Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Tampa is a book which had been creating a stir before it was even published in this country, with some Australian bookshops saying they wouldn’t stock it because it was controversial.   At Fairfieldbooks, there are some books I choose to not stock, but we don’t actively censor.  We can’t stock every book published, and so we are constantly deciding what not to put on our shelves, and the reasons for stocking or not stocking a book vary enormously.  We have to consider our customers tastes, and a small independent shop like ours will always reflect both the buyer’s and the customer’s tastes.   Sometimes we have some fun, and put things just because we like them, even if we aren’t sure if they will sell or not. But deciding to veto a book because you don’t agree with it morally is another matter entirely.

So why all the fuss?  Tampa is about a beautiful 26 year old American woman called Celeste,  advantageously married to 31 year old Ford who works as a cop but is rich with family money.  But Celeste has no interest in Ford sexually.  Indeed on the first page of the book she says “thirty-one is roughly seventeen years past my window of sexual interest”  Celeste likes boys, 14 years old for preference, before puberty turns their skinny bodies into a shape more like a grown man.

When the books starts, Celeste is about to start teaching to middle school students from whom she will choose/groom very carefully.  a sexual partner.  The only redeeming feature Celeste has is that she is very self aware.  She doesn’t try to dress up what she is doing, she knows very well how inappropriate her behaviour is, but she doesn’t care.

The reaction to a woman who behaves like this is interesting to me, as is the idea of bookshops banning it.  I wonder if they stock Lolita.  There seems to be something even more shocking about a woman lusting after young boys than it being the other way around.  The behaviour seems to attract far more outrage than if it were an older man and young girl.  I certainly don’t condone what she does at all,  far from it.  She is truly appalling.

Having said all that, the book is very well written and would be a terrific selection for a book group.  She is a character everyone will love to hate.

Be warned, the sex is explicit.  It isn’t comfortable reading and a lot of people will hate it.  But don’t be put off by the hysteria it is attracting.

An interesting note, is that the author went to school with a woman who was subsequently charged with such offences. The book is a novel, but Alissa Nutting’s interest in the topic was piqued by having known a woman who developed such tastes. Be brave, read it. $28tampa

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