Elliott Bay Book Company Capitol Hill
Sat Feb 8, 7 pm
Recommended by Christopher Frizzelle
Intensity is the novelist Garth Greenwell's subject. The word itself appears twice on the first page of his second novel, Cleanness, a subtly ironic title for the dirtiest novel the New Yorker has excerpted in ages. The narrator is an English teacher from the United States living in Bulgaria. The novel is full of beautiful writing about the pitfalls of teaching, the violence of politics, and the purpose of poetry, but the sex scenes are the most memorable. Few writers write about sex so well and with so much sensitivity. The brilliance and animal warmth of Greenwell's style, the depth of insight, and the range of empathy, confer on even gloomy subjects a kind of radiance. "Sex had never been joyful for me, or almost never, it had always been fraught with shame or anxiety or fear, all of which vanished at the sight of his smile, simply vanished, it poured a kind of cleanness over everything we did," the narrator says.