HITTING SHELVES #13: Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter

Ugly Girls

Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter comes out today!

Lindsay Hunter, author of Daddy’s and Don’t Kiss Me, is a natural successor to brilliant writers like Mary Gaitskill and A.M. Homes who chronicle the damage, both physical and psychological, that we do to women, and that women do to themselves. If you haven’t read “Three Things You Should Know about Peggy Paula,” you are MISSING OUT and you need to read it right now.

Ugly Girls is Hunter’s first novel. Told in little bursts of flash fiction, it introduces Perry and Baby Girl, two thick-as-thieves girlfriends who discover they’re being stalked by a dangerous man. Like all of Hunter’s writing, it’s urgent and raw and garishly compelling.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Ugly Girls?

Lindsay Hunter: I’ve thought about this a lot, actually. I’ve scoured Etsy and anthropologie and Pinterest, trying to find the perfect thing to buy myself to mark what feels like a momentous, emotional moment in my life. Something I want to remember and celebrate. But I always end on eh, I have so many necklaces that I never wear! And if I buy a special sweater or something, my dogs will just eventually claw it to pieces. I’ve considered a commemorative tattoo, but that feels like too much work. What would I get? Who would do it? Ugh, I have to drive somewhere to get it done? So, that’s out. Then I considered buying myself a piece of art. I love Andrea Heimer’s work and feel that it speaks to me on a deep, deep level, and I have come very close to buying one of her pieces. She is affordable in the broad sense of buying art, but not so affordable when you feel guilty about spending money on a nice sweater your dogs will maul. So, I always end up closing my browser window before clicking “Complete Purchase.” What I think will happen is that the day of my novel’s release will kind of come and go, without me doing anything to mark the occasion, and I’ll think back and go, Gawd, I couldn’t even buy myself a nice bottle of wine?!

Lindsay Hunter (photo by Zach Dodson)

Lindsay Hunter (photo by Zach Dodson)

But maybe what is actually happening is that I’m hoping that there are more books in my future. More things I’ve created being deemed publishable. Maybe it feels like, if I mark this occasion too fervently, that’ll be the peak. Like the prom queen never feeling as happy as she did the night she was crowned. And maybe the thrill is in the possibility and not the purchase. The endless what-iffing that can remain endless as long as I don’t allow an end. And, I was recently able to upgrade to an iPhone 6, and there’s a brand new Olive Garden down the road from my house, so maybe the universe is celebrating for me, around me.

- Brian Hurley

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Did You Hear? Let’s Get Married

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

A little bit of soul, a little bit of country, some rhythm and blues, a touch of disco, some soft jazz, and some fleeting of moments of straight-up funk. This song is all over the map, but when everything comes together it’s pretty much perfect. It’s a great week for joining up musical styles and people that work perfectly together.

- Brook Reeder

[Ed. note: It appears Brook is trying to send a special message here. I would decipher it for you if I weren’t so busy getting married. -BH]

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Birdshit Crazy

The Wallcreeper

FA review tag

In the opening sentences of The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink, a young American woman living in Europe has a miscarriage when her husband swerves the car to avoid hitting a bird in the road, and crashes into a rock instead. He rushes outside to save the bird—a wallcreeper, a common gray thing with brilliant crimson wings, a “species of least concern”—and eventually they take it home and make it their pet. Not much is said about the miscarriage. Which gives you a sense of the priorities in Tiff and Stephen’s marriage, and a clue to Nell Zink’s writing: she’s always burying the lead.

Outside of the Babysitter’s Club, has there ever been a literary protagonist named Tiff? Not even Tiffany, but Tiff? It’s as if Zink is daring us to see Tiff as someone flighty and inconsequential. Which is true. Tiff doesn’t have a job. (At the start of the novel, Stephen earns enough for both of them as a medical engineer, building a “contraption” for hearts.) Tiff isn’t faithful. (The first of her European affairs is a working-class Albanian lothario named Elvis.) Tiff can’t focus on any productive enterprise whatsoever. (Unless it’s productive to sabotage a German river by slowly removing rocks from its banks.) But dear god, it’s fun to be inside her head. Tiff is piercingly intelligent, and she does this thing that certain intelligent, insecure people do, where they constantly put themselves down in clever, entertaining ways, in a sort of cry for help. Continue reading

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Malevolent Badger

10-04

Ben Lerner’s 10:04 is a great book for those of us who enjoy a sense of déjà vu, as so much of it is about his previous novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, and so many selections from his new book have been disseminated in major publications: The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review. To increase the sensation of eternal recurrence I gathered with my fellow nebbishes in the Sunset, in the new Green Apple Books (which resembles a slightly misremembered version of the original Green Apple Books) to hear Lerner speak.

