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Proudly Reptilian

Nicole Flattery: Kevin Barry, 12 September 2019

Night Boat to Tangier 
by Kevin Barry.
Canongate, 224 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 78211 617 2
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... It’s​ a stereotypical Irish scene. A beleaguered man is tending to a failing and unhappy farm. There’s trouble in the poultry shed. If this were a film, there would be close-ups of a sweat-ridden brow, a taut, unending blue sky, the rugged earth. What wrenches you out of this fantasy is the first line of dialogue, delivered matter-of-factly by the farmer, John, to his wife: ‘Mary? I’ll ask you again ...

How many times?

Nicole Flattery: Catherine Lacey, 16 July 2020

by Catherine Lacey.
Granta, 207 pp., £12.99, May, 978 1 78378 517 9
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... Catherine Lacey’s​ last book, Certain American States (2018), a short story collection, began with an epigraph from Annie Baker’s play Circle Mirror Transformation:LAUREN: Hey. Um. This is kind of weird – but do you ever wonder how many times your life is gonna end?(Another silence.)SCHULTZ: Uh … I’m not sure I know what you –LAUREN: Like how many people you’re … like how many times your life is gonna totally change and then, like, start all over again? And you’ll feel like what happened before wasn’t real and what’s happening now is actually …(She trails off ...

Outsourced Emotions

Nicole Flattery: Katie Kitamura, 6 January 2022

by Katie Kitamura.
Cape, 240 pp., £14.99, August 2021, 978 1 78733 200 3
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... Katie Kitamura’s​ third novel, A Separation, is the only book I’ve read in which the London Review of Books provides a plot point – insofar as the novel can be said to have a plot. The narrator, a literary translator, reeling from the murder of her husband, combs through his belongings to try to stitch together a narrative that will make sense of what happened to him ...

Is this what life is like?

Nicole Flattery: ‘My Phantoms’, 9 September 2021

My Phantoms 
by Gwendoline Riley.
Granta, 199 pp., £12.99, April, 978 1 78378 326 7
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... To find​ Gwendoline Riley in her novels wouldn’t be hard, but it would be unrewarding. ‘People have the right to disappear if they want to,’ says Carmel, the narrator of her first. Cold Water, set in a Manchester dive bar, appeared in 2002 when Riley was 23. Since then she has published five more novels and a novella, but there have been no worthy, state-of-the-nation tomes ...

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery, 5 March 2020

by Anne Enright.
Cape, 264 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 78733 206 5
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... Every​ so often a magazine will publish a graph that proves, beyond any measure of doubt, that Hollywood is sexist, with a particular bias against middle-aged women. I’m not sure for whom this information is intended. Somebody who has never seen a film but likes graphs? Somebody so insulated from the real world that they’ve never strolled past a multiplex and caught a glimpse of a poster in which an older man leans gamely against a young woman; a woman with a sunny disposition, a tan and the general demeanour of someone born into a country where it never rains ...

Strut like Mutya

Nicole Flattery: Paul Mendez, 22 October 2020

Rainbow Milk 
by Paul Mendez.
Dialogue, 353 pp., £14.99, April 2020, 978 0 349 70059 5
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... Four young black women, dressed provocatively, dance and lip-synch under neon light. It could be a music video except the girls are in a cheap hotel room, wearing shoplifted dresses with the security tags intact. It’s a night of escape, a break from everyday life; at last the girls aren’t under the scrutiny of their parents or their crushes. They strike dramatic poses, clutch imaginary microphones and belt out Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds ...

It won’t make the vase whole again

Nicole Flattery: Tove Ditlevsen, 3 June 2021

Childhood, Youth, Dependency: The Copenhagen Trilogy 
by Tove Ditlevsen, translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favela Goldman.
Penguin, 384 pp., £9.99, January, 978 0 241 45757 3
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The Faces 
by Tove Ditlevsen, translated by Tiina Nunnally.
Penguin, 144 pp., £8.99, January, 978 0 241 39191 4
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... Ifirst encountered​ Tove Ditlevsen on a visit to Copenhagen. The whole trip had been a mistake. I kept thinking I should go and see the Little Mermaid. Seeing the statue, even from a distance, would somehow validate the journey. Apart from this depthless panic about how and when I would go and see the Little Mermaid, I was doing very little: wandering around galleries, sitting in the hotel bar ...

Excessive Weeping

Lauren Oyler: Nicole Flattery’s Stories, 10 October 2019

Show Them a Good Time 
by Nicole Flattery.
Bloomsbury, 238 pp., £14.99, March 2019, 978 1 5266 1190 1
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... In​ ‘Abortion, a Love Story’, the long story at the centre of Nicole Flattery’s first collection, a young woman, Natasha, tells the professor on whom she’s about to force a perfunctory affair that she has a disorder. ‘I can’t explain exactly what my disorder is,’ she says, ‘but it prevents me from absorbing any knowledge into my brain ...

Who does that for anyone?

Adam Shatz: Jean-Pierre Melville, 20 June 2019

Jean-Pierre Melville: Le Solitaire 
by Bertrand Teissier.
Fayard, 272 pp., €22, October 2017, 978 2 213 70573 6
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Jean-Pierre Melville, une vie 
by Antoine de Baecque.
Seuil, 244 pp., €32, October 2017, 978 2 02 137107 9
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... where the German officer had stayed. Jean-Marie Robain, who played the uncle, and Nicole Stéphane, who played the niece, had also been in the Resistance. For the role of von Ebrennac, Melville chose the Swiss-American actor Howard Vernon, who was known for playing villainous Nazi officers. ‘You were so good at playing a Nazi ...

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