets to the heart of one of our most pressing conversations.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 9781399715034
Number of pages: 288
Weight: 480 g
Dimensions: 236 x 158 x 32 mm


What a treat it is: funny, lively and convivial, constantly in argument with itself . . . Dederer's tone and willingness to be wrong and confused, along with her seductive, intimate style, bring the subject to new life . . . how rare and nourishing this sort of roaming thought is and what a joy to read. How moving, too, the underpinning adoration that allows the difficult questions to be asked. You are left wishing Dederer would apply her generous mind to every other niggling unfinished hang-up that haunts our culture - Megan Nolan, Sunday Times

In a world that wants you to think less - that wants, in fact, to do your thinking for you - Monsters is that rare work, beyond a book, that reminds you of your sentience. It's wise and bold and full of the kind of gravitas that might even rub off - Lisa Taddeo

Personal, open-hearted and intellectually playful - 50 of this year's best non-fiction books, The Times

Witty and conversational . . . It's a book full of the nuance that the cancel culture debate so often lacks - Books of the Year*, The Times

Enthralling, challenging and downright unsettling . . . smart and provocative . . . Monsters is a vital book for our times, and it offers so much rich food for thought - Martin Chilton, Independent

Thrilling - Observer

A properly honest and passionate book that will help set this debate alive - Andrew Marr, New Statesman

An exhilarating, shape-shifting exploration of the perilous boundaries between art and life. This timely book inhabits both the marvellous and the monstrous with generosity and wit - Jenny Offill

Exhilarating - Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

Excellent . . . Frank . . . A work of deep thought and self-scrutiny that honors the impossibility of the book's mission - Melissa Febos, The New Yorker

Monsters is an incredible book, the best work of criticism I have read in a very long time. It's thrillingly sharp, appropriately doubtful, and more fun than you would believe, given the pressing seriousness of the subject matter. Claire Dederer's mind is a wonder, her erudition too; I now want her to apply them to everything I'm interested in so I can think about them differently - Nick Hornby

A hot and urgent monologue structured around a problem without a solution . . . The conclusion to this immersive and doubtlessly important book is both tentative and bold - Frances Wilson, Times Literary Supplement

Part memoir, part treatise, and all treat . . . nimble, witty . . . her exquisitely reasoned vindication of Lolita brought tears to my eyes . . . This is a book that looks boldly down the cliff of roiling waters below and jumps right in, splashes around playfully, isn't afraid to get wet. How refreshing - New York Times

A timely interrogation of the eternal question: can you separate the art from the artist? It showed me my bookshelves, my record collection, the pictures and films I love - even myself - in a new, unflinching light. I'm pressing it into the hands of everyone I know. - Erin Kelly, author of The Skeleton Key

Nuanced and exploratory . . . With verve and empathy, she asks if we can - if we should - separate the work from the biography - Suzanne Harrington, Irish Independent

Humming with originality, clarity and humour . . . The book's questions might be zeitgeisty, but it is far more satisfying than the circular arguments about cancel culture that abound in Twitter threads. It sketches a Venn diagram of creativity and depravity before plunging into its intersection - dangerous water, but one I emerged from reinvigorated . . . - i News

Dederer asks, with witty self-deprecation, how we should respond to art from artists guilty of morally squalid deeds . . . Instead of rushing to the barricades of ongoing culture wars, Dederer offers - and enacts - a way of thinking that acknowledges the ever growing diversity of intellectual and moral life - Pankaj Mishra, summer reads, Guardian

Sane and nuanced - even refreshingly brave. This is no dry compendium of intellectual arguments about artistic meaning, but rather an emotional journey through audience experience told with engaging chattiness from an insider's perspective - Kathleen Stock, The Times

An incredibly nuanced and human work - Barry Pierce, Big Issue

In this book you may not find the answer, but you will find heaps of wit and wisdom - on monsters, victims, hate, love, and the big grey area in between - Chloë Ashby, Spectator

Clever and provocative - Daily Telegraph

A lively, personal exploration of how one might think about the art of those who do bad things . . . It's such a pleasure to stretch out in a big, nuanced conversation about a topic that can be so easily flattened into wrong and right, good and bad; it's a pleasure to be asked to think - Vanity Fair

Dederer's exploration offers up no easy answers, but the journey is never less than illuminating - Summer holiday reads, Guardian

Monsters is a dazzling book . . . If you too love the work of Polanski - or Picasso, Hemingway, Allen, Davis, and so on - sticking with Dederer on her curlicued journey might be the best gift you can give yourself. The final chapter feels its way toward a conclusion that burns clean, though it hurts a little too - Stephanie Zacharek, Time

Vital, exhilarating . . . Although Dederer has done her homework, her style is breezy and confessional . . . Monsters leaves us with Dederer's passionate commitment to the artists whose work most matters to her, and a framework to address these questions about the artists who matter most to us - Washington Post

An exciting read . . . I was shaken to my core - Los Angeles Times

Perceptive and engaging - ArtReview

Monsters is both a nimble exploration of fan culture and a spirited call to action - Ruth Madievsky, GQ

A blisteringly erudite and entertaining read. Dederer holds the moral ambiguity of her subject matter, landing her arguments with precision and flair. It's a book that deserves to be widely read and will provoke many conversations - Nathan Filer

Dederer provides a fascinating new way of looking at how the work and lives of problematic artists are bound together. She poses so many topical questions, plays with so many pertinent ideas, that I'm still thinking about this book long after I finished - Claire Fuller, author of Unsettled Ground

Monsters is extraordinary - engaging, enraging, provocative, and brilliant. It's like a long conversation with your smartest friend. I am buying this book for everyone I know - Ann Patchett, author of Tom Lake

