I haven’t written anything for a while, eh? Man, I’ve been busy.
I’ve not really been feeling much enthusiasm in regards to reading or indeed, writing, as my blog silence would indicate; I guess I just hadn’t been feeling it, y’know?
But as it was my birthday last week, I treated myself to some choice, and not to mention controversial, titles…
Tampa by Alissa Nutting:
You may or may not have heard about Tampa. The Daily Mail recently labelled it ‘THE SICKEST BOOK OF THE SUMMER’…so naturally, I had to see what the fuss is about.
Celeste is a beautiful, rich and affluent 26 year old teacher. She is married to an all-American boy, Ford, who is a police officer. Celeste has one all-consuming desire in her life; that is, to have sex with 14 year old boys. She is soon revealed to be obsessive, manipulative and calculating and soon begins a relationship with a pupil, Jack, at her new school, with, arguably. devastating consequences.
Basically, the controversy surrounding Tampa has been its exploration of the desires and experiences of a female paedophile (albeit, a fictional one, but based loosely on the real-life story of Debra Lafave). That’s not to say that the author, Alissa Nutting, condones or endorses the actions of her character. Nutting has been vocal in the press about the double standards that exist in regards to the treatment of male and female sex offenders; Lafave was described as being too pretty to go to jail by her lawyer, despite being a convicted child abuser.
I found the description of the sexual acts between Celeste and Jack to be nauseatingly over-descriptive. Though, as a reader, we are privy to Celeste’s innermost fantasies, so it is expected that as an audience we see her inner psyche laid bare, as it were. And with sociopathic detail, Celeste does not disappoint.
Overall, I found it an interesting and complex read. I would recommend it, if you can stomach it.
The Never List by Koethi Zan:
I was pretty excited about this one; I’d heard from a variety of sources that it was excellent and had a compelling, unexpected twist. I love twists, me…
Sarah and Jessica are best friends. After surviving a car crash in their teens that kills Jessica’s mum, they become even closer. Arguably psychologically scarred, they begin compiling a list, The Never List, of things they should avoid if they don’t want to die. Things like, never go anywhere alone after dark, and…never get into a strange car.
But lo, they do get into a strange car and so their nightmare begins. Locked up and tortured in a cellar for five years, for seemingly no apparent reason, their nightmare has just begun…
…unfortunately, the reality was that I was kinda disappointed, and being some kind of spoiler ninja, I guessed the twist halfway through the book. Sigh.
It’s all a bit of a mash-up of cults, survivor’s guilt, S&M bars, ice queen academics, philosophy and gung-ho action.
I appreciate what it tried to do, but often, strands of themes just ended up nowhere and for me, this was extremely unsatisfying.
The End of Alice by A.M Homes:
The End of Alice tears the tissue thin line between the evil and the everyday. It details the correspondence between two paedophiles; one, a middle-aged male (and our narrator), is incarcerated in an institution, and the other, a 19 year old girl, is his admirer and seeks advice on seducing a 12 year old neighbourhood boy.
Slowly, through this correspondence, the narrator’s true nature reveals itself.
Our narrator is an unreliable one; the text flits back and forth between the past, present and what the narrator imagines is happening in the girls life. He bemoans the lack of sophistication in her letters (using too many exclamation marks, for one) whilst celebrating his own with titillatingly tongue-twisting tirades and sharp sibilance.
The narrator uses the girl’s letters as an excuse to revisit some of the motivations behind his own crimes, and specifically, those committed against a girl named Alice.
Hiding behind the thin veneer of civilisation is truly a psychopath. A complicated, manipulative and obsessive psychopath.
I thought The End of Alice was excellent, complex and thought-provoking. Be warned though, there are some pretty nasty prison rape scenes and vivid descriptions of abuse.
Apparently, when it came out, libraries in the US and the NSPCC (Nat. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Children) in the UK tried to ban it. Double sigh.
I don’t believe in banning books, myself. I believe in reading them and making up my own mind. I hope you will too.