A passionate, provocative, blisteringly smart interrogation of how we make and experience art in the age of #MeToo, and of the link between genius and monstrosity. • From the author of the New York Times best seller Poser and the acclaimed memoir Love and Trouble
“Thrillingly sharp, appropriately doubtful, and more fun than you would believe, given the pressing seriousness of the subject matter.” —Nick Hornby, best-selling author of High Fidelity
In this unflinching, deeply personal book that expands on her instantly viral Paris Review essay, "What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?" Claire Dederer asks: Can we love the work of Hemingway, Polanski, Naipaul, Miles Davis, or Picasso? Should we love it? Does genius deserve special dispensation? Is male monstrosity the same as female monstrosity? Does art have a mandate to depict the darker elements of the psyche? And what happens if the artist stares too long into the abyss?
She explores the audience's relationship with artists from Woody Allen to Michael Jackson, asking: How do we balance our undeniable sense of moral outrage with our equally undeniable love of the work? In a more troubling vein, she wonders if an artist needs to be a monster in order to create something great. And if an artist is also a mother, does one identity inexorably, and fatally, interrupt the other? Highly topical, morally wise, honest to the core, Monsters is certain to incite a conversation about whether and how we can separate artists from their art.
About the Author
CLAIRE DEDERER is the author of Love and Trouble, and the New York Times best-selling memoir Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, which has been translated into twelve languages. A book critic, essayist, and reporter, Dederer is a longtime contributor to The New York Times and has also written for The Atlantic, Vogue, Slate, The Nation, and New York magazine. She lives near Seattle with her family.
"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, author of Three Women
“An exhilarating, shape-shifting exploration of the perilous boundaries between art and life. This timely book inhabits both the marvelous and the monstrous with generosity and wit.” — Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation “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, author of The Shock of the Fall
“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, author of High Fidelity
“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 Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis
"The masterstroke of Dederer’s book is that she doesn’t seek to duck her ambivalence. She doesn’t try to magic it away by finding an expert or thinking harder, although her book has crystalline intellectual force . . . Denounce Allen or Polanski all she wants, she realizes, their work still calls to her, and from that stubborn fact she 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" —Avenue Magazine
“A valuable meditation on some of the era’s most urgent cultural questions . . . Emerging from Dederer’s reflections is the plain truth that every personal response to art is inseparable not only from the artist’s past but also the history of each member of its audience.” —Library Journal
“[An] insightful exploration . . . Dederer’s case studies include Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and Miles Davis, whose work she considers brilliant and important. What’s a fan to do? Dederer offers nuanced answers, challenging the assumption that boycotting is always the best response.” —Booklist
“Bringing erudition, emotion, and a down-to-earth style to this pressing problem, Dederer presents her finest work to date . . . Dederer’s analysis includes both usual and unusual suspects, often with remarkably original angles.” —Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
“What’s a fan to do when they love the art, but hate the artist? asks book critic and essayist Dederer (Love and Trouble) in this nuanced and incisive inquiry . . . There are no easy answers, but 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 [starred review]