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The Three Button Trick and Other Stories Paperback – January 9, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The British author of three novels (Wide Open, etc.) and two collections of short stories (Heading Inland [1983] 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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Three Button Trick is a stunning assortment of storiesAoriginal, witty, and peculiarAfrom two award-winning collections, Love Your Enemies and Heading Inland. Barker takes everyday events and ordinary people and fashions them into the extraordinary, bizarre, and dynamic. In "Inside Information," Martha, a pregnant shoplifter, takes advantage of her pregnancy to benefit her kleptomania. Her fetus, a thinking and speaking character, loathes Martha and retaliates, and she becomes forever a criminal. In "Dual Balls," Joanna dares her conservative schoolteacher friend Selina to wear a sexual instrument under her clothing in the classroom. Selina is able to squeak by the suspicions of school officials because of her innocent reputation. Barker's wit and creativity are definitely out of the ordinary and will be highly appealing to some, though they may be an acquired taste.AJudith Ann Akalaitis, Supreme Court of Illinois Lib., Chicago
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco Press (January 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060933747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060933746
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,646,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Hrbek (dhrbek@hotmail.com) on November 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the funniest, insightful collection of short stories I have ever read. The author's keen observations on the darker side of human nature made me cringe when I recognized myself as well as roll over laughing when I recognized my neighbors! Her attention to detail is second to none. I'm on the lookout for other books by this writer, but in the meantime I'll be passing this one along to my friends for Christmas.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By stefanie old on March 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
belonging on the bookshelf near will self and aimee bender, this collection is absolutely brilliant.
nicola barker is an empress of originality, seamlessly combining in her characters, dialogue and plots, the real and surreal, possible and impossible, humourous and pathetic. she captures so many aspects of humanity in her stories, and, in almost all of them, will have you falling off your chair.
read this book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By meeah on March 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Hi Nicola

How are you? Doing well, I hope. I just finished reading your book The Three Button Trick and Other Stories and it put me in mind to drop you a line. I finished it, cover to cover, in two days. I know the collection isn't long, but I'm not a fast-reader either! So, to read that quickly, I have to be fairly engaged. Well, as it turned out, I also had a lot of time to read yesterday. The hubby and his mates popped down to Atlantic City to see a vintage car show and auction. I don't know why I'm talking in English slang as I'm not English. Probably an after-effect of reading your stories! Anyway, I was alone most of the day so I had plenty of time on my hands.

Well, the weather was fairly awful, nothing like what the forecasters had promised: it was grey and cold as the bottom of a frying pan stashed in an unheated hall pantry. The long pleasant walk in the sun I was so looking forward to taking--that was out. I spent most of the morning in the warm kitchen baking a coconut custard pie for the hubby (his request). It was my first attempt at the coconut custard. Shall I give you the recipe? Let me know. For now, though, here's the key: use coconut milk. You'd think that was a no-brainer but most recipes I've seen tell you to use plain milk.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, between doing a little writing and vacuuming and attending to some intimate matters of personal hygiene the details of which I'll spare you, I had plenty of time to finish The Three Button Trick and Other Stories. Let me say straight off (well, I'm not quite saying it "straight off,"am I?) that I enjoyed it. Also, I understand how hard it must be to have to defend work that you did twenty years ago. Good grief! I wouldn't line a cat bin with stuff I wrote two decades ago!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "mongoose3281" on December 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am one for truly bizarre stories, so when I read the reviews for this book I just had to order it. However, upon reading it I was more disappointed than delighted. I felt like the author was trying too hard to be deep and profound. Often times the story would abruptly end and I would be left wondering if there was symbolic or poetic value in it ending where it did, or whether the author just got tired of writing and so ended the story. However, unwilling to leave this book without having given it every chance to redeem itself (or rather, the author, not the book) I read until the very end. I suppose I found in the last story "Parker Swells" some remnants of a decent story and so the book is the better for this story. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone and hope that those who do choose to read it are not as disappointed as I was.
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