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Proudly Reptilian

Nicole Flattery: Kevin Barry, 12 September 2019

Night Boat to Tangier 
by Kevin Barry.
Canongate, 224 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 78211 617 2
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... It’s​ a stereotypical Irish scene. A beleaguered man is tending to a failing and unhappy farm. There’s trouble in the poultry shed. If this were a film, there would be close-ups of a sweat-ridden brow, a taut, unending blue sky, the rugged earth. What wrenches you out of this fantasy is the first line of dialogue, delivered matter-of-factly by the farmer, John, to his wife: ‘Mary? I’ll ask you again ...

How many times?

Nicole Flattery: Catherine Lacey, 16 July 2020

Pew 
by Catherine Lacey.
Granta, 207 pp., £12.99, May, 978 1 78378 517 9
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... Catherine Lacey’s​ last book, Certain American States (2018), a short story collection, began with an epigraph from Annie Baker’s play Circle Mirror Transformation:LAUREN: Hey. Um. This is kind of weird – but do you ever wonder how many times your life is gonna end?(Another silence.)SCHULTZ: Uh … I’m not sure I know what you –LAUREN: Like how many people you’re … like how many times your life is gonna totally change and then, like, start all over again? And you’ll feel like what happened before wasn’t real and what’s happening now is actually …(She trails off ...

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery, 5 March 2020

Actress 
by Anne Enright.
Cape, 264 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 78733 206 5
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... Every​ so often a magazine will publish a graph that proves, beyond any measure of doubt, that Hollywood is sexist, with a particular bias against middle-aged women. I’m not sure for whom this information is intended. Somebody who has never seen a film but likes graphs? Somebody so insulated from the real world that they’ve never strolled past a multiplex and caught a glimpse of a poster in which an older man leans gamely against a young woman; a woman with a sunny disposition, a tan and the general demeanour of someone born into a country where it never rains ...

Strut like Mutya

Nicole Flattery: Paul Mendez, 22 October 2020

Rainbow Milk 
by Paul Mendez.
Dialogue, 353 pp., £14.99, April, 978 0 349 70059 5
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... Four young black women, dressed provocatively, dance and lip-synch under neon light. It could be a music video except the girls are in a cheap hotel room, wearing shoplifted dresses with the security tags intact. It’s a night of escape, a break from everyday life; at last the girls aren’t under the scrutiny of their parents or their crushes. They strike dramatic poses, clutch imaginary microphones and belt out Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds ...

Excessive Weeping

Lauren Oyler: Nicole Flattery’s Stories, 10 October 2019

Show Them a Good Time 
by Nicole Flattery.
Bloomsbury, 238 pp., £14.99, March 2019, 978 1 5266 1190 1
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... In​ ‘Abortion, a Love Story’, the long story at the centre of Nicole Flattery’s first collection, a young woman, Natasha, tells the professor on whom she’s about to force a perfunctory affair that she has a disorder. ‘I can’t explain exactly what my disorder is,’ she says, ‘but it prevents me from absorbing any knowledge into my brain ...

Who does that for anyone?

Adam Shatz: Jean-Pierre Melville, 20 June 2019

Jean-Pierre Melville: Le Solitaire 
by Bertrand Teissier.
Fayard, 272 pp., €22, October 2017, 978 2 213 70573 6
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Jean-Pierre Melville, une vie 
by Antoine de Baecque.
Seuil, 244 pp., €32, October 2017, 978 2 02 137107 9
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... where the German officer had stayed. Jean-Marie Robain, who played the uncle, and Nicole Stéphane, who played the niece, had also been in the Resistance. For the role of von Ebrennac, Melville chose the Swiss-American actor Howard Vernon, who was known for playing villainous Nazi officers. ‘You were so good at playing a Nazi ...

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