My friend Chris and I arrived in time to get premium seats, three rows deep and centered, ready to believe that lightly fictionalized versions of ourselves might appear in a future Lerner novel or, at the very least, a poem. The talent walked directly past us, pausing to kiss the cheeks of some adoring septuagenarians in the first two rows. We’ve all looked at Lerner’s author photo and let me tell you—his eyebrows are really like that: a cartoon villain’s, a malevolent badger’s, the arched backs of two startled black cats.

The parts of the sidelines not taken up by the walkers and wheelchairs of Lerner’s kin filled with fresh-off-the-High-Line hipsters, adjusting square-framed glasses on their sweat-slick noses. The current fashion calls for stern, two-toned frames, a style from the 50’s, or rather from Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life. There was a woman with a breaching whale tattoo that you realized was not just a breaching whale but Penguin’s Moby-Dick.

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Did You Hear? Wrong or Right

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

A great song with a terrific music video: I haven’t been able to get this melody out of my head for about a week now. When you throw that voice over a tasteful combination of R+B and electronica anything, it’s an addictive combination. This is the kind of song that demands your attention, and possibly turns you into a dancing zombie. So pay attention!

- Brook Reeder

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I Am a Natural Wonder

Old Golds

I grew a mustache way too early and happily combed its delicate length every morning before school. The other children looked on in admiration, their lunch trays heavy with stiff Salisbury steaks and the bloated deliciousness of Hostess cherry fruit pies.

Samantha never seemed to notice. It was Samantha I wished to impress.

I once cricked my neck admiring her. Well worth it, well worth it! Had to stay home for a day. My nose bled as usual so I fed it to the cat, which lapped the blood up greedily from my lips. In the shower I cried, but from elation you understand! For breakfast I microwaved a croissant and jacked it open with a finger until the hole was big enough to wiggle my tongue into.

My mother spent the afternoon guzzling pork-slap and slathering mayo on warm white bread. My father drove through town looking desperately for lumber. I sat swaddled in a blue sheet watching The Price is Right, twisting the corners of my mustache, and thinking of Samantha.

After a while the crick wore off and I walked to the Piggly Wiggly to troll the aisles for a snack.

Outside, a black-fisted giant poked a long finger into the open mouth of a gumball machine. Something was lodged in the way. His daughter straddled a stationary galloping horse with fire painted in its eyes.

Inside I bought a jar of pearl onions from a cashier who stared directly down into the trellis of my mustache.

At home my big brother smoked Old Golds wearing his thick-skinned deer gloves. He was always reading some book called Desert Tooth. His mustache was twice as long as mine, but he was twice as old. He had a date with a Chinese girl. I asked him again what he was reading and he reached deep into his mouth with his fingers and threw gum at me.

The phone rang out and I stumbled into the kitchen. It was Samantha. Could I go swimming in Old Blue with balloons in our underwear to keep us afloat?

Certainly, I said.

The Observable Characteristics of Organisms

- Ryan MacDonald is a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he received an MFA in English and an MFA in studio art. His solo and collaborative work has been exhibited or performed at Foundain Studios, New York Live Arts, The Continental Review, Flying Object, and St. Mark’s Church, and elsewhere.

Copyright © 2014 by Ryan MacDonald from The Observable Characteristics of Organisms. Reprinted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.

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Feeling Tentatively Optimistic

IMG_6311

FA review tag

Good news, feminists! Not all hope is lost! Pick up a copy of this slim book and carry it with you to be reminded that yes, really, yes, things might get better one day!

Just look! A book by a woman whose cover shows nothing but a bold white typeface on a blue background – no soft-focus photograph of laundry on a clothesline in a field of wildflowers, no black high heels, no pink font, no cursive, none of that shit. Not even a picture of Solnit with her long, lovely hair and some sexy, smoldering look in her eye. We’ve come so far!

At least, that is the impression I got after finishing Men Explain Things to Me.

But, wait, don’t get me wrong. Solnit’s essays are depressing as hell.

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Did You Hear? God Only Knows

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

One thing I really like about British culture is their penchant for understatement. “Keep it simple, stupid,” as the Queen always says. “Don’t over-embellish, and never ever use 33 celebrities and groups when 32 will do.” In this new production by BBC Music, the Brits really focus in on the bare essentials of this genuinely amazing song, without adding anything unnecessary.

And before I go, you know another great thing the Brits do well? Sarcasm.

My favorite moment is about 3/4 of the way through, when the whole thing is starting to make sense with its own internal logic, and then Dave Grohl just casually shows up in the clouds for about 3 seconds like some hipster Norse god. And yes, there is a precedent for this

- Brook Reeder

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