Today (30 April) marks the release of Cleanness, the eagerly-anticipated new novel from Garth Greenwell which is already ranking high on the must-read lists for lockdown.
The novel serves as a sort-of sequel to Greenwell's acclaimed 2016 novel What Belongs To You, which charted the tender, sad love affair between an unnamed American professor living in Sofia and a troubled young Bulgarian man, Mitko, who he meets at a cruising spot.
Cleanness takes readers back to that crumbling vision of the Bulgarian capital as the unnamed protaganist of What Belongs To You reflects on the sexual and spiritual events that shaped his life.
With intense reflections on queer sex, love, shame and happiness, Cleanness is already being heralded as one of the best queer reads of the year, and we've got our hands on an exclusive extract for you to enjoy as we speak to Greenwell about the book (you can read our exclusive interview here).
With a literary flourish Greenwell has become for, the extract takes explicit sexual themes and imbues them with deeply personal reflections on humanity and human truth.
Read an exclusive extract from Garth Greenwell's Cleanness - out today - below:
Everybody thinks they’re good at sucking dick but they’re not, usually, they don’t cover their teeth or they make the same single motion again and again or they can’t take it deep enough or there’s something half-hearted about it, even guys who claim they love to suck, who pride themselves on it.
But he was different, he was the best I had ever had, and I gave myself over to it, over to him, I forgot the role I was supposed to play and let him do whatever he wanted.
I thought suddenly of a girl I knew when I was a kid, a very large girl who was my friend, unpopular except that she was famous for being easy, for letting anybody who wanted to have a go. I hadn’t thought of her for years. The same boys who called her names at school would fuck her at night, fuck her or ask her to suck them, so that she had a public life where she was humiliated and a private life where she was desired.
It was a kind of power, I suppose, or what felt like power, to both of us, we would talk on the phone and tell each other adventures, hers in a boy’s stinking car or bedroom, mine in the toilets or the park; you slut, we’d say to each other, laughing, you dirty whore.
She was two years older than I was, sixteen, a junior at our school, and she liked to call herself my teacher, though by that time really I think I had had more sex than she had; in a single night at the park I could have three or four guys, it didn’t take long for me to catch up.
But it was the form our friendship took, that I was her student, that she would teach me how to be a whore. You have to be in love with them, she told me once, each one, you might hate them other times but you have to love them when you’re giving head, you have to imagine that you can never tell them, that the only way you can say it is by how you suck them. You have to give everything, she said, that’s the only way to give a blowjob.
I hadn’t thought of her for years but I thought of her now, because that was how he sucked, taking me as deep as he could and then kissing the tip, taking my balls in his mouth, rubbing his face against me until it shone with his own saliva.
It was a kind of love, or what felt like love, reverence maybe, worship, and it filled me up with something like pride, though that’s not the right word for it, something like arrogance or aggression, maybe that’s the way to put it, I felt myself becoming what he wanted.
I urged him on, I said That’s right, suck that cock, the language of porn that’s so ridiculous unless you’re lit up with a longing that makes it the most beautiful language in the world, full of meaning, profound, do you like that cock, I asked, but it wasn’t really a question, or it was a question he had already answered, show me how much you love it.
And he did, he wasn’t just using his mouth, he was using his hands, too, rubbing my balls and stroking the shaft slick with his saliva, he was learning what I liked.
Cleanness is out now, published by Picador.