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March 21, 2004

21st Century Rubyfruit Jungle?

by Ron Hogan

helenwalsh.jpgI'm not sure if Helen Walsh is really my sort of bright young novelist, since Brass hasn't made its way to the States, but surely there's something to be said for a 26-year-old lass who casually admits to blowing tons of money on lapdancers and hookers (although whether she'll really cop to the latter depends on when you ask her, apparently). Zoe Williams at The Guardian certainly seems to think so, and enjoys the novel madly besides:

Millie, the protagonist[,]... has a lot of sex, mainly with women, although she does go off-piste with the occasional guy. She has the best - as in the most honestly and evocatively described, not necessarily the highest quality - sex of any contemporary fictitious sex I've read.

Judge for yourself: Canongate has an excerpt online in which Millie performs oral sex on a prostitute in a graveyard.

Mind you, the reporter's schoolgirl crush wavers at times. She suggests that Walsh uses queer theory to position "the behavior of a scumbag" as sexual rebellion, but then goes right back to admiring Walsh for possessing a "natural, easy-going courage that comes from being original without having to try." And I'm thinking, jeez, honey, haven't you ever had a frank discussion about sex with anyone before you met this woman?

The Sunday Herald is decidedly less starstruck, even at times cynical (particularly in describing Walsh's biracial background as an opportunity to "get out the Zadie Smith vote." Ideas Factory falls somewhere in the middle, but seems generally willing to play up the cautionary aspects of Walsh's personal and fictive stories. And Scots writer Laura Hird is so taken with Walsh she's given her a spot on her own web site.

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