“I wasn’t looking forward to meeting the parents for a different reason — to me they were libido kryptonite. I liked to imagine the students as an independent resource, new creatures of their own design. Day to day, it was easy to think of junior high as an island of immortal youths that might never age, but seeing the parents killed that fantasy. Suddenly I’d be aware of what nearly all my students would look like two decades down the road. And after I’d seen them, it was impossible to get those images out of my mind.”
Alissa Nutting, Tampa.
Tampa is self-consciously-enough positioned to be shocking — from the faux-PMRC explicit content sticker on the cover onward — that you almost start from a place of wanting to resist it, at least as a gimmick, and largely one can. As a female sexual predator with a taste for fourteen-year-old boys, Celeste Price wants to fall somewhere between Humbert Humbert and Patrick Bateman. Probably the best thing that Alissa Nutting does, though, is straddle a particular play of repulsion, where the language Celeste uses to describe adolescent boys (and sex with adolescent boys), normally not beautiful creatures, contrasts so directly with her impressions of adults — men and women alike — and more normally-satisfied desires. Oh, and she’s got a thing for overcooking her imagery, which sometimes works really well (and at least as often is just infelicitous), like a mother-and-son combination a paragraph or two later: “Their resting expression was one of squeezed panic, like a ferret dressed up in a miniature corset.”
July 19, 2013, 9:30am Comments