Exploratory and explicit, Cleanness by Garth Greenwell eagerly describes the intense feelings of simultaneous lust, shame, and romance — a precarious position familiar to queer readers. Sharply personal and yet universal, Greenwell's voice illuminates the difficulties of defining one's sexuality and navigating the murky waters of human desire. Recommended By Alex Y., Powells.com
Cleanness is a powerful, musical book, and Greenwell's themes of sex, shame, and self-acceptance develop across its nine sections. Each sentence is carefully crafted; each punctuation mark is perfectly placed. Cleanness shines like a gem, and cuts like one too. Recommended By Adam P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In the highly anticipated follow-up to his beloved debut, What Belongs to You, Garth Greenwell deepens his exploration of foreignness, obligation, and desire
Sofia, Bulgaria, a landlocked city in southern Europe, stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Soviet buildings crumble, wind scatters sand from the far south, and political protesters flood the streets with song.
In this atmosphere of disquiet, an American teacher navigates a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. As he prepares to leave the place he's come to call home, he grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad, each bearing uncanny reminders of his past. A queer student's confession recalls his own first love, a stranger's seduction devolves into paternal sadism, and a romance with another foreigner opens, and heals, old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit, and with our own fugitive selves.
Cleanness revisits and expands the world of Garth Greenwell's beloved debut, What Belongs to You, declared "an instant classic" by The New York Times Book Review. In exacting, elegant prose, he transcribes the strange dialects of desire, cementing his stature as one of our most vital living writers.
"I don't know how Garth Greenwell writes such delicate, profane fiction. These stories are grace and salt, tenderness and shadow. Reading this book made me want to sit with my emotions and desires; it made me want to be a better writer."
Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
"Brave and beautiful." Kirkus Review (Starred Review)
"Few writers capture the dirt and shine of desire, how love and lust can brutalize and soothe, like Greenwell...Here, in this frequently breathtaking novel-in-stories, he follows a nameless American narrator walking among the shadows of Bulgaria's underground gay scene in search of 'the key to the latch of the self.'"
O: The Oprah magazine online
"Melancholy and lyrical, this slim volume confirms that Greenwell is among our finest writers on sex and desire."
Esquire (Most Anticipated)
About the Author
Garth Greenwell is the author of What Belongs to You, which won the British Book Award for Debut of the Year, was long-listed for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for six other awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, it was named a Best Book of 2016 by more than fifty publications in nine countries, and is being translated into a dozen languages. Greenwell's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, A Public Space, and VICE, and he has written criticism for The New Yorker, the London Review of Books, and New York Times Book Review, among other publications. He lives in Iowa City.