Garth Greenwell is one of the best writers of sex, desire and emotion working today. He imbues each moment of intimacy between his characters with contrasting feelings of admiration, disgust, control and oblivion, which feel true to life. ‘Cleanness’ examines what it means to be clean, pure, debauched or dirty, what it means to want another person and the insubstantiality of both relationships and our own lives. His use of language is sharp and charged with feeling: “I thought, however slowly, nothing was solid, nothing would stay put, and I held on more tightly to R…I wanted to root into him, even as the wind said all rootedness was a sham, there were only passing arrangements, makeshift shelters and pearl harbours.” It is a masterful piece of short fiction that reminds me of the feeling of possibility that good writing creates.
Published in Cleanness, Picador, 2020