If you are looking for something raw, edgy and on the darker side of black, then look no further; Influx Press is releasing a book today that could be your read of the year.
Boy Parts is the debut novel by Eliza Clark, billed as ‘a pitch black comedy both shocking and hilarious’ this is a read you won’t forget in a hurry.
It is the story of Irina. Working in a bar, whilst perusing her career as a photographer and artist, Irina persuades the men she meet to pose for explicit photographs. She is in search of the perfect pose, often cruel and always self absorbed, her life is fuelled by drugs, drink and extremes. When, out of the blue she is offered an exhibition in London, Irina’s past and present collide and her self obsessed and self destructive life begins to spin out of control.
The novel is wrapped in a world of struggling artists and art students, all vying for attention, searching for their own outlet of self expression, all trying to be authentic, shocking and to stand out from the crowd. It is a world where self expression never seems to equate to self awareness and is often in danger of tipping over into self destruction.
Irina is hard to like. She is damaged and damaging . Talented but difficult. Needy and demanding, and dangerously so. Strangely worshipped but often unkind, she is continually pushing her own boundaries whilst trampling all over everyone else’s. With a dark, yet compelling charisma Irina possesses a powerful hold over others.
Continually and consistently the reader witnesses Irina build people up and then tear them down . With her razor sharp intellect and seemingly wilful cruelty she deconstructs them. People, the men she meets, passing acquaintances, long term friends, appear to be little than extensions of her art; a means to her own, often selfish and dark ends.
A continual presence in Irina’s life is Flo. Ex- lover, self defined best friend, Flo is obsessive and still in love with Irina but as the novel progresses it becomes clear she is a rare stabilising force . When she steps away the worst happens. She has been a constant for Irina, in a world of transition and destruction.
It is hard to find any empathy for Irina. But as the novels progresses it is horribly clear that empathy and kindness is precisely what she needs. Irina is Intelligent and damaged . She is set on a path of self destruction, which accelerates into free fall as we reach the novels conclusion. She doesn’t do much test boundaries as smash them, stretches sexual boundaries until they snap. It becomes clearer as the novel progresses that this uncontrolled and at times vicious pattern of behaviour is a shell. A mask. A defence mechanism against something much darker. It’s a way of forgetting . But forgetting isn’t easy and Irina’s flashbacks are surfacing more readily and with a greater frequency, until there is no turning back.
In all honesty, three chapters in and I recoiled instinctively from this novel. And yet I couldn’t pull away either. Yes, the writing is abrasive and dark, but it is also alive and biting. There is a biting, pinpoint black humour that pop the words off the page . The drugs, the hedonism, the self destruction; it never seems contrived. It’s an authentic and illustrative exploration of a brutalised and damaged life that is both searching for purpose and desperately hiding from the truth .
It struck me that Irina’s story could have been told in any number of different ways and from any number of different viewpoints. It would still been a great read. But a different perspective would have rendered it more mainstream, less raw, less authentic and more forgettable. Eliza Clark’s narrative makes this novel impossible to forget. It’s new, vivid disturbing and visceral. For a debut it is devastatingly good. I for one, am waiting impatiently to see where Eliza Clark goes next.