Review of Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting

The most creative short story collection I have ever read.

While technically belonging to the bizarro genre, this collection passes itself off as literary fiction. The author has, by now, established herself as a literary figure. It always bothers me how a slight literary polish makes all the difference between this and small-time bizarro practitioners, like Carlton Mellick, for instance. Small-time in the sense that people don’t seem to hand out awards and fellowships to authors in bizarro publications. The very slight difference is Nutting’s assured, razor-sharp, prose which floats like a skein of oil above the wild, deep, and controlled subtexts, delving into the bizarre alternate realities in her mind to scoop out the cream of wacky dreams and fantastical lapses in sanity.

Amid the demonic interplay of surprising and alarming plot points are heartfelt characters, unexpected twists, and a Garfield reference. The settings are diverse: from space to bowling alleys, from infernal regions to a stadium-sized kettle on the boil.

Very different from her novel Tampa, these are full indulgences of her imagination, the farthest flung scenarios from the frighteningly realistic portrayal of the novel. Consistent throughout both is a sharp wit, hilarious and startling moments, clarity of voice, eccentric behavior, and a simply ruthless commitment to imagery, description, and fascinating horrors. Luckily there is plenty of pathos, and her miraculously affecting storytelling does not suffer from pretension or unsympathetic characters. They are perfect if you can appreciate the out-there, the truly extraordinary things humans are capable of describing.

I greatly look forward to reading her other novel and everything else she publishes in the future.

One thought on “Review of Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting

  1. Okay, you sold me on this one. I’m on a short story binge right now, alternating between two books, both by female authors. As I told you, I loved Made For Love, so I will now acquire this one. Thanks, LSP for your continuing reliable recommendations!

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