Nicole Flattery's 'Show Them A Good Time' Is A Quirky And Witty Read That Would Be A Great Addition To Your Quarantine Book List
Start writing a post

Nicole Flattery's 'Show Them A Good Time' Is A Quirky And Witty Read That Would Be A Great Addition To Your Quarantine Book List

With a wry and dry wit, Flattery pokes at and twists the boundaries of the roles and the restrictive expectations of women.

Nicole Flattery's 'Show Them A Good Time' Is A Quirky And Witty Read That Would Be A Great Addition To Your Quarantine Book List

Nicole Flattery's debut book Show Them a Good Time is an unusual collection of short stories narrated by young women (usually Irish, like Flattery herself) trapped in surreal and dark circumstances. Think the bizarre images and bleak circumstances of Ottessa Moshfegh's Homesick for Another World, but with all-female protagonists that you can sympathize with on some level. A former porn star seeking employment reform in a highway rest stop and gas station, a 14-year-old developing her sexuality as she crushes on an older man, a college student who can't even remember what she's studying, a famous comedian's girlfriend who is alienated for not being famous herself, a teacher exploring fruitless online dating as the literal apocalypse draws near: it's a cast of sad stories brightened by deadpan humor, simple prose and the thrill of unexpected actions from quirky characters.

With wry and dry wit, Flattery pokes at and twists the boundaries of these roles and the restrictive expectations of women. Corporate homogeneity and physical appearance take a hit in the eponymous first chapter "Show Them a Good Time." The ex-porn star narrates, "At these gatherings, it was not unusual to be offered advice that would make a 'new woman' out of me." These "gatherings" refer to the motorway garage's employee meetings, led by the female boss referred to only as "Management." "We all agreed early on that my pretty face and nice body were my best qualities, but I could probably pull up my socks re everything else [sic]."

Employee expectations take a hit again in "Hump," along with the confines of being a woman in a relationship. "Previously, he had listed out my faults with amazing conviction and I truly thought that brought us closer together as a couple," says the assistant sleeping with her boss. "I had no discernable direction in life, I didn't want anything, I was stupid and entitled." As the narrator deals with the grief of her father's death—a grief that manifests as a hump on her back—she loses interest in her job. "…I tried. My concentrating face required more effort than genuine concentration. The organisation of the face, the setting up of the features, was exhausting. Afterwards, I often lay down on the cold tiles of the office bathroom floor and didn't move for hours." These well-paced comedic quirks and ironies keep the collection from being too deeply mired in depression.

The piece that stands out most among the eight stories is "Abortion, A Love Story," a genre-bending piece framed as a play written in prose that centers on the lives of two disaffected female college students brought together by tragedy, dark wit, and the lustful attention of the same professor. An italicized disclaimer starts the piece: "Some names and places have been changed. This text went to press before the end of rehearsals and so may differ slightly from the play performed."Pulling the most weight at 85 pages, this three-part story first focuses on Natasha's perspective, then Lucy's, and then details the entire performance of the play they've written called … "Abortion, A Love Story."

The frame of the play is intricate and thought-provoking. Natasha mysteriously receives emails that somehow narrate the events of her life in stage directions, and later we discover that Lucy has written a play and also hacked Natasha's email, suggesting that Lucy is somehow the playwright of Natasha's life. But then Lucy starts writing "Abortion, A Love Story," subverting the idea of the play being a frame and insinuating that this whole chapter is the autobiographical script of the character's offstage and onstage lives.

I'll readily admit that the nuances of the story befuddled me. I'm sure that there's some device or meaning that was lost on me, but the mental gymnastics were so intriguing that I wanted more story, not more explanation. However, when the two girls perform their erratic and depressing play, Lucy's character suggests that to want more, to read more, is a macabre desire: "I don't think you came out here to hear me be funny at all," she addresses the audience. "I think you came out to hear some pain. You don't care what it is exactly, but you want it. … You take one look at me and you need to know I've been punished."

This moment feels like a direct address to the reader, not just the paltry number of college students in the theatre. It's hard to negotiate with my conscience why a series of bleak stories with melancholic humor can be so entertaining, but something about these women and their biting attitudes toward their fixed circumstances keeps the pages turning. With darkly startling images like a teenage girl pulling a string of dead flies out of her mouth in "Sweet Talk," it's not the pain or expectation of punishment that's captivating, but the acerbic and unexpected ways the characters navigate their realities.

At the close of "Abortion, A Love Story," Lucy reflects at the end of the first and last performance of the play: "'I'm not sure,' Lucy says. 'I'm not sure. I don't know if I get it.'" I feel the same way, Lucy. But perhaps, exasperatingly, there's nothing we're meant to "get." It's a joy to be along for the ride with these abnormal personalities. The mind-bending, surrealist stories never cross the line into garbled garbage. But if you aren't tickled by depressing humor or strictly believe in sensical stories with clear takeaways, then this collection probably wouldn't show you a good time. Flattery doesn't attempt to suggest that there's any clear path to escape (don't expect many happy or tidy conclusions to these stories), which is perhaps the most haunting theme of all.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments