“In this sly and salacious work, Nutting forces us to take a long, unflinching look at a deeply disturbed mind, and more significantly, at society’s often troubling relationship with female beauty.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
In Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa, Celeste Price, a smoldering 26-year-old middle-school teacher in Florida, unrepentantly recounts her elaborate and sociopathically determined seduction of a 14-year-old student.
Celeste has chosen and lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his eighth-grade teacher, and, most importantly, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming erotic encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress of pure motivation. She deceives everyone, is close to no one, and cares little for anything but her pleasure.
Tampa is a sexually explicit, virtuosically satirical, American Psycho–esque rendering of a monstrously misplaced but undeterrable desire. Laced with black humor and crackling sexualized prose, Alissa Nutting’s Tampa is a grand, seriocomic examination of the want behind student / teacher affairs and a scorching literary debut.
In Nutting's graphic first novel (after her story collection, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls), soon-to-be eighth-grade English teacher Celeste Price can barely contain her excitement about her adolescent boys; the 26-year-old passes the night "in an excited loop of hushed masturbation" while her good-looking but dull-witted husband slumbers. Celeste's mind is as pragmatic as her body is luscious, and her patience ("I had to regard the students like a delicate art exhibit and stay six feet away at all times, lest I be tempted to touch") pays off. Before long, she coaxes shy Jack into what becomes the first of many liaisons. Unlike American Psycho's Patrick Bateman, Celeste is aware of her depravity she fears that were she to work as a model, as some suggest, photos would capture "a soulless pervert" but she indulges anyway. Her bold choice of meeting Jack at his house after school leads to unsurprising complications, as does the boy's budding love. When Celeste's usual caution erodes, all might be lost were this young woman not lover and fighter both. Nutting's work creates a solid impression of Celeste's psychopathic nature but, unlike the much richer Lolita, leaves the reader feeling empty.
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If You Like Controversial, This Is a Good One
Celeste Price has it all. She’s smart, beautiful, and wealthy. Plus, she’s well-liked and admired. The problem is that she doesn’t want any of it. She doesn’t want her fancy car, nice house, or expensive jewelry. In fact, she doesn’t even want her husband. What she does want is 14-year old boys, which is why she became a middle school teacher in the first place.Tampa, the controversial debut by Alissa Nutting, details Celeste’s mission to find a suitable middle schooler to take on as a lover. It’s disturbing, explicit, and surprisingly well written.
Despite its content, Tampa is a page-turner. Celeste knows that she’s doing something illegal and simply doesn’t care. Rationalizing (in her mind) each decision to work in her favor grants her the freedom to do as she pleases, regardless of the deception and pain it may cause. She is boldly willing to sacrifice anything and everything that stands in her way because her addiction to 14-year old boys is a craving that must be satisfied, no matter what the cost.
To be honest, this entire book is pretty hard to stomach, especially the first half. So hard to stomach, in fact, that I have to wonder about the author’s predilections because really, who thinks of the things in this book? Her ability to get into the mind of Celeste is unsettling. It’s not smut, exactly, but it’s in the same zip code. So while I wouldn’t recommend this to my Mom (I don’t want us to both have read the words in this book), I don’t not recommend it, either. If you’re someone who’s willing to read something controversial and uncomfortable for the sake of reading something controversial, then this one makes the cut. Otherwise, it’s probably not for you.
Disturbing, not in a good way
I can’t finish this. Sure, I bought it based on the description, and I’m a big fan of transgressive fiction, but this is different. It’s smut, and it makes me wonder about the writer’s proclivities. I’m not comfortable with adults writing about children this way, fiction or not. If there is a point beyond fantasy filth involving 14 year old boys, I couldn’t find it in the first quarter of the book I read. So, take my review with a grain of salt because of the fact that I haven’t finished it, but consider this a trigger warning for explicit descriptions of sex acts involving teenagers- and I mean literally from the first page. If that turns you off, I’d suggest skipping this one.
Wasn't sure how I felt about finishing this book, but the author writes so that you can picture what the main character is describing perfectly. Great writing for a sensitive subject. Thank you Alissa.