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Out of print in the U.S. for far too long, writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes’s autobiographical feminist manifesto is back—in an improved English translation—“blistering with anger, and so precisely phrased that it feels an injustice to summarize it” (Nadja Spiegelman, New York Review of Books).
I write from the realms of the ugly, for the ugly, the old, the bull dykes, the frigid, the unfucked, the unfuckable, the hysterics, the freaks, all those excluded from the great meat market of female flesh. And if I’m starting here it’s because I want to be crystal clear: I’m not here to make excuses, I’m not here to bitch. I wouldn’t swap places with anyone because being Virginie Despentes seems to me a more interesting gig than anything else out there.
Powerful, provocative, and personal, King Kong Theory is a candid account of how the author of Baise-Moi and Vernon Subutex came to be Virginie Despentes. Drawing from personal experience, Despentes shatters received ideas about rape and prostitution, and explodes common attitudes about sex and gender.
An autobiography, a call for revolt, a manifesto for a new punk feminism, King Kong Theory is Despentes’s most beloved and reviled work, and is here made available again in a brilliant new translation by Frank Wynne.
"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 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 manifesto for our times."
"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."
"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
"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 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
"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
‘Wynne’s translation perfectly captures the radicality of Despentes’s manifesto as she discusses topics such as rape, sex work, and pornography with such confrontational panache that you feel as if the writer herself is screaming her words at you through a megaphone. The manifesto is already a classic but Wynne finally offers us a translation as brash and effortlessly cool as Despentes herself.’
—Barry Pierce, Irish Times
‘Perhaps the most honest account of gender to have been written in the twenty-first century, King Kong Theory [...] is a piece of work that has shaped perceptions of femininity globally. ...The book also serves as a sort of prelude to #MeToo; it screamed the need for such a movement before social media did so.’
"[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
"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.”’
—Elizabeth Day, Observer
“At her best, Despentes is vicious, iconoclastic, filthy-mouthed, and raw. She is all of those things in this out-of-print collection . . . There is unquestionable bliss to be found in the author’s looseness of style and no-bullshit approach . . . Despentes has always been one of a kind, and her willingness to break apart all kinds of received wisdom remains vital. [King Kong Theory is] rash, blunt, unashamed, and justifiably filled with rage.”