‘Show Them a Good Time’ by Nicole Flattery

A failed actor returns to her home town to live with her parents and work an unglamorous job in a garage. Her manager has an optimism of the “terrifying, impenetrable variety” that “could burn through entire periods of history”. The garage contains “three tin cans of indiscernible origin” and a “feeling of forever melancholy”. The narrator feels as though “anyone could step in and play me, if they were supplied with the correct expression of anguish, the sluggish reactions of someone baffled by their own poor choices”. Any one sentence could almost belong in a world of skewed naturalism, but taken together they are like staring into a funhouse mirror of desperate, hilarious surrealism. Literary critics call this technique ‘defamiliarisation’. I call it an embarrassment of bizarro genius from one of the most exciting young writers at work anywhere.

First published in The Stinging Fly, Summer 2016, and available to read here. Collected in Show Them a Good Time, Stinging Fly/Bloomsbury, 2019

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