Similar (very similar) to Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, Cleanness considers the relationship between sex, power, and communication for gay men traumatized by terrible childhoods. The linked short stories follow an unnamed gay American expat living and teaching English in Bulgaria (again) as he seeks out hook-ups and worries about his adopted nation’s politics. All the stories focus on queer characters’ inability to form lasting bonds and their desire to dole out, or receive, abuse during sex.
The Good from Goodreads: “What a book – audacious, innovative, sometimes disturbing, sometimes romantic. It feels like a short story collection but in many ways functions as a novel, or perhaps more like a symphony.”
The Bad from Goodreads: More than anything, this book, not only does it just not work as a narrative for me – too “this x makes you feel y, doesn’t it?”, too not the sum of its parts, nor its parts operating singularly – but it feels, plainly, unnecessary. Sure, Greenwell can write, and writes beautiful prose at that, but the story should have ended with WBTY. Cleanness adds nothing new.