Show Them a Good Time SAMPLER

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

I was given the opportunity to read two of the short stories in this collection and, on the strength of these, am keen to lay my hands on the full set.  They are disconcerting, slightly off-centre versions of reality.  Multi-dimensional characters and dialogue were their major strengths for me.  

‘Not the End Yet’ appears at first to be set in the world as we know it but, as the action progresses, we realise it’s not quite.  A young woman goes on a series of dates, always to the same restaurant and the conversations start out in the same way.  But as the dates go on, we notice incremental changes in the state of the restaurant, the food on offer, in the surly teenage waiting staff and, most tellingly, in Angela’s circumstances.  Something ominous is in the air and I was tantalised to find out what would happen.  No closure here, though, and for me that is the haunting beauty of short stories at their best.

‘Track’ is the dissection of a relationship from the point of view of a young Irish woman in New York, girlfriend of a famous comedian.  She shelters behind his apparent strength and the reason for her fragility is hinted at as we go along.  But as his star wanes, so she gains in confidence and disdain for him.  Again, this story stops short of a neat ending and I was left wanting to know how things would turn out for a character I’d become invested in.

Right up my street and highly recommended.

**I have now been able to read the complete collection and was not disappointed.  I was particularly taken with ‘Parrot’ about a young woman trying to take responsibility for a troubled stepson, connecting more with him than his schoolteachers.  I consider the two stories chosen for the sampler, however, are by far the best.**
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'Not The End Yet' is my favourite of these two sample stories though I have to say that it's not subtle and that the heart of the tale is more transparent than I'd have liked. Still, it raises an important question which I'm not able to spell out here without giving away the 'twist in the tale' and there's a dark humour about the whole scenario. 

The prose style is unshowy, some nice wit but feels just that tad forced to me. Interesting and contemporary.
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This is one of my most anticipated releases of 2019 and the sampler more than whets my appetite for the full publication. Like most others, I often find anthologies featuring a multitude of short stories difficult to review because, naturally, you tend to appreciate some more than others. It's sort of the reading version of Russian roulette, but the big difference here is that each story is written by the same author, and this certainly helps in making the two stories I read coherent and enjoyable. I absolutely loved the stories included in the sampler; they both explore very important, timely issues. 

Unusually for shorts the characters are beautifully developed and are easily distinguishable from one another - something that is not easy to do in the few pages dedicated to each tale. They are very authentic and realistic, with legitimate concerns about life which are portrayed in such original, refreshing and compelling ways. They are dark and the sense of foreboding creates a spectacular atmosphere - again, not an easy feat when the stories are so short.

Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for an ARC.
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The advance sample of Show Them A Good Time contained two stories from the book:
 
- Not The End Yet 
- Track 

NOT THE END YET is Angela's story about the foray into dating post-divorce. 
TRACK concentrates on a young Irish woman in a dysfunctional relationship with a famous comedian. 
‘Track’ was the winner of the 2017 White Review Short Story Prize http://www.thewhitereview.org/fiction/track/

Both short stories concentrated on the raw interface that is the modern romantic relationships between men and women. Raw in that people can be awful, and dating awful people can be traumatic! 

It could be said that both NOT THE END YET and TRACK are very much in the vein of Cat Person (the New Yorker short story that went viral in December 2017). However, Track won the White Review Short Story and was published on the White Review website in April 2017. With both Nicole Flattery's stories and those of Kristen Roupenian, I feel we are in for a feast of strong female (short) storytellers. Bring it on!

I can't wait to read the rest of Ms Flattery's stories. 

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Thank you so much the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary electronic copy in return for an honest review.
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Just read a sampler of Nicole Flattery's Show Them a Good Time and hoooooly shit I can't wait to get my hands on the collection. What a writer!
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I preferred the second story to the first and I would appreciate the opportunity to read the whole book. What I did read showed a lot of promise.
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The sampler I read contained two stories, "Not the End Yet" and "Track" so I'm essentially reviewing those stories.

In both these stories, Flattery combines a sense of reality, of literalness with a feeling that the fantastical may be about to come round the corner. Her protagonists reflect this, seemingly ordinary at first but revealing depths as the stories develop a dialogue with something else (the strangeness of the times, in "Not the End of the World" and a both a traumatic personal history and a frustrating relationship, In "Track".

"Not the End of the World" teases because we only slowly begin to learn of this wider dimension. Angela, a schoolteacher in her early 40s, dates a string of unsatisfactory men. The approach is almost formulaic - she takes them to the same restaurant each time, introduced in the same words, there is odd conversation, revealing more about the state off the world (bad) than about the couple, they may have sex (in one case, the man, all fragility and huff, pretends they did) and we see, I think, a progressive decay in things expressed through the restaurant staff. At first they're just teenagers. Later, they wear their restaurant outfits over military uniforms, 'expecting to be called away at heroes' notice'. Later still, they wear 'stained vests'.

Because things seems to be going to the bad. At the start, Angela denies hotly to herself that she is someone whose life has 'gone to shit'. Yet it seems as though it has, though not perhaps because of anything she did, the world itself seems to have gone that way. Angela's school class has melted away, the supermarket shelves are mostly empty and the book has a tangible sense of decay with everything muddled, temporary and alarming. There are wars and rumours of wars. Whether Angela's  dating is an attempt to escape this, or to fully engage in the spirit of the times isn't clear. She seems to be serially disappointed ('the realisation invariably arrived that this man was not a package at all: he was an envelope, an envelope with a bill in it, an envelope she, quite frankly, wanted to put in a drawer and forget all about') and yet forces herself to enjoy her experiences: 'It was the last good fee,ling, to look across a table and know someone else was terrified too'.

What they might be terrified of, we, perhaps, learn, casting a slightly different light on what Angela's doing.

A bitter, involving story which finds beauty and even humour in sadness and bad times, deftly pulling together the intimate and small with the global and the external.

"Track" is a story which also has an air of melancholy, indeed it seems to drip sadness from... something... that's never quite explained. The narrator, a young Irish woman in New York, is with an ageing comedian, past his prime and trying to rekindle popularity for his TV show by endlessly listening to 'The Track". The exact nature of it is never explained but I think it may be canned laughter, or possibly some classic comedy routine? Whatever it seems to drive a wedge between the two and soon the young woman is online at night, posting anonymous, and venomous, reviews of her partner's act.

As the story proceeds, she seems to fall into depression, remembering that something that happened back in Ireland, a hospital, her mother. Her life becomes more and more nightmarish. At there start, she, not-famous, was happier walking round New York than him: he saw only rejection, she saw takeaway coffee, croissants, and souvenirs. By the end of the story she's walking without purpose to who-knows-where although perhaps with a feeling of release.

In a few pages, Flattery makes these protagonists very, very real, circling around both common ground and differences between them - her Irishness, for example, which seems to bring a whole train of cultural bag while for her 'I didn't want to rely on it too heavily, do that while bit, degrade myself'. Beyond that, though, it's a clever, twisty story that has stayed with me after reading and left me thinking.

Deeply enjoyable stories with a lot of hinterland and a dark sensibility. I'd strongly recommend.
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