“Our purest state is at our most humiliated”
Hugo House finance & evaluation manager Richard Chiem discusses the work of the daring writer Alissa Nutting, who will read new work at next Friday’s Hugo Literary Series.
When I was feeling a need to be strange, I knew I was looking for fiction that was unafraid, unembarrassed, and damn near relentless in its own established style. After reading so many of the same, safe kind of book, I was looking for something that glowed in its own skin. No apologies. Then Ben Marcus chose his winner for the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction: Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting, and I was immediately intrigued then hooked forever. I found the weird and wonderful world of Alissa Nutting. Sentence by sentence, Nutting in her eighteen stories shows us that her narratives co-exist as both perverted and beautiful, as both raw and delicately crafted. The body is what we are looking at, and Alissa wants us to feel all the shame, confidence, and confusion that come with it. To quote my friend Lorian Long, who shares my love for Alissa’s work, “Our purest state is at our most humiliated,” and Nutting takes us there all day.
I do believe there is a small club of contemporary writers who turn risky writing into exceptional, high art. They often go places so dark or disturbing yet laced with such genius of craft that the writing achieves a new kind of intimacy between the writer and the reader, and it’s the reader who benefits and transcends. It’s the reader who hums with clarity. Writers today who push the mold to gold: Dennis Cooper, Brian Evenson, Kelly Link, Ben Marcus, and now, among others, I would include Alissa Nutting in that very ambitious and select group. No fear.
“Get Excited” is a blog series featuring Hugo House staff, interns, and volunteers talking about the upcoming visiting writers they’re most looking forward to seeing.