Author: Alissa Nutting
Publication Year: 2013
In Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa, Celeste Price, a smoldering 26-year-old middle-school teacher in Florida, unrepentantly recounts her elaborate and sociopathically determined seduction of a 14-year-old student.Celeste has chosen and lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his eighth-grade teacher, and, most importantly, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming erotic encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress of pure motivation. She deceives everyone, is close to no one, and cares little for anything but her pleasure.Tampa is a sexually explicit, virtuosically satirical, American Psycho–esque rendering of a monstrously misplaced but undeterrable desire. Laced with black humor and crackling sexualized prose, Alissa Nutting’s Tampa is a grand, seriocomic examination of the want behind student / teacher affairs and a scorching literary debut.
Before I talk about Tampa, I want to warn you all potential readers that it contains very graphic sexual content. Now that that’s out of the way, let me give you a synopsis of this book. Tampa is about Celeste Price, a 26 year old middle school English teacher, who has sexual relationships with her 14 year old students. Sounds scandalous? It is. I must say, this book is disturbing yet fascinating. It revolves around a (I believe the right term is) hebephile. In the book she is referred as a pedophile, but she has a strong preference for pubescent boy, 14 year olds in particular. Reading this book, we are basically put in the mind of a female hebephile.
You might immediately compare this book to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov because that’s what I did. But these two books are so different. In Lolita, the narrator Humbert Humbert tried so hard to gain sympathy from the reader. He’s constantly trying to convince the reader that he loves Dolores only and not because she’s a 12 year old. This makes him an unreliable narrator. Meanwhile Celeste is aware of how wrong and sick her behavior is. Yet, she seems okay with it. It’s like ‘I’m a sexual predator and I know it’ situation with her. She’s so sex-obsessed and it’s shown throughout the book. You can read the first sentence of this book and you’ll know what you’re getting into.
Celeste is a smart and an unusually attractive woman. She’s smart because she’s so meticulous about her sexual relationship with her students. She plans the arrangements carefully so she won’t get caught. Despite that, she has no self-control. There are times when I thought that she could be more careful, but she wasn’t because she’s so fixated on the possibility of having sex with pubescent boys. Her obsession towards sex is so exaggerated in the book. She could fantasize about her student while teaching and describe it in detail for pages.
Celeste’s appearance is an important point in this book. She’s a pretty woman. Her husband knows it. Her students know it. It makes her life easier. Her appearance makes it easy for her to seduce the students. Her beautiful face is also what makes people not being suspicious of her. I don’t want to spoil anything, but her appearance is also the reason why she doesn’t get enough consequences of her crime later in the book. This got me thinking, will the same happen if the offender is a man or if he/she isn’t attractive.
Tampa is a controversial and compelling book which deals with the dark and ugly side of women. It also pokes the topic of double standards in society, though I wish it’s explored more. If you don’t mind reading a 20s woman having sex with a 14 year old boy, try picking up this book. It could be overwhelming, but it is an interesting read.
If you were a teenage male, would you call a sexual experience with her abuse?