Cunt (1999) is a novel by Stewart Home written in the form of a journal kept by a novelist from Aldeburgh called David Kelso (who also has a false passport in the name of Kevin Callan).
Kelso, who has already published books (for example novels entitled Desiring Machines in the Australian Bush and Fuck Your Mother Up the Arse, but also non-fiction), is in his thirties, several times divorced, a heavy drinker and, according to his own description, a "sex beast". As a writer, he says he has no intention whatsoever of using his imagination; rather, he wants to chronicle his present life, which in turn is fuelled by his most ambitious literary project so far, the completion of a trilogy entitled Countdown to Chaos. In order to be able to write the final part of his trilogy, Kelso wants to track down and have sex again with all the girls he "shagged" when he was in his teens—in reverse order. He always carries his laptop with him to be able to record each of his sexual encounters immediately after it has taken place. Although he says he wants to record all events exactly as they happened, he does embellish his story again and again. On his way through Europe—England, Scotland, Austria, Finland and Estonia—he has sex with all willing women and girls that cross his path, "asserting my inalienable right to freedom".
Kelso is a "sex machine". He always has an erection, and never fails to please the woman or women he is with, even if he is drunk. They invariably enjoy multiple orgasms. Some of them want to have sex with Kelso because, they say, that way they are transformed into art and thus immortalized. Kelso is also into kinky sex.
Although Kelso never commits any violent crimes in connection with his sexual exploits, violent death does play a role in Cunt. A maniac called Gary McMara, who likes to wear women's underwear and who accuses Kelso of conspiring with some radical political group (the "secret state"), follows Kelso to Finland, where McMara dies after he is thrown into an ice-cold lake by Kelso and subsequently warmed too quickly in a sauna. Amber, a transsexual and his publisher's new secretary, accompanies McMara to Finland and, standing under Kelso's window, accidentally shoots herself when she slips on a piece of ice. After Kelso has left Finland incognito (using his false passport) he meets his ex-wife Cherry, who is a cocaine and heroin addict (Kelso himself never takes drugs) and who dies of an overdose while Kelso is present.
At the beginning of the novel Kelso has a chance meeting with Sandra Stone, the girl with whom he lost his virginity back when they were at school. At the end he goes back to Aldeburgh to embark on the final chapter of his trilogy. He wants to stab Sandra so that he has a spectacular ending to his book. For that reason he is carrying a knife in his trouser pocket. However, he suddenly realizes that he has always been in love with Sandra. The words "The first shall be last" suddenly occur to him, and he reinterprets them his way: Sandra is the last woman he will ever make love to. He turns to, and embraces, Jesus, marries Sandra, hopes that she will also become a believer one day, gives away his royalties to the church, takes a blue collar job and leads a simple and honest life. He wants to find a Christian publisher who is willing to bring out this journal as the account of a reformed sinner.
About his trilogy, Kelso says:
Like Chaucer and all other great writers, I embrace simplicity and directness of language. Nevertheless, my Countdown to Chaos
trilogy will resist categorisation of any sort even if certain critics take it to be an example of the picaresque novel.
Apart from being some sort of travelogue, Cunt is of course a picaresque novel. Kelso, the first person narrator, also grants the reader some insight into his own character. Apart from being a sex-driven individual, Kelso is a left-wing intellectual who keeps commenting on the political and social situation of the places he visits. He also makes the reader believe that he is widely read in philosophy: He mentions, amongst others, Derrida, Baudrillard and Deleuze.
In many ways, what applies to Countdown to Chaos is also true of Cunt. On the surface level, the novel is a work of pornography, using explicit language and describing in detail various sexual acts. In this respect, one might believe it were targeted at dirty old men. This is also the view taken by one of the girls Kelso has sex with:
'What's your surname?'
'I've read some of your books, you write really horny pornography.'
'Actually, I consider it to be post-modern literature.'
On a deeper level, though, Cunt can be seen as an attempt to ridicule both machismo (with the man always willing, ready and able) and the whole genre of pornographic literature, the latter by the author's making use of exactly the same devices—a flimsy plot linking the various descriptions of the sexual act, the presentation of women reduced to "cunts" pleading to be abused, and filthy language everywhere. Home reverses the usual climax at the end of pornographic novels (which typically depict the kinkiest and most daring action) by introducing the altogether new element of Christian religion and ending his novel with a climax of a completely different kind. Cunt more or less starts rather than ends with a gang bang.
In their book Cult Fiction. A Reader's Guide (London, 1998), Andrew Calcutt and Richard Shephard are of the opinion that
now that everyone from gameshow hosts and television news producers to established novelists are busily 'subverting' and 'transgressing' genres, it does mean that Home's double take on trash is no longer as avant-garde as it used to be (pp132–134).
Cunt was published as a paperback original by The Do Not Press, London (ISBN 1-899344-45-4).