Conversational, clear and bold without being strident . . . Dederer showcases her critical acumen . . . In this age of moral policing, Ms. Dederer's instincts to approach such material with an open mind - and heart - are laudable - Wall Street Journal

An invigorating, engrossing, and deeply intelligent book. By guiding us through her critical dilemmas, Dederer performs an act of generosity: she allows the reader the space and encouragement to interrogate their own beliefs. Monsters made me laugh, argue, tear up, and most importantly, think - Julia May Jonas, author of Vladimir

Smart and engaging, never dogmatic or pious, I loved this. - David Nicholls

Excellent. Erudite and unpretentious, ruthlessly honest, a searching self portrait as well as moral inventory of good artists doing bad things - Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter

Thoughtful - Susie Goldsbrough, The Times

Punchy and sharp . . . Exploring her own relationship to art made by shitty men, the book moves beyond tedious cancel culture discourse to interrogate ethics, art and fandom with nuance and compassion - Katie Goh, Books to be excited for in 2023, i-D

The book is tangled and fascinating, chasing down arguments and questions that can't always be easily resolved. Dederer's shrewd, vivid descriptions of movies and books suggest just how much they mean to her and how deeply any sacrifices on the altar of contemporary sexual ethics might cut - Slate

[Dederer] just keeps getting better and smarter . . . it's absolutely exhilarating to read the work of someone so willing to crumple up her own argument like a piece of paper, throw it away and start anew. She's constantly challenging her own assumptions, more than willing to find flaws in her own thinking - San Francisco Chronicle

I flat-out admire her book and want to share it with my students. As a thinker, Dederer is smart, informed, nuanced and very funny - Maureen Corrigan, NPR Fresh Air

The rare polemic that's full of greedy love for the good stuff in this world, Monsters is an expansion of Dederer's instant classic Paris Review essay from 2017, 'What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men.' With a larger canvas, she lets both her cast of monsters and our culpability grow, and manages to one-up herself over and over again. Cooly pensive on an overheated subject, Dederer writes powerfully about art's ability to move us, teach us, and entrap us - Bustle

Monsters is like having the best version of the "good art by bad people" conversation. Dederer writes like your wisest, most compassionate friend, helping to guide you to your own thoughts and generously offering her own. I loved it - Lizzy Stewart, author of Alison

Slyly funny, emotionally honest, and full of raw passion, Claire Dederer's important book about what to do when artists you love do things you hate breaks new ground, making a complex cultural conversation feel brand new. Monsters elegantly takes on far more than 'cancel culture' - it offers new insights into love, ambition, and what it means to be an artist, a citizen, and a human being - Ada Calhoun, author of Also a Poet

She asks important questions . . . Subtle and adroit - The Atlantic

Dauntless, cannily reasoned and barn-burning . . . Monsters isn't just the book that art-loving feminists have been waiting for; it's the book that anyone determined to live an intentional life owes it to themselves to read - Shelf-Awareness

Nuanced and incisive . . . Dederer's candid appraisal of her own relationship with troubling artists and the lucidity with which she explores what it means to love their work open fresh ways of thinking about problematic artists. Contemplative and willing to tackle the hard questions head on, this pulls no punches - Publishers Weekly

Sharp and unflinching . . . In Monsters, Dederer produces an entirely original and self-aware contemplation on the psychological reverberations of living in a biographical age - AnOther

Bringing erudition, emotion, and a down-to-earth style to this pressing problem, Dederer presents her finest work to date - Kirkus Reviews

While Dederer sets out to write about the art of monsters, she ended up writing about what it means to be human - Camille Sojit Pejcha, Document Journal

Monsters has crystalline intellectual force . . . Dederer has fashioned a book of depth and candor about what it is to be heartbroken by an artist whose work we also happen to love . . . So on point is Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma about the historical moment in which we currently find ourselves, you want to carry it around with you and whip it out at every bar or dinner party - Tom Shone, Avenue Magazine

Smart - People

Spectacular . . . A work of pop-culture criticism that's fun to read, Monsters will for sure help us have deeper conversations around the perennial question of whether it's possible and OK to separate the work from the art and what it really means to be a fan. This is a book we plan to return to again and again - and to press on all our friends -

Monsters is a good companion, working away at the problem from various perspectives, always explaining patiently what it is trying to do and keeping it interesting by participating more energetically than just steepling the fingers - Strong Words

Despite the heavy subject matter, Monsters is neither rant nor sermon. Dederer is not only an incisive researcher and writer, she's also conversational, approachable and funny . . . Monsters is a worthy addition to contemporary literary criticism, but more than that, it's a very enjoyable book about a thorny, elusive subject - BookPage

Profoundly cathartic. The book feels simultaneously like having the deepest, artiest conversation with the smartest people you know and like having an intense shit-talking session with your closest friends - Alta

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Jo at Greenwich

“No More Heroes”

This is a highly readable (and thankfully very funny) look at the history of the inner turmoil a fan experiences when faced with unavoidable truths about the artists they love. Written from a personal feminist... More

Hardback edition
1 similar book recommended
Helpful? Upvote 22

“What is left between cancel culture and denial?”

In ‘Monsters’ Claire Dederer takes the reader on a personal and honest journey out of the dilemma of dealing with beloved artworks and their monstrous creators in an increasingly transparent and biographical time.... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 20

“Am I a monster?”

What a truly great book! In 'Monsters', Claire Dederer perfectly deciphers the problem of separating the author from the work. Using case studies throughout, Dederer weighs up both sides of argument. I... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 17

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