The first of Alissa Nutting’s short stories I read was “The Sands,” one of the stories in the 2010 Las Vegas Writes book project, “The Perpetual Engine of Hope.” The ferocity of emotion in the first paragraph instantly captured my attention, but “The Sands” was only a gentle warm-up compared to the visceral language and scenes in Nutting’s new anthology, “Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls”. The first line kicks things off: “I am boiling inside a kettle with five other people…”
The stories and the experiences get even more intense as one reads further. Some of the stories are troubling, and others are almost — but not quite — humorous. Every one captured my attention so completely that I read this book in one sitting. Even the fact that I was on a tight deadline for another project couldn’t distract me from devouring all eighteen stories. One of the stories that particularly resonated with me involved a charismatic — if slightly nuts — band leader, his impressionable and seriously stoned girlfriend, and their relationship with her financially-challenged sister.
Some stories are much shorter than others, and all are intensely satisfying in a way that I’m not completely sure I understand. Settings range from the devil’s bedroom in hell to an intergalactic shipping vessel, with a variety of more ordinary locations mixed in. But even the seemingly normal places are inhabited by people leading decidedly odd lives. Nutting resolves each of her unconventional scenarios with pleasingly peculiar twists and turns.
If you are in town on November 30, don’t miss Nutting’s reading at the Greenspun Hall Auditorium at UNLV 7:00 pm.
Alissa Nutting received her MFA in fiction from the University of Alabama, where she was editor of The Black Warrior Review literary magazine. She is currently a Schaeffer Fellow in fiction at UNLV and an editor for BMI’s literary magazine, Witness.