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Nothing Right: Short Stories Hardcover – February 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596915749
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596915749
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,533,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* A recent divorcée in “Shauntrelle,” one of 11 stellar stories collected here, remarks that it is the “season of uncertainty and drifting identity, of upheaval and limbo, flying ashtrays and painkilling drugs.” Indeed, never has anxiety been made as entertaining as it is here. Nelson deploys a quirky, far-reaching humor and resonant detail to describe both the quiet and not-so-quiet implosions of midwestern families as they attempt to cope with contemporary life. In the title story, a mother has just about given up on her 15-year-old son and his retinue of helpers, including a psychologist, a lawyer, and a probation officer, until he gets his girlfriend pregnant. It’s only then, under circumstances that would try most parents beyond endurance, that she is able to finally see her son’s redeeming virtues. In the downbeat “Or Else,” David, the victim of an unhappy childhood, takes his new girlfriend to a vacation home in Telluride that he claims is his. But when the real owners of the house show up, David is revealed to be not only a liar but also an ingrate. Nelson is in complete command of her material here, infusing her stories with just the right shades of poignancy, humor, and heartbreak. --Joanne Wilkinson

Review

"Vintage Nelson: It's full of contrarian views of modern life, swift eviscerations of simpering morality, the complicated love between parents and children, brinkmanship with psychosis and everyday breakdowns, a culture that makes adolescents of us all, a lot of alcohol and a smattering of infidelity" -- Los Angeles Times
 
"Nelson, an astute observer of everyday conflicts, has skillfully mapped out life in this unforgettable collection, and sooner or later a reader will run into herself in a story, the character's troubles as real as the reader's own. Still, even more wonder comes when one realizes that Nelson, witty yet sympathetic, articulates our pains and troubles better than we do. Could it be that she knows us better than we know ourselves?" —San Francisco Chronicle
 

"Nelson has always possessed superb craft as a writer. Her stories are shapely and precise; they move through scenes seamlessly. "Nothing Right" has taken her into deeper waters, though. Heartbreak, here, isn't enough. Most of these characters have been there before. They know better. Revealing them on the cusp of such self-knowledge, Nelson has brought her characters into a whole new age. They know the tough choices they have to make; somehow, none of them feels right." -- Newark Star-Ledger

“In this powerful collection of 11 short stories, Nelson’s brilliantly constructed characters negotiate love, family, home and truth. Nelson consistently pays exquisite attention to detail, resulting in rich, vivid characters and settings…Nelson writes with wonderful grace and skill, each word carefully chosen, each passage carefully constructed. This beautiful collection is another remarkable accomplishment for a writer often hailed as one of our most talented storytellers.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Those wondering whether the spirit of bohemian anarchy endures in today’s hunkered-down Red America need look only as far as the marvelously reliable Wichita, Kansas, native Antonya Nelson’s latest story collection, Nothing Right…Nelson delivers convincing portraits—11 of them here—of folk who are alarmingly drinking-positive, more than a little familiar with illicit drugs, and all too conversant in the language of infidelity…Sordid, cynical, and supremely romantic tales.”- Elle

“Stellar… never has anxiety been made as entertaining as it is here. Nelson deploys a quirky, far-reaching humor and resonant detail to describe both the quiet and not-so-quiet implosions of midwestern families as they attempt to cope with contemporary life…. Nelson is in complete command of her material here, infusing her stories with just the right shades of poignancy, humor, and heartbreak.” – Booklist, starred review

“Nelson is at her best creating densely packed, almost novel-like family mini-sagas.” – Kirkus

“Delightfully messy…Nelson gives readers plenty to ponder as her frequently baffled characters struggle to make sense of the circumstances in which they find themselves…Readers who relish conflict will burn through the pages as the disasters pile up, while those who appreciate well-rounded characters will be impressed with the variety of responses to said disasters, which reveal just how strong, flexible, and adaptable human beings can be under pressure (see especially "Kansas" and "Biodegradable"). This weary hymn to coping with life's cruelties is a tour de force.” – Library Journal

“Nelson never chafes against the limitations of her chosen form, the realistic well-made story. It’s the ideal medium for a writer who isn’t afraid to remind us of the familiar, who values insight over epiphany.” – New York Times Book Review

"Wonderful… Slow down and savor every page, because the characters are vivid and flawed and achingly real, the humor suitably grim, and the undertones of loss almost palpable… Nelson's insight and language are…simply gorgeous. There is not a single thing wrong with Nothing Right" -- Boston Globe

“I don’t know how I missed the extensively published and acclaimed writer Antonya Nelson, but I’m glad my first encounter was this collection of short stories. They are funny in a dark, subterranean way, gracefully told, and populated by characters you wouldn’t want to know but already know intimately… These difficult characters… may seem impossible to like, but because of Nelson’s fluid skill and insight, you end up caring about them all.” —Bust

“You have only to read Antonya Nelson's new story collection, Nothing Right, to appreciate her talent…. Nelson, unlike so many writers today, is not serving up magic realism in her stories. Her magic, in fact, is their powerful realism: deeply understood, beautifully expressed.” – Hartford Courant

“Antonya Nelson’s Nothing Right [targets] the romantic poseurs in all of us.” Vogue

