Review: The Little Girl and the Cigarette, Benot Duteurtret
I have been stuck reading a fairly beefy book. so i have nothing new for you.
Reposting a review from my personal website written mid 2008
hope no one minds
The Little Girl and the Cigarette
Caution: There are spoilers to a certain degree in this post.
The majority is described in the first two chapters or the back of the book, so don’t feel like reading this should deter you from picking up the book anytime soon. it doesn’t spoil more than a few points.
i really enjoyed this book. this is mostly rambling about the plot line and how awesome it was.
This book was originally written by French author Benot Duteurtre. Translated to English some time in the last couple years by Charlotte Mandell.
In the not to distant future, the world is not too different than it is now. People still work their jobs, there is no massive shift in the polar ice caps causing destruction. The human race is not nearing extinction, nor is it being harassed by aliens. Now you may be saying to yourself “Wait a second.. Jason.. what are you reading? you always have something a little bit bizarre in hand. and this is sounding a little tame.” Well, this is no exception.
In Powells books one day, Jenn picked up a bright pink book with a thick laminate cover. it was soft and a little unnerving in hand, somehow, too smooth to the touch, slightly velvet in that overproduced plastic sheeting kind of way. The binding on the book read “The Little Girl and the Cigarette”. The front and back covers are basic in structure showing the typical bar code, but also the above image. Jenn bought it and read me the synopsis. It rapidly became a “must read” and was catapulted to the top of my reading list.
The book opens in a world that is far too PC, too careful, too “nice”. People accused of a crime are put into a common court system which is televised and broadcast to the public. Generally, the public has formulated their own opinions a long time before the hearings begin, due to mass media saturation. Not too much difference from today right?
Slight spoilers follow, but i attempt to be careful with presentation..
Plot line one: The author is a bit heavy handed at times, as in the case of the first main character introduced, Desire (Desir’ee) Johnson. Desire is aptly named, though seemingly mispronounced in it’s use as a name instead of a feeling/want. Desire is in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit. He is in prison, not because there was evidence that he killed a police officer, but instead, because he stated in court that if he was to kill a man, he would want it to be a bastard such as the one he was accused of killing. This was enough for the court. Desire is now rotting in prison and awaiting his own execution.
Desire (not the name) is exactly what saves him from death. On the day of execution, his final request is to have one final cigarette. The difficulty is that there is a general ban on smoking in all public buildings, including the prison. Will his last wish be fulfilled as the antiquated law books advise it should? Should the law upholding the rights of all the other citizens in the building be upheld instead, and his last cigarette be denied in defense of the lungs that might be affected?
This is an obvious conundrum for anyone trying to climb the career ladder. They don’t want the wrong decision hanging over their head. It would haunt one into unemployment.
Queue plot line two: A man is indifferent to children. They stay out of his way, and he is generally happy with that. Our culture has come full swing to the position where children are a blessing. They are pure and clean and can do nothing wrong. Our secondary protagonist works for the city, and in the main city hall offices, he spends every day tortured.
The mayor of the city has performed cutbacks that laid a great deal of people off. in order to offset the stigma associated with layoffs and cutbacks, he has converted all of the newly opened space in the governmental buildings. The newly freed space becomes a full time daycare facility for anyone who needs it. Children run rampant across the building, and people are advised not to disturb them from their processes. anyone who continually causes issues or bitches gets flagged as a “hater of children” and people treat them differently.
our protagonist is a smoker. the general smoking ban has extended itself into the private sector, causing individuals to be unable to smoke in their own homes. he starts feeling a rebellious urge.
taking 6 months, he slowly creates a smoking area in a disused bathroom in his office building, someplace he can creep away to and not be caught by any of the building wide sensors, checking for elements that might harm others, especially the children.
One day he gets caught by a young girl while smoking. His butt goes out the window, he yells at the girl. In retaliation, she tells the world that he was lewd toward her in the bathroom. As a smoker, a known “hater of Children”, and an adult male, he it put in jail nearly instantly.
They ask, why would a child lie about something like that and the answer is, they would not. Everyone convicted of Crimes Against Children always state they are innocent.. these two factors combined make him a losing case, fucked by the system and officially ruined for life.
oh yeah, and a woman was hit by his cigarette butt and is suing.
The little girl and the cigarette by Benot Duteurtre
- Paperback: 187 pages
- Publisher: Melville House (March 1, 2007)