Cover image for Girls : a paean
Girls : a paean
Kelman, Nic, 1971-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown, [2003]

Physical Description:
214 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A wealthy father of two deserts his family in order to spend the night in a college girl's dorm room. A CEO visiting his friends' villa feigns a sprained ankle in order to have sex with their teenage daughter. A businessman in Korea has the best sexual experience of his life with a young woman whose true age he never learns. Travelling deep inside the most forbidden corners of male desire, GIRLS is a beautifully written novel whose honesty is both breathtaking and shocking. Speaking the unspoken - this exploitation of libido, identity, and power is mind-blowing stuff.

Author Notes

Nicholas Kelman was a Burchard Scholar at MIT where he studied Brain and Cognitive Sciences as an undergraduate. After spending a few years working in independent film, he attended Brown University on a full fellowship for his MFA in Creative Writing and where he was awarded the James Assatly prize for graduate fiction. He now writes and teaches in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This sure-to-be-controversial first novel is told entirely in the second person by a series of nameless, interchangeable high-level businessmen. All of them share a predilection for young girls, which they describe in pornographic detail. A banker on a business trip to Korea follows the advice of his older boss and orders a hooker from room service. He is shocked by the fact that she is barely out of adolescence, but that seems to fuel his passion, and although he knows he should feel guilty, instead he feels fantastic. A CEO who is vacationing with family friends starts having sex with their teenage daughter; his obsession leads to his own divorce and a lawsuit from his former friends. Kelman's scenarios have an undeniable erotic charge, which he then defuses with innumerable quotes from the Iliad, whose connection to the story line remains murky. This pretentiousness makes the writing seem dishonest, as if Kelman were trying to distance himself from his amoral characters. Disturbing erotica that is sure to draw requests. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.