Wednesday, January 31, 2018

11th Canadian Challenge - 14th review - Fresh Girls

As I hinted in my review of Dead Girls, there are strong links between that collection and Evelyn Lau's Fresh Girls and Other Stories.  However, there are no dead bodies piling up in Lau's stories, which is a bit of a relief (particularly as Toronto is currently finding out about the doings of a serial killer stalking the gay community, so it all hits far too close to home).  Indeed, there is really no violence directed against any of these young prostitutes, though one might argue that they are on the receiving end of emotional violence.  In the first two or three stories, a pimp seems to be involved, so there is certainly the potential for violence or abuse.  Nonetheless, it is almost refreshing to read stories about prostitutes that don't automatically devolve into violence against the women.

What is present in many of the stories, particularly "Roses" and "Marriage" is that in some cases the young women are dreaming that their johns will fall for them and save them from this life.  In "Fresh Girls," one of the women begins confronting the fact that there is always fresh meat and someone even younger just around the corner.  The shelf life of a typical prostitute is not all that long.  Thus, it is critical for them to develop regulars, even if they are pretty distasteful, such as the old man who is hoping that hiring his escort will solve his erectile dysfunction problems.

One avenue that some of the prostitutes go down is specializing in bondage, becoming dominatrices.  While there is still odd power imbalances (in that the men are still paying for these services), they still seem better off than run-of-the-mill prostitutes and they probably can maintain a career as a dominatrix longer.

It's hard to rate the stories just on their literary merit, aside from their adult content.  The stories are short and to the point.  Mostly the women strike me as sad cases, though it isn't always clear they view themselves as victims, particularly the dominatrices.  Maybe the saddest is the woman in "Glass" who punches out a window and then has to deal with cleaning up the mess.  She seems particularly unable to cope with her tenuous situation, but as I said, most of the women have generally come to the point where they don't like their careers, such as they are, very much, but they don't see any clear options out.  It is a very rare person, like Evelyn Lau herself, who finds a path out of the sex trade.  Anyway, the collection is a fast read and worth checking out for those who are drawn to the seedier side of urban fiction.

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