I finished reading Tampa over the weekend – I’d started reading it the weekend before when I was visiting my parents and decided this wasn’t a beach read while hanging out with your folks. My mother would no doubt as the question “What are you reading?” and my answer would be “It’s a book about a high school teacher who is also a sociopath and a paedophile…” – to be honest not a conversation I to wanted to have.
Which is kind of a good way of describing the book – it’s not a book you really want to read. The reason you would read this is the same reason you’d decide to read a crime novel, watch a horror movie, or even slow down to look at a car crash – it’s gritty and dirty and it’s not happening to you or anyone you know.
I mean the who picks up a book reads a blurb like this:
Celeste has a secret. She has a singular sexual obsession – fourteen-year-old boys. It is a craving she pursues with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought. Within weeks of her first term at a new school, Celeste has lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web …
and thinks, ‘great that looks like it will be a good’un!’? I’m thinking (hoping) not many, what most people will think is, wow that sounds full on, wonder what happens in the end.
Authors take inspiration from life around them and Nutting was inspired by the case of American Debra Lafave, a 24 year old teacher in Tampa Florida who was arrested for having an affair with her 14 year old student – a very real Celeste Price.
Tampa shines a light on the underside of suburban life – from the polished shiny outside to the guts of Celeste, a highly functional and methodical predator who’s manipulation of people and circumstance has a focused aim of satisfying her sexual desires.
The sex scenes have nothing on some of the erotica out there – it’s the fact that the scenes involve a teacher and a 14 year old boy that make them disturbing and wrong.
I can’t say I enjoyed reading it, but I can’t say I hated it or felt that I had to stop reading before the end. If you’ve read it I’m interested to know what you thought – do you think it has literary merit, or should it be banned like some Australian bookstores think it should be?