Why I write explicitly on a woman's real desires

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The Independent Online
I am, of course, dead chuffed that my first novel, Clever Girl, has been condemned by the Daily Mail as Most Sleazy Entrant for the Betty Trask Novel Award.

However, I soon skidded to a halt on the path of sperm and mucus that I'd laid down for my triumphal march-past. The priggish naivete of the writer, Graham Lord, and the lifeless puling of the Orange Prize judges he quotes so extensively in support of his argument, suddenly struck me as sinister. The whole boring "controversy" only reinforces my conviction that after a certain age, the average person's receptivity to new ideas transforms irrevocably into nostalgic self-deception.

The point is, women don't hide their shit in scented floral bags tied with ribbons any more. (Not that we ever really did: we were just condemned much more if we didn't.) My novel (which Graham Lord couldn't handle after page 47) is a very black, explicit, comedy about a young woman, the ultimate round hole who meets too many nasty square pegs, who goes out and gets superb, if sad, revenge on the world.

Many people have found it very funny. It's fiction, but the anger and so-called obscenity (er, masturbation and sex) are directly descended from fact. At 13 you're as desperate for a shag as any boy, believe me. I'm always amazed when I hear people asking how the hell to explain nuclear war and Aids to a child: I could handle those brilliantly compared to how I would explain to a young girl, like my character, that her desires are normal, but if she goes out to fulfil them she will face a tide of abuse. I vowed one day I'd write about all that. It looks like a lot of other writers have felt the same, however distanced the fictional arenas they may have chosen.

Is this "sleaze"? To me, "sleaze" is power games and manipulation. "Sleaze" is what's done to women and children to keep them under control. I'm saddened to see that it is other, powerful, women who are just as keen to shut us up.

The critics of "sleaze" must have private lives which make a dead cat look exciting. Of course, the writer's life is a paradox: to write you must be indoors, alone, very alone and, mostly, sober. But you also have to live. Life is savage, visceral, often incomprehensible and full of bodily fluids. Life is also about ideas. There are a lot of them around. My second novel deals with the Human Genome Project, modern-day witchcraft and the impact of mass hysteria. Tell me that doesn't have "major themes" and "big ideas", to paraphrase one Starfruit whinger who says we've lost them.

However, I should warn all Daily Mail readers and their friends that the book also contains, among other things, blood, shit, sex, drugs and swearing. No, I'm not expecting any prizes if the current climate of opinion in Little England is anything to go by.

I'm left with an overriding feeling: here we go again, two nations at war; the old chintz contingent covering their ears against the repetitive beats of the new gang. However, I must tell you, my dear dismayed critics, that the noise you are hiding from is no more than the fearful thumping of your own hearts.

Lust for a lamp

From Tania Glyde's Clever Girl

I went downstairs to watch Morecambe and Wise with my parents. I sat crosslegged on the ground.

Eric'n'Ernie bounced and flirted in their various ill- fitting suits. As I watched, I found myself dividing my attention between the screen and the thick, bulbous Habitat pottery lamp on the coffee table beside it . . .

The lamp sat and pointed upwards. The harder I stared at it the more I wanted it inside me. It was a peculiar sensation. As my eyes passed back and forth from screen to lamp, I could not prevent tiny serpents of helpless lust gathering before my eyes, entering me and descending en masse. I imagined myself squatting over the popular ceramic and somehow managing to absorb its entire girth.