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The Three Button Trick and Other Stories
Nicola Barker, Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Darkmans and The Yips and winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and Hawthornden Prize, gathers her finest short fiction in this irresistible collection Audacious, original, clever, poignant-these are just a few words that describe the writing of Nicola Barker, an award-winning author who has been compared to Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, and Margaret Atwood. Now nineteen of her finest short stories have been compiled into one startling, delightfully readable volume. It takes young Carrie twenty-one years and a chance meeting with an eighty-three-year-old widow to realize she fell victim to her husband's "three button trick." The main character in "Wesley" must work through his troubled childhood in a series of episodes involving masses of eels, an imaginary friend named Joy, and an unmentionable incident with an emu-owl. Whether describing erotic encounters behind clothing racks or a kleptomaniac with his organs on the wrong side, these stories never fail to surprise us, entertain us, and make us think. "Nicola Barker's is a singular world, a hectic place of uncommon characters and naughty, memorable prose . . . Her style is fast, funny, profound, and sharp." -Newsday "An astounding writer." -Seattle Weekly "Barker's subjects are often raw and irreverently sexy, while her endings are sometimes abrupt, but she never fails to surprise and delight with incisive writing and piercing wit, to say nothing of all the vivid characters inhabiting these rambunctious and witty stories." -Publishers Weekly Nicola Barker's eight previous novels include Darkmans (short-listed for the 2007 Man Booker and Ondaatje prizes, and winner of the Hawthornden Prize), Wide Open (winner of the 2000 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), and Clear (long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2004). She has also written two prize-winning collections of short stories, and her work has been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in East London.
The British author of three novels (Wide Open, etc.) and two collections of short stories (Heading Inland  and Love Your Enemies, both of which contribute stories to this volume), Barker has a demonstrated penchant (a fondness, even) for writing about the freakish twists life holds for average or extraordinary misfits, neurotics and the walking wounded. In this wildly imaginative and thoroughly entertaining collection, readers meet Bendy Linda, the circus contortionist; Nick, the boy born with his organs reversed (heart on the right side, liver on left); young women with breast fetishes, nose fixations, fears of fat and secret sexualities. It's not so much that Barker works a sideshow but that, like R. Crumb, she has a clear-eyed, if sardonic, take on the characters she captures in quick, witty strokes, from the school teacher whose "life was as flat as the fens" to the personnel officer in "a lambswool polo-neck which clung at her throat as tight and sure as the skin of a banana." These stories are edgy, always subverting expectations and sometimes turning magical, as in "Inside Information," where an expectant mother learns to unzip her belly so her fetus can complain. In "Symbiosis," a formerly pudgy ex-girlfriend shows off her new svelte shape and the reason for it: a tapeworm. The title story is a merry farce about a 44-year-old, still beautiful woman whose husband leaves her, 22 years after he first got her sympathy and attention by deliberately misbuttoning his coat. "G-String" describes the night Gillian, "a nervous size 16," the uncomfortable and mortified first-time wearer of thong underwear instead of her usual roomy drawers, finally tells off her fussy and dismissive boyfriend. Barker's subjects are often raw and irreverently sexy, while her endings are sometimes abrupt, but she never fails to surprise and delight with incisive writing and piercing wit, to say nothing of all the vivid characters inhabiting these rambunctious and witty stories. (July) FYI: Barker has won the 1997 John Llewellen Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize, the 1993 David Higham Prize for Fiction and the Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Fiction. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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January 08, 2001
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