Tampa - love it or hate it, just don't censor it!

There are so many reasons we find ourselves either loving or hating a book, and these are things that are completely idiosyncratic to each of us.  That thing that makes a story or character resonate can be a combination of many things in the writing, but often it can truly seem an alchemy of intangibles that is hard to put your finger on.
Our reasons for reading any book in particular are even harder to pinpoint at times.  Surely, we don't read books to be constantly amused.  We, most of us, I would think, read to be amused, educated and sometimes challenged.
As a bookseller, reading is a necessity as well as a privilege.  But when I read, I always have my customers in mind, which means I have hundreds of people piggybacking my thoughts on every page.
I bring this up because of the book that has become persona non gratis in many Australian bookshops, to the extent that even the US and UK have reported on the controversy it has caused here.
Tampa, written by Alissa Nutting, is a book that quite a few people think you shouldn't read, and a book that select bookshops in Australia have decided to ban from their shelves.

Australian jacket
It is the story of Celeste, a 26 year old school teacher and paedophile.  The story follows her journey towards the successful seduction/abuse of two teenage boys in explicit and uncomfortable detail.
Celeste herself is an unashamed predator, whose predilection for young and inexperienced boys motivates her every action -  her marriage, vocation and appearance are all vehicles to get her closer to her victims.
There are some interesting questions raised not only by the subject matter of this book, but also in the way Alissa Nutting chose to write the book.
There is no comeuppance for Celeste, no boundaries and certainly no context provided for her actions.  The sex is written in titillating fashion, and it is abundant.  And of course, that is where the controversy surrounding this book stems from.
Alissa Nutting, the author, was inspired by a true story.  Her motives were to explore why society in general doesn't take the sexual abuse of boys by adult women as seriously as the opposite and why in so many cases such as that portrayed in Tampa, the adult women are seen as victims of sexual precocity in teenage boys.
The failure to recognise women as authors of their own desire is also common in literature.  The phenomenon of the best-selling 50 Shades of Grey, based on the sexual education/submission of a woman by the older and wiser Mr Grey, is a case in point.
US jacket
So whilst Celeste is disgusting, at least Alissa Nutting doesn't find romantic or convenient excuses to explain her rampant sexual appetite or suggest that she is a victim in any way.  Her deviance lay not in her desire for sex, but in the manner in which she procures and safeguards it.
It is the honesty of this book that makes it so equally compelling and confronting, and in my mind, it is not a book to be avoided, but one to be taken very seriously.

You don't have to read Tampa to know that you don't want to read Tampa.  Books are endeavours we take ourselves on - we inhabit lives for the duration of the story - and one can certainly understand why readers would be reticent to spend time inside Celeste's head.  However, the same can be said of  many other recent best-sellers, including The Slap, The Corrections and Notes on a Scandal.
Bookshops - particularly those that are petite like Potts Point Bookshop -  discriminate whenever choosing books they wish to promote and keep on their shelves.  In this case, booksellers who felt that their customers would not want to inhabit the world of Celeste could simply have chosen not to carry Tampa instead of dramatically "banning" it.
All the author would ask of you is that you don't give in to the idea that this is a sensationalist exercise simply due to it's parts.  All we would ask of you is that you look beyond the cover to find out more about the audacious talent of Alissa Nutting.
In the end, it is up to you.

More articles about Tampa
The Guardian
The Herald
Three Guys One Book