From Publishers Weekly
Thought- rather than plot-driven, this debut short fiction collection vacillates between incisive dark humor and meandering jaunts through the jumbled mess of characters' heads. The title story is a precise, painful exposé of a mother-daughter relationship as mother and daughter bounce off each other with all the grace of bumper cars: " 'There. Is. No. Situation. Do-you
-ing?' she said, mouthing her words like she was speaking to a retard or something." The unparalleled bizarreness of life in New York City is a common theme throughout, delineated especially carefully in "Young Professionals," which rapidly runs through agoraphobia, AIDS, armpit-hair eating cats, obsessive-compulsive disorder and the mysteries of androgyny. The sly "Sharks" plays on the irrational fears people love to discover in others, the narrator vowing to "find [my friend's] weakness, I will, and then I'll go for the kill." Strongest and most entertaining is the novella "The Former World Record Holder Settles Down," in which a porn star who's had sex with 197 men tries to reconcile her past with her current life as a happily married, faithful wife. A few stories are overclever and less absorbing, but most are bitingly insightful, summed up by the porn star's belief: "Everyone has a story; anyone's infinitely capable of fucking up without any good reason other than the fact that they're human."
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PRAISE FOR UNKEMPT
"New Yorker Courtney Eldridge creates dark chaotic worlds, then traps the reader inside this space until they have read the last word, thereby becoming her collaborator . . . Eldridge's [obsessions] are bloody, naked and screaming. It's hard not to look."
-SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"[A] skewed, jittery, dazzlingly original collection . . . Neurosis is to Eldridge's stories what suburbia was to Cheever's: it's at once context, antagonist and metasubject. Her brilliant trick is to write in a voice so colloquially familiar that we don't automatically classify these crazy people as 'the other' but rather recognize them as our friends, our family members or even ourselves." -THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW