Still Here by Linda Grant – a review
My single friends (and believe me I’m not the only one, there are scores of us) have various solutions to the problem. Marsha, for example, said, six months ago when we had lunch at Nicole’s beneath the bevelled mirrors among a hundred other women identically dressed in pastel cashmere, ‘Alix, you really don’t understand what paying for sex is all about. Frankly, you are mired in an outdated female consciousness, you’re still stuck in the fifties. Why can’t you regard it as a transaction, a service rendered?’ ‘Yes, but suppose I’m okay with it, what’s going to turn him on? If there are boys who get off on older women, why aren’t they actually dating me, free, for nothing?’ ‘Oh, for God’s sake, there are pills they take to make them stiff, and exercises. I suppose they must have some male-whore secrets they pass around among themselves. Anyway, why so hung up on fucking? Fucking is passé. Try a mouthful of this lamb. ‘ I opened my mouth and indeed it was tender. ‘What are you saying?’ ‘In my view we’ve got to learn from the gays. When the Aids catastrophe hit them they were inventive, they found all kinds of solutions. Have you tried the whole power/submission thing, which is very big these days?’ ‘Marsha,’ I said, ‘surprisingly, I have no perversity, I am perhaps the most boring person on the planet where sex is concerned, a little sucking, a little fucking, a finger here and there but that’s it. No one’s going to tie me up.’ ‘Then why can’t you do the tying?’ ‘ No, thanks. Listen, Marsha, I want a relationship of powerful equals, is that too much to ask?’ ‘Oh, well,’ she replied in disgust, gesturing for the bill, ‘now you’re just being romantic.’
The book is about the meeting, in Liverpool, of two middle-aged people, Alix, who used to be popular with men but seems to have lost her touch; and Joseph who is still in love with his wife, though she isn’t around much any more.
Alix is a great character and Linda Grant certainly has her finger on the contemporary pulse.
However, although it was long-listed for the Booker Prize, I found the novel too long and meandering. The elimination of 100 pages would have done much to improve it.