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girls: A Paean

girls: A Paean

by Nic Kelman

girls is an erotic spree, a journey into the most forbidden corners of male desire, a story about men who have been rendered numb by their power, who have sacrificed everything for success, who have lost their souls and can find meaning only by living vicariously, obsessively through young women.


girls is an erotic spree, a journey into the most forbidden corners of male desire, a story about men who have been rendered numb by their power, who have sacrificed everything for success, who have lost their souls and can find meaning only by living vicariously, obsessively through young women.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Echoing Lolita, Kelman paints a disturbing composite portrait of men who approach sex with young women as a kind of rejuvenating sacrament.—Ben Sisario
Publishers Weekly
The three jaded, wealthy protagonists of Kelman's sexually explicit debut have spent a lifetime battling other men for money and status in the cutthroat business world. Having sold their souls for the kind of success that spells easy access to women, they find they're less drawn to them than they ought to be-instead, they prefer enthusiastic young girls, who have not yet become the calculating gold diggers that adult women are. Fortunately, there are plenty of dewy-often underage-strippers, prostitutes, club kids, daughters' friends, friends' daughters and miscellaneous nymphets eager to have their innocence despoiled by middle-aged men with sports cars and Cuban cigars. Kelman chronicles the resulting debaucheries in minute detail, writing in a detached second-person voice that barely individuates his nameless male characters and often reduces the female characters to anatomical figments of a collective male libido. Amid all the sex there is a commentary on sexual politics drawn from snippets of sociobiology, statistics on the prevalence of divorce and infidelity and philosophical ruminations on the origins and linguistic indeterminacy of dirty words. The whole is given a mythic overlay by the insertion of excerpts from Homer, in which warriors confront each other at spear point for the possession of slave girls, archetypes in the dog-eat-dog struggle for power and women that is the essence of a man's life. Kelman's blend of Penthouse-grade sexual transgression, Nietzschean bombast and Sinatra-esque rue is a vigorous rendering of a certain misogynist mindset of masculine privilege, but for all its artfulness, it never quite transcends the cliches it wants to dissect. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This unusual work concerns itself with male sexual fantasies and obsessions. Told mostly in the second person, it has no story line as such; instead, it consists mainly of fragments and scenes of explicit sexual encounters with prostitutes, strippers, and young teenage girls, with various couplings and entanglements. The male characters evidently doing, watching, or dreaming all of this are wealthy, spoiled, dot-com-type business executives who see life in terms of power struggles, advantages, egotism, and ostentation. Scattered among the disconnected scenes (which do manage to be graphic and absorbing even though the reader is given little connection to the characters) are quotations from The Iliad, The Odyssey, and other epics, as one digressions on sociological forces and statistical trends in modern society. One admires this first-time novelist for his daring and skill, but the book may have only limited appeal. Recommended for larger collections.-Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Power-mad men explain why they thank heaven for little girls. Plying the choppy waters between Lolita and Penthouse Forum, Kelman's debut concerns older men with money who like younger women-girls, essentially. He gives us these men's perspectives in monologues from inside their Master-of-the-Universe minds, and what a grim trip it is. There's the banker who flies to South Korea on business and orders up a young teenaged hooker for an unexpectedly wonderful time: "You wish you felt terrible, in fact. But you don't. Instead you feel fucking fantastic. Reborn." There's the very important older man driving the expensive sports car and wearing $1,000 pants who picks up a college girl and has sex with her in her dorm room because she's not his wife. In the most disturbing storyline here, another, very similar, guy who's staying with his wife at the vacation house of another wealthy couple, starts sleeping with that couple's teenaged daughter and becomes obsessed with her. Kelman relates all this in archly blank, percussive prose that strives to balance the level of its pornographic detail with the light of ugly reality that occasionally glares through, keeping the whole becoming just a well-written fantasy text for dirty old men. If only there were a good reason for all those quotes from the Iliad that pop up like pretentious speed bumps every few pages. Kelman isn't writing stories so much here as, it seems, trying to limn the personality of a certain type of power-hungry male. In this context, the expensive clothing and toys, the dominated wife, and the general amoral attitude are as emblematic as the need to posses the young nymphet. Perhaps the author feels a need to toss other materialinto the mix. So we get not only the Iliad but passages on warfare, etymology, and the battle between the sexes-none of them nearly as illuminating as Kelman seems to think. Troublesome erotica much less meaningful than it makes itself out to be.

