My first novel, Clever Girl, was published by Picador in 1995. It was nominated in 2000 by Cosmopolitan as one of the top 25 books of the last quarter century.
A stunning debut novel. (New Statesman and Society)
Pungently written and luridly funny. (The Daily Telegraph)
Blackly funny and imaginative. (Literary Review)
An impressive range of tone, funny and tragic, heavy as lead one minute and light as feathers the next. (The Independent)
An edge that sets her apart from her peers and will prompt comparisons to the work of Bret Easton Ellis … Daring and original.
It also sparked off an entertaining debate in the press. Graham Lord, a judge for the 1996 Betty Trask Prize for ‘first novels of a romantic or traditional nature’, wrote a diatribe in the Daily Mail about how ‘this gentle literary genre has been hijacked by purveyors of coarse sex.’ He listed the main offenders, the books by young women writers that he considered to be ‘foul-mouthed’, ‘depraved’, and ‘squalid,’ and, to my great joy, nominated Clever Girl as the worst of the lot. I could not improve on the following:
‘The overall Trask Prize for Sleaze must go to 28-year-old Tania Glyde’s Clever Girl, which manages to mention in the first few pages a dog’s sexual excitement, dildos, various body fluids, child abuse, loveless sex, lavatory paper, and not to mention a girl’s irresistible lust for a Habitat pottery lamp, a blasphemous ‘joke’ about the Christ Child and various other things too crude to reprint. And that was only up to page 47, at which I threw Ms Glyde’s nasty little book across the room.’
No writer could ask for more. Amazon link
CLEVER GIRL – EXTRACT
The party, in a fashionable part of West London, had been going for quite a while. There were about twenty people in an immense, obviously parental, room that could take a hundred easily. On the wall was a vast family portrait, five of them wearing flared jeans and white T-shirts circa 1978. A girl crawled about on the floor looking for lost beads from a broken necklace. I was instantly cornered by a baggy-eyed man in a beige leather jacket.
‘You work in the media, don’t you? I’m very quick to guess what people do. I’m in television. Got any charlie?’
A girl with a blonde bob swung into the room wearing a purple suede Rasta cap and a short green trapeze dress which gave her the look of the abused and murdered younger sister in a low-budget Hollywood horror film.
I had met her before. She was a friend of Gabriel’s. Her name was Kat and she sold little coloured bits of things and held out leaflets about world atrocities. She’d just been to South America with her boyfriend, who’d been dealing coke. He was a greying, crew-cut TV producer, specialising in music festivals, named Nimrod. Ever time I’d met him, whatever the weather, he sported a boubou with a repeating pattern of little Vaticans on it that he’d brought in Amsterdam.
Kat offered me a small pill. It bore a strong resemblance to some laxatives I had seen advertised in a railway station some months before. I declined politely, backing at the same time in to a giant aluminium sculpture of a leek on which someone had hung a dog lead.
‘My father was a Macedonian sailor who ran away with my mother and they had to live on sugar cane for six months. He had the biggest prick she’d ever seen.’
I caught the white flash of Gabriel and excused myself to find him. People swayed on the stairs and clustered on the landing. Things became more exclusive. Bathroom doors slammed in my face at every step. I rounded the corner and passed a door that someone had not bothered to close. Two people leaned against the sink. They were neither tall nor handsome. She was plump, he lightly built, but every available part of them was stuck together like hairbrushes. His hips were canted forward into hers but they were not moving. They were not kissing each other but simply looking, their eyes locked with a power I did not know people were allowed to have. I stopped. I could not help it. I had never been looked at like that.
Without breaking her gaze, the woman leant slightly and closed the door. I walked on, crying tears for someone I had never known. Laments at the lack of general human contact are far keener than any directed at a specific person. By the final door I had had enough of tapping politely and burst in, infuriated and miserable.
