Book: Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
Author: Alissa Nutting
Type of Book: Fiction, short story collection, fantasy, humor
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because Alissa Nutting is my neurotic literature heroine.
Availability: Published by Starcherone Books in 2010, you can get a copy here:
Comments: I was reading this book when my mother died. It’s a strange feeling to be writing this discussion because Mom was alive when I began this book and dead when I finished it. I think this is a book that will have extreme sentimental value for me for the rest of my life. I’ll probably remember in vivid detail all the stories in this book until the day I am on my own death bed. It’s a good thing this is a very good book in almost every regard. If you are going to have a book burned into your brain in such a manner, best that it be a good book.
It’s not so surprising that I adored this collection – I raved about Nutting’s look at a female sexual predator and had high expectations for this book. This collection is less concentrated in terms of content and style than Tampa and the varied nature of this collection shows Nutting’s skill as a teller of many types of stories. She handles mundane yet self-aware neuroticism like an updated Tama Janowitz (whose seminal summation of ’80s New York, Slaves of New York, I will be discussing here soon). She dips in and out of fantasy and magical realism with a deft hand and plenty of humor. She is a keen observer of the human condition and tells her stories with great sympathy for her characters, even the ridiculous ones. I love this collection so much I am not going to limit my discussion to just a few stories, as I often do to save readers from an obscenely high word count. So be warned, many words beneath the cut.
This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books
Author: Alissa Nutting
Type of Book: Fiction, Ripped from the Headlines, hebephilia
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, because I had to create the category “hebephilia” just for this book…
Availability: Published by Harper Collins in 2013, you can get a copy here:
Comments: My friend Jessica and I have very similar reading tastes in fiction so when I saw her mention on Facebook that she was left uneasy by this book, I knew I needed a copy. Jessica is not one to be nonplussed, so I was intrigued. I have to say her reaction was on the mark.
Before I begin discussing this book in earnest, here is a brief synopsis: Celeste Price, who is definitely a stand-in for the real life hebephile Debra Lafave, is sexually attracted only to fourteen-year-old boys, preferably before they start puberty. This is especially problematic because she is married to an older man and has just begun a job teaching 8th grade English. Celeste is in her early 20s, quite attractive, and a complete sociopath, wearing her mask of sanity and passing muster with other adults but engaging in risky behaviors, like very public masturbation. Preying on the children in her classrooms, she soon has an adolescent boy in her grasp. I don’t think it is a spoiler to reveal that Celeste eventually is hoist by her own petard (or rather busted out because her lusts make her sloppy) and comes to a very bad end because that should pretty much go without saying. In a sense, it doesn’t matter how this book ends because the reason to read this book is to get a good look at the inner workings of a sociopath.
I feel very much like this book hits a discordant note, but it also occurs to me that I feel this way because Nutting got Celeste absolutely right. She nailed Celeste. And that is why the book was fascinating, forcing me to read it in two sittings, and left me feeling empty and disturbed.