Product Details

Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt


A Paean
By Nic Kelman

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2003 Nicholas L. Kelman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-15596-9

Chapter One

You were in Pusan.

When you flew in, the port was hidden by cloud. You couldn't see the city at all, only the tops of mountains. The man to the right of you, a Korean, said, "Ha! That's smog. Smog! Not so pretty now, huh? Smog! Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Smog!" He went on laughing to himself as he picked up his paper again and read some more. You were still working for that investment bank, were there to find out why a container ship was behind schedule. You had been told it would probably be necessary to make an example of someone, that you should determine who.

And when you landed, it was drizzling, grey. The whole city was grey. Built of concrete and iron, built for building. You couldn't see very far down the streets in that rain that was almost a mist. Through the haze the odd red or green punched - neons, traffic lights, trashcan fires. But that was all. On the way from the airport to the hotel and the next morning from the hotel to the office, you became completely disoriented. You tried to follow your route on the map your girlfriend had given you but it was useless. You didn't know where you were.

At the office you spent a day going over the numbers, over the tonnage of materials brought in, over the daily costs of delay, over the percentage of the shipcomplete. The day after that you visited the ship itself. The fog had not cleared and when you stood near the command tower, you could not see the end of that unfinished deck. About half-way down it dissolved into a skeleton of girders which then itself dissolved into the mist. As if the mist were acid, as if the mist had halted construction.

And when you took the man off the job he yelled in Korean. In front of everyone he yelled at you in Korean. His face turned red, he was stocky, his stomach bulged against his belt, he threw back his shoulders, pointed his finger.

And you grew furious at him because he did not understand. This had nothing to do with him. Did he think he was playing a game here, that some conception of fairness applied? You picked up a phone to call security but he stormed out of the room. As you opened your mouth to say something to the others in the room, something about not caring, he opened the door again, yelled one last thing, and was gone. You remember thinking how puffy he looked as he stuck his torso through that gap, how the arms of his glasses splayed outwards as they ran back to his ears, remember wondering if it was the salty Korean diet that made him that way. It was only natural. You hadn't understood a word he had said.

But when you left the building, when you got in that black car that somehow ferried you from the office to the hotel in Haeundae beach, you noticed you were shaking.

And as you shaved before dinner, looked in the mirror, you grew angry at him again, angry at him for making you feel that way, for making you feel ashamed that you did not feel ashamed. "I mean, what the fuck does he think?" you said, waving your wet razor at your own face, half-hidden in lather, "He can have the benefits without the liability?" "Screw him," you said.

The local office people took you to a vegetarian restaurant. "I don't really like vegetarian," you said but the meal was actually quite satisfying. Everything was fried and you had a lot of Soju.

And when you got back to the hotel, the carpet outside your room was wet.

You had no way of knowing it was because he had been there. No way of knowing he had been too ashamed to go home to his wife and so had wandered in the rain for hours before finally sitting outside your door hoping to appeal to you. No way of knowing he had only just given up, only just decided that what he was doing was ridiculous, only just taken the stairs down as you took the elevator up. You fumbled with the card lock momentarily. As you closed the door behind you, the smell of the wet carpet was overpowering.

You are in Pusan.

You sit on the edge of your bed, drunk. You want to lie down but you can't, you feel sick when you do. Somehow your eyes find the clock. It is only 10pm, your girlfriend will just be getting into work. She is a graphic designer. You pick up the phone, you call her on the company calling card.

"Hey babe!" she says, happy to hear from you, "So how is it? How's it going?"

You open your mouth but you don't know what to say. You think you may want absolution so you tell her what happened today, leaving out the part about the wet carpet, the part you don't know. But when she gives it to you, tells you you did what you had to do, you realize that wasn't it at all. You didn't want her to tell you you did the right thing, you didn't care if she thought you did the right thing or not because you already knew you did, you just wanted her to say, "I know what that's like."

But of course, she can't say that, will never say that. And if she ever could then you could no longer be with her. Then you would both be tired. Then she would be a better friend, but a worse lover.

You haven't been listening to what she's been saying. You have been thinking. But as you open your mouth to say, "Listen, do you think I should be doing something else? Something I enjoyed a little more?" you decipher the sounds she has been making.

She has been telling you how she finally used that spa certificate you gave her for her birthday, the one you could afford to buy because last year's bonus was so huge it paid off your college debt. She has been telling you how she went there for the full day and how they pampered her and how they rejuvenated her and how she felt so good afterwards, like a new woman afterwards.

There is a pause. She says, "Were you about to say something?"

"No," you say, trying to sound surprised.

"Oh," she says, "it sounded like you were about to say something." And you wonder how that could be because you're certain you didn't make any sound at all.

"Anyway, listen babe," she continues, "I have to go - I have a meeting - but when you get back mommy will make baby feel all better - she pwomises, OK?"

"OK," you say, chuckling. But you don't feel any better after you hang up. Just like you didn't need her to tell you you did the right thing, you also didn't need that. Mommies are for sick little boys. You aren't sick, you aren't a little boy, you don't need sympathy. There is nothing tender loving care could do for you right now, right now there is nothing even your real mother could do to make you feel better. She wouldn't, couldn't, understand what it was like any more than your girlfriend.

The headspin subsiding but not gone, you turn on the TV. There is a channel that shows only Go, 24 hours a day nothing but Go. This really is a different place. You change into a bathrobe, you flip through some channels. There is a channel that has some kind of beauty contest. You watch it for a few minutes and realize it's actually a talent competition. You try to masturbate a little but it's no good, you're not interested, it's not enough.

You turn out the lights. You get in bed. But you can't sleep. The Korean girls in the talent competition keep coming to mind, you can't get the Korean girls in the talent competition out of your head.

Then you remember the card. After he had told you he was sending you to Pusan, after he had told you it might be necessary to make an example of someone, your boss had looked around, had made sure there were no female employees nearby, and had said, "... and if you get bored, they have the best fucking hookers in all of Korea there." Then he had taken out one of his business cards and written a name on the back, the name of the concierge at the hotel to ask for, the one who'd "take care of you." "Come on, Saswat," you'd said, "You know I have a girlfriend!" "Yeah," he said, "I know," and tucked the card in your breastpocket.

You turn on the light again. Naked, you find the suit and pull out the card. You sit on the edge of the bed turning it over and over with your fingertips. You study the printed name of your boss and the Korean name written on the other side, written with a $1200 pen. So many things run through your head. It's not really any different than masturbating, is it? I wouldn't tell her I jerked off, would I? At last you decide you'll call down and see how much it costs. Just out of curiosity.

And you can't believe how cheap it is. The high end is less than a first class dinner in Manhattan. Now you remind yourself you could send her away. You could just see what she looks like and if you change your mind, you could just send her away. You'd have to pay her, of course, but so what, you can afford it. The Korean girls in the talent competition flash through your mind again. You tell him to send up the best thing they have. You use that word, "best."

You turn the light off. You lie on the bed. You get up and turn another light on, a less intense one, one that you imagine provides a romantic glow. You put on a robe, take a breath mint. You look around the room and realize it's a mess. In a panic because she might arrive any second, you tidy up. You throw your socks in the closet, make the bed, straighten your papers and laptop on the desk. You want her to like you, to see that you're not one of those guys, that this is - will be - something special for her. Something unique. You don't want her to think you're an animal.

There is a knock at the door, a gentle little rap at the door.

When you open it, it's not what you were expecting at all. You were expecting a Penthouse Pet, a tall woman, young but not very young, heavily made-up, fake eyelashes, hair thinned from treatments, fit and sexy but with a hard, worn look, with breasts that do not sag but that do hang down enough for there to be a thin line of shadow beneath them against her ribs, with long, shapely legs that are hard and have good muscle tone but the beginnings of which, from behind, can no longer be said to be clearly distinct, with a taut stomach furrowed by two lines of muscle down its center but that still bulges slightly outwards below the line of her hips, with her skin still tight over her neck and jaw but that seems more pulled that way than pushed and is still somehow loose enough to no longer be able to follow precisely the dips and rises of the tendons in her throat. In short, someone you would want to fuck.

