Monday, December 20, 2010

Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting

This collection of short stories won the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction, and I love the fearlessness of the author. The world herein is our world but wackier, as if the weirdest of our natives were the only ones to survive the nuclear blast and repopulated the earth. As a result, Nutting gets away with some of the wildest figurative language I've seen. Last semester I talked with my grad class about similes and metaphors and the conclusion I came to (whether or not I really convinced them) is figurative language is much more about setting tone than anything else. It may seem at first glance like it's meant to convey scents and touches and tastes, but really that's rarely the case. Literal language is pretty good at describing literal things. Figurative language is much more about describing feelings--how we feel when we see a sunset, not what we actually see. And so Nutting's figurative language is often about creating the mood..which is often uncomfortable and even a little scary. Case in point was the line Twitter wouldn't let me write all of: "I was like a turd inside of someone who'd accidentally swallowed an engagement ring: I was nothing, yet I carried something uniquely special." If that image doesn't make you deeply uncomfortable with the narrator's state of mind, well, you're not me.

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