Sunday, June 8, 2014

[Review] Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting

Rating: 5 Stars
Genre: Short Stories, Speculative Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Horror
Summary: In this darkly hilarious debut collection, misfit women and girls in every strata of society are investigated through various ill-fated jobs. One is the main course of dinner, another the porn star contracted to copulate in space for a reality TV show. They become futuristic ant farms, get knocked up by the star high school quarterback and have secret abortions, use parakeets to reverse amputations, make love to garden gnomes, go into air conditioning ducts to confront their mother’s ghost, and do so in settings that range from Hell to the local white-supremacist bowling alley (from Goodreads).

This is a genre I've only discovered recently: Bizarro fiction. The closest thing I can think of that is similar is Chuck Palahniuk's stories. Two words: grotesque surrealism. The only difference between this collection and some of Chuck Palahniuk's works (don't get me wrong, I do love some of his works) is that it's not bile-inducing and actually enjoyable to read. More often than not, I would rather a book left me elevated, not nauseous. Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls is just that. It's the right amount of weird, morbid, gross, and bizarre, but without the sour aftertaste. The book is all kinds of amazing. I don't think I'm going to even write a review for it. I'll let these various quotations speak for themselves.

This is the first line of the first story: "I am boiling inside a kettle with five other people."

Intriguing. Do go on.

"Our limbs are bound and our intestines and mouths are stuffed with herbs and garlic, but we can still speak. We smell great despite the pain."

Sold. If you are a rather modest and conservative person who doesn't savor in uncleanliness, this is definitely not a book for you. For anyone else who, like me, has a rather twisted sense of humor, you will love these stories.

Here are some more quotations:

"My friend Gizmo who works at the funeral home occasionally smokes the hair of the embalmed dead. The smell does not bother him: he is used to horrible smells. He claims that after a few minutes of inhaling, moments form the corpses' lives flood his head like a movie."

From a story that takes place in Hell:

"I also found an intestine that had been suffocated with rat poison and fashioned into a noose. I decided to hang the whole thing from my chandelier. 'You're becoming more comfortable with entrails,' the devil commented. I liked the way he took notice of my growth."

Seriously, what's not to love? Aside from the bizarro shock factors, I really liked that all the female characters were all equally unique and compelling. Like the title suggests, this collection of short stories is about women, and sometimes girls, having to go through very unpleasant (to put it mildly) situations. It features women in all different walks of life and in all different types of relationship (familial, romantic, platonic, stalkerish, inhuman, symbiotic) from every setting imaginable--from falling love with the devil in the underworld to trying to find closure with a cryogenically frozen mother (frozen for being a murderous felon) in space. I can't even decide which of these stories are my favorite. Five stars hands down.

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