Some people write about wizards or space robots or sexually repressed vampires. Others choose to write about average people. Antonya Nelson is one of those authors who, instead of reaching for the fantastic, opts to profile the ordinary. That's not to say her stories are hollow, though. In his review of her 2009 short-story collection Nothing Right, Adam Kirsch of The New York Times called Nelson “a writer who isn't afraid to remind us of the familiar, who values insight over epiphany.”
Therein lies the beauty of Nelson's style — the morals and moments reserved for fantasy heroes are instead soaked in normalcy, yet are no less able to resonate with readers. Not everyone is on the Nelson train, however. She made a Huffington Post list of “The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers,” which criticized her use of dysfunctional characters.
In any case, Nelson has publications like The New Yorker singing her praises, and with all the guest lecturing and publishing she does, it sounds like dysfunction functions quite well for readers.
Antonya Nelson reads tonight at 7:30 pm in Gonzaga University's Cataldo Hall (502 E. Boone Ave.). The event is free to the public. Visit gonzaga.edu or call 313-6681 for more information.