Antonya Nelson's 'Funny Once' Is Funny Lots
The stories in Antonya Nelson's collection Funny Once are clear-eyed, hard-edged, beautifully formed. In the title story, "Funny Once," a couple held together by bad behavior fall into a lie with their more responsible friends. In "The Village," a woman visits her father at a nursing home, recalling his equanimity at her teenage misdeeds and gaining a new understanding of his own past indiscretions. In another, when a troubled girl in the neighborhood goes missing, a mother worries increasingly about her teenage son's relationship with a bad-news girlfriend. In the novella "Three Wishes," siblings muddle through in the aftermath of their elder brother's too-early departure from the world.
The landscape of this book is the wide open spaces of Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Throughout, there is the pervasive desire to drink to forget, to have sex with the wrong people, to hit the road and figure out later where to stop for the night. These characters are aging, regretting actions both taken and not, inhabiting their extended adolescences as best they can. And in Funny Once, their flawed humanity is made beautiful, perfectly observed by one of America's best short story writers.
Antonya Nelson is the author of seven short story collections and four novels. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program. Her awards include the Rea Award for Short Fiction, Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, and an American Artists Award. She lives in Telluride, Colorado, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Houston, Texas.