There was Gabriel, sucking the cock of a lithe slender black man, whose silver jeans lay open, peeled back like discarded trout-skins. Had I ever actually fantasised about him, this would have been my first port of call. The man’s wiry hands gripped Gabriel’s pale head like seasoned leather straps. They stopped in mid lurch. Gabriel unclamped and looked sideways up at me, his face impenetrable as a housefly’s.
‘Your roots are showing,’ I said.
‘Get your feet off my fucking jacket,’ he snarled. It was a new one, white leather lined with yellow silk. I did not move. I wanted to curl up until my joints calcified, fused together in a ball and suffocated me.
‘Gabriel, I’ve been sacked.’
‘Good, then you can fucking move out then, preferably asap.’
‘Fish, get out!’ he shrieked.
‘Hey, relax, Nidge.’ The man smiled at me as he stroked Gabriel’s hair. ‘Volatile, your friend, isn’t he?’
There were so many things I could have done at that point: taken a photograph, thrown something, insisted upon joining in, simply watched them. But I turned and fled. I did not belong here. Here or anywhere. I had long since ceased to be able to communicate with anyone. The great mouth that whispered at my back had well and truly plugged me with its tongue.
‘Everyone! This is Sarah who’s depressed!’
‘Hello, I’m Sarah and I’m depressed.’
‘Well, hey! Let’s all clap Sarah! As we all know, understanding you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery!’
‘Tell us about it, Sarah!’
‘ I’ve just been sacked form my job and my boyfriend finished with me and before that I discovered him with another man at a party and I’ve been drinking the whole time and I’ve got all these minor illnesses-’
‘Sarah, that’s terrible. You’ve suffered so much! Sarah, you have been so, so brave. Take her hands, Camilla, Luckie.’
‘- and then I caught them all one night torturing a sheep and there were lots of famous people there naked and they all looked at me and wanted to chase me-‘
‘Stop! Stop a minute. Sarah, you do realise this is a group for normal people. Schizophrenics are Thursdays. It’s really not fair of you to do this to us if you suffer from anything like that. Have you been hearing voices, Sarah?’
‘Sarah, are you sure? You can’t just tell them all to go to Lanzarote for the weekend now, can you?’
‘I’m not hearing voices, honestly, but-‘
‘Sarah, sorry can I just interrupt, what sign are you – no! No! Let’s guess everyone.’
‘Scorpio, no, Aquarius, no-‘
‘You’re all being ridiculous, she’s a Virgo.’
‘No, none of these actually, Taurus.’
‘Oh really! You don’t look like a Taurus, oh, well…’
‘I just can’t see why I’ve deserved to me treated like this.’
‘You need a chant, Sarah. Try this one – Nyuuuuuuuuuu Mah!’
‘I don’t want to chant, thank you.’
‘Did your parents not give you enough love, Sarah?’
‘I suppose so. I don’t really remember.’
‘That’s abuse too, Sarah, it doesn’t have to be sexual.’
‘God, that’s terrible, let me do your cards. Flicky! Put on some oil.’
‘Take these drops, Sarah, moneypenny for self-worth and fraudulanium for the will to look to the future.’
‘Sarah, this turquoise algae clipped gently and without harming a living being from the Steppes of Tristan da Cunha will help you find your chakras.’ Its stains your lips blue, though, so don’t waste the doctor’s time with stuff about heart attacks.’
‘Well, Allie, not that Sarah should be taking her problems to a doctor anyway.’
‘But I’ve got discharge down to my knees and my teeth are falling out.’
‘I know. Let’s do some prostrations.’
‘I don’t want to prostrate myself, thank you.’
‘Have you tried not shaving? It’s a great release from the everyday pressures of a male-dominated society. Ooooooh, sorry Dominic and Sam.’
‘I was given all the worst jobs to do and one day I couldn’t take it any more, so I pissed in their percolator.’
‘Sarah, oh, God, that’s brilliant! Sarah, oh, yeah, yeah yeah!’
Mawkish cheers rose up. I fled, as someone shrieked something about a tower.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *