Much as some films are short stories, some short stories can be films, or plays, or paintings, or all three. While ‘Abortion, A Love Story’ isn’t only a play, it pulls off the unbelievable (even after you’ve read it) task of incorporating an unperformable play (which is nevertheless still a play) into the flow of the story.
Natasha and Lucy are two dissociated, anarchic students with no respect for the college systems and even less for their theatre studies classmates. Lucy reads Natasha’s email and writes a play for them both to star in. Natasha rewrites and improves it, and agrees. The play they stage celebrates and rips on everything from their respective abortions to the history of women on the Irish page and stage. It’s 77 pages long and every one of them is a bizarre and utterly sincere joy. It really is the kind of story you have to read to believe how masterfully, and naturally, it works.
Published in Show Them a Good Time by Nicole Flattery. The Stinging Fly, 2019
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
Nicole Flattery is more intelligent and a lot funnier than most writers; this fact is writ large in her wonderful debut collection. ‘Show Them a Good Time’ is one of her best stories – against some stiff competition – and captures a sense of our times in a way that is contemporary, clever, but not faddish. A singular writer and a singular story.
First published in Show Them a Good Time, Stinging Fly/Bloomsbury, 2019
I think Nicole Flattery is one of the funniest writers working today – a lowkey and often macabre humour that sneaks in via her strangely affectless tone. In ‘Track’, a young Irish girl tolerates, and occasionally sabotages, her older comedian boyfriend, with whom she lives (or rather coexists) in a New York apartment. Essentially a story about an abusive relationship, ‘Track’ is unerringly precise and painful in its treatment of alienation – whether alienation from a relationship or from the wildly anonymizing experience of living in a city, crowded yet alone.
First published in The White Review, April 2017, and available to read online here. Collected in Show Them A Good Time, Bloomsbury, 2019