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girls : A Paean by Nic Kelman
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girls : A Paean (edition 2004)

by Nic Kelman

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1273163,649 (3.53)5
A wealthy father of two deserts his family in order to spend the night in a college girl's dorm room. A CEO visiting his friends' villa feigns a sprained ankle in order to have sex with their teenage daughter. A businessman in Korea has the best sexual experience of his life with a young woman whose true age he never learns. Travelling deep inside the most forbidden corners of male desire, GIRLS is a beautifully written novel whose honesty is both breathtaking and shocking. Speaking the unspoken - this exploitation of libido, identity, and power is mind-blowing stuff.… (more)
Member:SaraFist
Title:girls : A Paean
Authors:Nic Kelman
Info:Back Bay Books (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:contemporary, sexuality, male psyche, fiction, novel, trade paperback, 20th century, powells

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Girls by Nic Kelman

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I came to this book as a result of a review I read that described it as a modern day "Lolita." It's not that. I'm not even sure I'd call it a novel. If it is a novel, it's emplotment is very complex. It is built around several longish vignettes-all between 5 and 16 pages-that are related by theme, if nothing else. The use of a second person narrator throughout often makes it difficult to determine whether he's talking about the same character. Most of the characters are very rich, and think themselves very powerful. It's only when he describes one of his contra characters, a photographer, for example, that you "know" he's describing the experiences of a different character. His preoccupation with using "maybe" and "perhaps," as if to avoid admitting any of his characters' crimes-- which is what sex with a sixteen year old is in most places-leads the reader to doubt whether he's faithfully describing events that actually occurred. In like manner, he often shifts, within the vignettes, from the second person narrator to the third. Between the vignettes, he uses a cornucopia of aphorisms and quotes from the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid to illustrate the timelessness of his themes-I guess, as sometimes the quotes don't fit with the events described. He also likes to describe the evolution of words like "love" and "cock," for example. It's during these often interesting interludes that one doubts that Kelman has written a novel, and not a Pillow Book a la Sei Shonagon. Several times I found myself chuckling at the pretentiousness of his "rich men," as I thought "all that money, and this is what they do with it? How pathetic!" It's clear Kelman is a talented writer, willing to experiment. I look forward to the time when he uses his talent on a subject with more depth, and less bodily fluids. ( )
  Teiresias1960 | Feb 24, 2018 |
For me, nausea is only a result of sickness or bad pork: suck it, phobias and odors.

But alas, Nic Kelman has spoiled my perfect record. I had to set his novel girls down numerous times -- the situations he vividly described literally turned my stomach.

WARNING: Young book browsers, do not be fooled by the innocuos cover as I was. This is not a nice book.

The book is written in second person, although the "you" Kelman refers to shifts throughout the book: sometimes it is a businessman, a photographer, a bachelor, a husband, a father, etc. Each "you" is united and linked by their obsessive -- and at times destructive -- attitudes toward girls. Kelman's girls are girls in the truest sense. He does not use the word as a catchall for female humans of all ages. No, these men are irrevocably attracted to girls just beyond childhood, girls still in puberty's grasp.

Certainly, books about a man's infatuation for the teenage form are nothing new. But this book's accusatory tone makes the reader the perpetrator. Kelman tells the reader that s/he cannot look away from this girl's collarbone, that woman's ass. Soon becomes hard to believe that you haven't actually thought those thoughts. I had to take breaks to remind myself I wasn't a successful, predatory, girl-obssessed man.

As a feminist woman, this book was very difficult to read. Every bit of me fought it, the descriptions of girls as little other than sex object literally did turn my stomach. I finished this book about a month ago, but I've had to sit on it, think about it.

I think Kelman did an outstanding job of distilling the psyche of men who have everything they want. His leading men have long discarded their humanity and so they go searching for bits of life elsewhere, moving like vampires from one naive, young girl to the next. I think Girls is a fascinating gender study, but the execution is disturbing and frightening. I'm not convinced that I would read this again. I'm a wimp like that.

For full review: http://deathbynovel.blogspot.com/2008/06/girls-easily-as-disturbing-as-freddy.ht... ( )
1 vote bookcrushblog | Jun 28, 2008 |
Vignettes on ephebophilia. Some are quite engrossing, some are arousing, all are well-written. ( )
  SaraFist | Jul 20, 2006 |
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A wealthy father of two deserts his family in order to spend the night in a college girl's dorm room. A CEO visiting his friends' villa feigns a sprained ankle in order to have sex with their teenage daughter. A businessman in Korea has the best sexual experience of his life with a young woman whose true age he never learns. Travelling deep inside the most forbidden corners of male desire, GIRLS is a beautifully written novel whose honesty is both breathtaking and shocking. Speaking the unspoken - this exploitation of libido, identity, and power is mind-blowing stuff.

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