The Three Button Trick: Selected Stories

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9780007147984: The Three Button Trick: Selected Stories

The best short stories from perhaps England's finest young female comic writer. 'If her prose style wasn't so devastatingly funny and totally original she might be someone it's fun to hate. As it is, reading her short stories makes you wish you had a best friend just like her...No-one else in England writes like this.' Tatler This selection of Nicola Barker's finest short stories contains work first published in Heading Inland and Love Your Enemies 'Terse, droll, and unsettling tales from a highly idiosyncratic young writer. They share with her novels a conviction that life is stranger than we imagine and perhaps stranger than we can imagine and that only those willing to pursue extreme behavior of one sort or another (or incapable of doing otherwise) are likely to glimpse the true, deeply weird parameters of existence. A 16-year-old girl, in 'Layla's Nose Job', is burdened with a grotesque nose. But plastic surgery only serves to demonstrate that her strangeness isn't just skin-deep. The discovery turns her ingeniously violent. In 'Inside Information', Martha, a professional shoplifter, becomes pregnant and attempts to turn her pregnancy to criminal advantage, only to find herself harassed by her foetus, which not only can talk but proves to have grisly plans of its own. It's impossible, many of these stories argue, for outsiders to escape their alienation. In three related pieces ('Blisters', 'Braces', and 'Mr. Lippy') featuring Wesley, a charming but damaged young man, attempts at normality are grimly, inevitably defeated. In 'The Three Button Trick', one of Barker's most naturalistic, a middle-aged woman, who's been abandoned by her husband, discovers, thanks to the ministrations of several odd acquaintances, how little she needs him and how wayward and liberating true eroticism is. Those with a taste for odd, haunting characters, unsettling incidents, and a deadpan, savage sense of humor, will likely find these stories uniquely stirring.' Kirkus Reviews

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About the Author:

NICOLA BARKER was born in Ely in 1966 and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. She lives and works in east London. She was the winner of the David Higham Prize for Fiction and joint winner of the Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Love Your Enemies, her first collection of stories (1993). Her first novel Reversed Forecast was published in 1994 and a short novel Small Holdings followed in 1995. A second collection of short stories Heading Inland, for which Nicola received an Arts Council Writers' Award and the 1997 John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize. Her story 'Symbiosis' was filmed and broadcast on BBC2; another story, 'Dual Balls', was commissioned for broadcast on Channel 4 and shortlisted for a BAFTA Award. Her third novel Wide Open was published in 1998, and won the English-speaking world's biggest literary award for a single work, the IMPAC Prize. In 2000 she published another short novel, Five Miles from Outer Hope. Her fifth and longest novel, Behindlings, was published by Flamingo in 2002.

Review:

'She is an excellent writer - unique, funny, dark, cute, sarcastic and clever. Her language is unfussy, direct, at times colloquial and then, just when it is needed to produce the right emotional counterpoint, elegant and formal. She doesn't flinch from describing sadism, violence or ugliness, but never does so without warmth or sympathy... What could have been heavy-handed in another writer's hands is transformed into something light, enchanting, moving. Highly recommended.' Alain de Botton, Literary Review 'A witty, unique talent. She is a diligent scavenger with a clever eye for something funny, precious or sad. There is a magpie quality to her writing, the half-mawkish obsessiveness of a junk collector on whose stall one might glimpse something familiar, but not forgotten. Barker is at her best when writing sinister fairy tales and revels in the resilient oddness of the English sensibility, its lack of sophistication, its unconventionality, its peculiar cadences and little-noticed sense of the surreal.' Rachel Cusk, The Times 'The writing is sharp, intricate and stylish. The settings are unusually imaginative and original... each story presents its own particular and perfectly realised world, one in which very specific events and feelings take place... nothing is too weird or too ordinary for Nicola Barker.' Susie Boyt, Guardian

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