“Delightfully messy…Nelson gives readers plenty to ponder as her frequently baffled characters struggle to make sense of the circumstances in which they find themselves…Readers who relish conflict will burn through the pages as the disasters pile up, while those who appreciate well-rounded characters will be impressed with the variety of responses to said disasters, which reveal just how strong, flexible, and adaptable human beings can be under pressure (see especially "Kansas" and "Biodegradable"). This weary hymn to coping with life's cruelties is a tour de force.” -- Library Journal, starred review

More About the Author

Antonya Nelson is the author of seven short story collections and four novels. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program. Her awards include the Rea Award for Short Fiction, Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, and an American Artists Award. She lives in Telluride, Colorado, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Houston, Texas.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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This author can write, I feel that this book just is not her best work.
Pamela Jarmon-Wade
Each story seems to be more depressing than the last, there was just "nothing right" about the whole set.
Jason
The main characters are in some situation that you might think is present time.
Daniel G. Lebryk

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Offenbach on December 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although most of these short stories have previously been published in various periodicals, this collection is worth having on the shelf or nightstand for reading and re-reading. Short story writers do not have as great a following as novelists, but Ms. Nelson certainly can attract readers of American fiction with her intense short stories. She has the skill to create a time, place, characters and conflict in a few pages that most novelists need chapters to develop, sort of how an espresso delivers the richness of the same coffee bean you may drink every morning. Your usual drip coffee may be delicious and robust, but the intensity of flavor in that thick liquid hits the senses faster and usually linger longer. Her characters are intensely human with the flaws of humans and the experiences of humans, and they are developed in a few pages so well that I think about them at times in my own daily experiences. American culture is portrayed without the reader realizing that simple and mundane things and events may be really, really important until they are struck with the memory of a story later in the day or the week. I was sold on Ms. Nelson after hearing her discuss the short story on NPR, then listening to her read one of her tales. She obviously is a very astute and observant person, garnering an inventory of true experiences into fictional ideas which she transforms, often metaphorically into her slices of life fiction. Her stories need to be read more than once, which is so easy to do with this genre of literature.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reader on January 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one of the most talented writers I had an opportunity to read recently. Her latest book "Nothing Right" is a collection of stories that are each compelling in both topic and narrative. Sometimes, when one reads story collections they can be uneven. That is not the case with Ms. Nelson's stories - each one of these is strong and can stand on its own. Stories are about contemporary families, women approaching 40 struggling with their own internal emotional turmoils caused by their families or their inner lives. I have realized that three of the stories int his book I read in the New Yorker Magazine some time ago ("Shauntrelle", "Kansas" and "Or Else") , but I was so glad to read them again. My most favorite ones are the last two in the book - "We and They" and "People People". Both are humorous and sad at the same time but also complicated in the intriguing way. I am definitely Ms. Nelson's fan and I am looking forward to reading her other fiction work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Vigil Swiger VINE VOICE on April 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Every now and again you stumble upon a great story; in Nothing Right, you've hit the jackpot. This collection contains great stories, honest characters and ironically dark themes. "DWI" is an honest revelation of secrecy and relief. "Or Else" tells the tale of a nostalgic man who still longs to be part of the loving family in which he found solace from his negligent parents during his childhood. In "Party of One" a divorcee meets with her sister's lover to ease the heartache of the sister who at one time carried on an affair with her own husband.

Nothing Right is an enjoyable well-written collection of short stories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By B. Caruso VINE VOICE on January 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Nothing Right: Short Stories is not light and fluffy fair, it's dark with glimpses of light, hard earned by the reader and the characters. It shows the darkness and the resilience of individuals and the human spirit, without resorting to heroics of chicken soup for the character's soul...Gritty and real...

Antonya Nelson does not hand us full realized characters at the start of the story. She takes us on a perfectly paced journey of character development. The main character, in the title story "Nothing Right" is revealed in tiny little delicious bites, just as soon as you accept and can begin to relate, a little more is revealed to digest... It an interesting dichotomy - the love/hate relationship of the reader with the character and the ability to relate to them and relate to even their darkest moments that makes the short story work. I think Nelson has a brilliant and strong grasp of developing almost a tidal rhythm of character exposition.

It's this balance, and the very real situations these characters find themselves in, that reminds me so much of Raymond Carver. There is a darkness that is given to us by Nelson, but it isn't in the least bit macabre, it is very real and human. It's a pleasure to read short stories with such intensity and characters who breathe and rage and love and hurt themselves right off the page.

Nelson's writing style is a comfortable cadence of action, observations, dialog, and internal monologue that gives the reader the feeling of being a voyeur, a psychologist, a social worker, a friend... It also delivers the quirks and the more negative bits about the character in such perfect doses, that we can see ourselves a bit and accept the characters so that we are really on a journey with them.

(If you like this, I also recommend Raymond Carver's collection "Where I'm calling from"...)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By lazytime on September 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I considered myself a huge fan of Antonya Nelson until this collection. Something has changed. Her latest work reeks of trying too hard to be cool. There's a certain smugness at hand this time around that did not sit well with me either -- is that the author's personal success going to her head or does she just enjoy the sound of her own voice too much? In the past, especially with her collection Female Trouble, I found plenty to relate to with Nelson's characters. This time it felt surfacey, boring, redundant. There was too much about unbelievably wise and snotty children/teens for my taste. And enough with the generic titles already. Nothing Right, whatever.
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