Instead the girl before you is not very tall nor heavily made-up. Her breasts are small and natural but still find the strength to resist against the ribbed tube-top she wears. It doesn't seem like she has ever exercised yet her exposed stomach is completely flat, is lean, is smooth - above it the gentle inverse v of her ribcage disappears into her top leaving a tiny shadow where the material bridges; at its bottom corners, just before it is channeled into her low-slung skirt by her hips, the bones of her pelvis form two small bumps. The curves of her legs are newly formed, have only recently grown upon the bone, are not yet done growing, have not yet begun to die. Her black hair is fine and thick and lustrous and healthy. There is a white band of reflected light across it on one side. You had forgotten what healthy hair looked like. Around her large, Eurasian eyes and small mouth, on her brow, you can't see a single wrinkle. Not one. Her skin closely follows the line of her jaw and then suddenly angles down where it meets her throat, flows into three cords on either side of her neck, one reaching for her shoulder, one touching the middle of her collarbone, one touching its end, forming the hollow that her larynx grows up out of, back towards her jaw. And her smell, her smell utterly obliterates that of the still damp carpet. Her smell is the only smell in the world.

Her whole body still strives outwards, her lips, her breasts, her thighs, her whole body has not yet decided to stop, to petrify, to crumble. You have never seen anything so ripe in all your life. That is the word that comes to mind, "ripe."

You are surprised. This is not what you expected. You desire her more than what you expected, certainly, but before the blood begins pounding in your head, you crush your desire down, push it down and away in a little box. This girl can't be more than sixteen, this girl is illegal. Illegal, that's what makes you control your desire. Not "wrong," "illegal." Your eyes flicker over her collarbone, find yourself thinking how the hollows above it would cup sweat.

But you find yourself saying, "I think there's been a mistake. Do you understand, 'mistake?' There's been a 'mistake?'"

"I speak English," she says without an accent, without being able to help rolling her eyes slightly.

"Oh," you say, "Well, I think there's been a mistake - I asked for something else."

She shrugs her shoulders. "Fine," she says, "They can send up someone else. No problem." Without another look at you, she turns and heads off down the corridor. You watch her go, notice how tiny her ass is, how even through her skirt the dimples on either side of it are visible, how the material seems to be draped over bobbing stone. As she walks towards the elevator she begins to play some game with the pattern on the rug, stepping on only certain colors, avoiding others, almost toppling herself.

You are shaking. She is so close to being yours. This isn't some catholic schoolgirl on a bus, this isn't some girl to look at and think, "Damn, if only that were legal," and shake your head and not give it a second thought because it is illegal and you don't want to take the risk and what would you, could you, do anyway - you are in public. This is a hooker. This time, in this case, you only need to say the word and she can be yours. You could have your hands on her body, your mouth on the back of her neck, on her nipples, your cock inside her as her inner thighs rubbed against your pelvis, as her hands pressed down on your chest, as her upper arms squeezed her firm little breasts together, as she tossed her hair to one side of her head and looked down into your eyes and said with that tiny, pert, little mouth in her accentless English, "That's it. Fuck me." You look up and down the hall. It is empty. "Wait a minute," you call out. And without a pause, without a lost step, she turns and walks back to your room and walks through your door without even looking at you. You find yourself thinking, "This probably isn't even illegal here anyway - the age of consent here is probably 15 or 16 - she could even be 17 or 18." And you close the door behind you.

You want to devour her. You can't get enough of her in your mouth - her neck, her arms, her belly. You could eat her pussy for hours. With your girlfriend you always did it out of fairness. She went down on you so you went down on her or you wanted her to go down on you so you went down on her. You don't mind it - you know some guys who don't like to do it but do it anyway for the same reason you do - no, you don't mind it, but it never turned you on like this. All you can think about is having her in your mouth.


Excerpted from girls by Nic Kelman Copyright © 2003 by Nicholas L. Kelman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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