TELLURIDE – Longtime part-time Telluride resident Antonya Nelson will sign copies of her eleventh book, Funny Once: Stories, Wednesday, Aug. 20, at Arroyo, at 7 p.m.
If some of the stories ring familiar, Nelson says, that’s quite possibly because “I think everything except the novella” has run in the New Yorker or Harper’s, in recent years.
The collection’s novella – titled Three Wishes, is set in Nelson’s native Wichita, Kan., chronicling new chapters in the life of the three surviving members of the Panik family (Hannah, the oldest sibling, debuted as a character in the title story of Nelson’s story collection, Nothing Right.
Nelson’s work has been dubbed “rewarding” by a New York Times reviewer, who went on to praise Nelson for wrapping “her tart, surprising sentences around a slew of trends and shibboleths: motherhood, New Mexico, the healing power of memoir, the national obsession with sex scandals. The effect is like watching someone take an old rug and beat the hell out of it,” that reviewer concluded: “When the dust settles, the air seems clearer.”
Nelson continues to clear the air with trenchant observations. In the opening story, “Literally,” she writes, of a maid’s first day on the job: “She had retrieved from their trash the unopened yet expired boxes and cans of food that his wife had thrown away in preparation for the housekeeper.” She later observes the apartment the maid occupies, with her troubled young son and variously visiting members of a large and far-flung Mexican family: “Like much of Houston, this habitat had had its brief heyday, maybe fifty years before; it had been a fashionable singles’ complex, built well enough to survive only its first set of tenants intact.”
Nelson, the author of four novels and seven short story collections, holds the Cullen Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Houston, where she lives for part of the year.