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Kittens in the Boiler by Delphine Lecompte


Delphine Lecompte crashes the party with her first book, Kittens in the Boiler. In two hundred and eight pages, an irreverent, un-medicated and unapologetically contrarian worldview comes into focus. Lecompte is like the drunken cousin who shows up to destroy the pretense of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and makes sure that everyone notices. But in the background - under the grammar-be-damned, rapid-fire pace of the book - the narrator exposes a damaged character obscured by pain, violence and inhumanity.

On the surface, Kittens in the Boiler is more an opportunity to stare at the scene of the accident than explore a tormented character. The narrator goes to great lengths to qualify her experiences. "i am rubbing myself against my dodgy neighbor's tinsel tap, tinsel tap is not a metaphor for limp boner, i don't do metaphors, i do crassness, i also do crack and self harm, sometimes i do hopelessness, but don't get me started on that, it's not very uplifting…" The lack of proper grammar heightens the effect. She'll not be collared by rules of grammar or societal norms.

The narrator is, however, trapped. She implies it throughout the book with blunt references to European ideas about class consciousness, a rage against the sacred and a constant repetition of sex, drugs and self mutilation. It isn't a pretty picture and it isn't intended to be so. The narrator presents a shocking tale, but a patient reader can unravel the bloodstained twine to get to the core of a wounded soul.

The ensemble cast of the narrator's world all serve to frame despair. Sexually deviant grandparents set the tone and the other characters, from "wee andy" - also known as the "middle class cunt" - to a "sheffielder angel," revolve around the black sun of the narrator. Readers offended by the word “cunt” should be prepared to see it often, even in chapter titles. Forget resolution and reconciliation. That is a point on which the book loses some of its punch. For all its shock and brutality, the narrator keeps the reader at arm’s length and reveals little about her feelings in relation to the inhumanity around her.

The power of Lecompte is in her strict adherence to her narrator's voice throughout the novel. The narrator presents many challenges to readers. Few, if any, readers have shoplifted a lobster because a divine voice emanating from urine told them to do so, shared the lobster with a stranger and then used the claws for sexual gratification, or have performed fellatio on "dodgy cock." At times, the repetition in the voice can become confusing, but the net effect is a consistent and edgy character kicking and screaming as her violent world drags her away.

Delphine Lecompte is a writer with unique voice and skills, though her true identity is a source of some confusion. This is yet one more unorthodox approach employed by the author. The reader more in tune with traditional form will have to adapt to a different point of view to fully grasp her work. She brings a new look to fiction that will either captivate or alienate the reader, depending on the reader's flexibility and tolerance for sex and violence. No doubt, Lecompte is an emerging voice with a knack for upsetting the established order.

Thieves Jargon Press, 208 pp. 12.95