credit: JF Paga
Virginie Despentes is a writer and filmmaker. She worked in an independent record store in the early ’90s, was a sex worker, and published her first novel, Baise Moi, when she was twenty-three. She adapted the novel for the screen in 2000, codirecting with the porn star Coralie Trinh Thi. Upon release, it became the first film to be banned in France in twenty-eight years. Despentes is the author of more than fifteen other works, including Apocalypse Baby, Bye Bye Blondie, Pretty Things, and the essay collection King Kong Theory.
"I can think of almost no book I’ve enjoyed in recent years as much as King Kong Theory – in part for its content, in part for the ferocity of its style. In a world that continues to have difficulty contending with sex work, porn, class, and sexual violence without resorting to tired tropes, Virginie Despentes offers a fresh, necessary, inspiring path forward, just as she has been doing for decades now in a variety of media. This book is a classic, and I’m so grateful for it."— Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts"Despentes writes not as other people speak but as she speaks, with unbridled brutality . . . There is an almost sacrificial generosity to her voice, a willingness to say it for you that makes any woman want to copy out the phrases as her own . . . King Kong Theory is blistering with anger, and so precisely phrased that it feels an injustice to summarize it."—Nadja Spiegelman, New York Review of Books"I love King Kong Theory. It’s a fuck-you push-back against a blood-sucking patriarchal culture that keeps murdering and raping women till they get the idea (the survivors, ha) that they should be stupidly grateful to serve men, just lucky to even be allowed to play. This is liberatory galloping prose, inhale it now and if you’ve read it before read it again in this new jangling translation, ornery and alive like we need to be. This short fiery book is essential."— Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls"In the dire age of corporatized and sanitised feminism, King Kong Theory is the radical – and darkly funny – manifesto we need."— Amelia Abraham, author of Queer Intentions"Despentes is often described as a “rock-and-roll” Balzac . . . She also resembles, by turns, William Gibson, George Eliot and Michel Houellebecq, with a sunnier attitude."— Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick"Part-memoir, part-critical treatise on masculinity and power, with reference to rape, pornography, and prostitution, King Kong Theory is the kind of book you want to place in the hands of everyone you know. It is arresting from the very first lines; there’s something aggressively incantatory about it, a kind of battle-rap braggadocio."— Lauren Elkin, Harper’s"Despentes has become a kind of cult hero, a patron saint to invisible women: the monstrous and marginalized, the sodden, weary and wildly unemployable, the kind of woman who can scarcely be propped up let alone persuaded to lean in."— Parul Sehgal, New York Times"A prequel to #MeToo. A unique queer feminist radical voice that has been crucial to the transformation both of fiction writing and political action in the 2010s."— Paul B. Preciado, author of An Apartment on Uranus"A manifesto for our times."— Paris Review"The feminist movement needs King Kong Theory now more than ever. A must-read for every sex worker, tranny, punk, queer, john, academic, pornographer – and for all those people who dislike them too."— Annie Sprinkle"The history of literature in translation is filled with good and bad matches. Great matches – Juliets who get their Romeos, with not a single suicide along the way – are few. The new novel Vernon Subutex 1, written by Virginie Despentes and translated from French by Frank Wynne, is the kind of match that is so great it won’t occur to readers that these two entities – author and translator – might have ever been apart. In fact, their prose is so powerful, and so perfect, that we forget we’re even reading."— Jennifer Croft, LA Review of Books"[Despentes] redefined French feminism in her 2006 manifesto King Kong Theory . . . Today King Kong Theory, with its account of Despentes’s rape, is the book she is most often asked to sign at events."— Angélique Chrisafis, Guardian"Virginie Despentes is a true original, a punk-rock George Eliot with a keen taste for the pitiable innards of her characters: no one else has her slyly penetrating eye, her spiky sense of humor, her razor wit that cuts like wire through the accumulated crud of our age’s default thought patterns."— Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine"France has a long tradition of writers and artists who have propagated their own challenging visions of sexuality - from the Marquis de Sade’s sadomasochistic reveries to Georges Bataille’s explorations of the ambiguity of sex as a subversive force in Blue of Noon. More recently, Michel Houellebecq’s work has included unsparing descriptions of sexual conquest. But it is only relatively recently that women have felt able to tackle these same themes in public. ... Despentes’s new book, King Kong Theory, gives them a manifesto. Part memoir, part political pamphlet, it is a furious condemnation of the “servility” of enforced femininity and was a bestseller in France – the title refers to her contention that she is “more King Kong than Kate Moss.”’