Elle Nash is the author of the debut, pocket-sized, short story collection Nudes (2021) and the novel Animals Eat Each Other (2017). There is something authentic and honest and compelling about her prose. Her own writing philosophy is “that a) good writing has a feel to it and b) its imperative to create a space that feels safe, within the self or workshop, for the writer to unfurl their most vulnerable, heartbreaking work” which resonates with other emerging writers or readers that they can be vulnerable and graphic and uncensored. Her short story collection Nudes experiments with structure and voice and characterization as she employs hybridity of literary realism and psychological horror to explore the lives and dynamics of her complex characters.
From the moment the reader first examines the Table of Contents, they’ll find that Nash has sectioned the stories into various categories. The categorical organization uses evocative titles and even mimics options in a porn database: fluffers, yuri, pukkaki, moneyshot, POV, snuff. The first short story “Ideation” becomes the poetically placed introduction to the collection. The reader can envision the whole of the collection coming alive as Nash composes the first line: “It began when she moved in below their apartment…” (3). That story also concludes with the old- age philosophical debate about mortality: “Death was a reminder that choice was a luxury” (11). The second section “Yuri” begins with the story “Cat World” which plays with structure as the narrative delves into the internet space. Often the characters are communicating via instant messages rather than traditional dialogue. The reader is reminded of “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian. The last Instant Message conversation includes the following example of gas- lighting reminiscent of 21st century toxic online culture:
Exxonmobil6: will you ever send a pic?
dErAnGeDkItTy69: parents home. g2g. sorry.
Exxonmobil6: i thought your parents were on vacation?
dErAnGeDkItTy69: \(-_-)~ i know I said that…
Exxonmobil6: don’t talk to me again until you send me one.
Exxonmobil6 has logged off.
The third section “Pukkaki” begins with “Define Hungry”, and it becomes evident why the content in these stories are shrouded in the realm of defecation or expulsion. “In the past year alone, I’ve thrown up at least five thousand dollars’ worth of food. Body by bulimia” (119). Nash includes a prose poem “We Are Sharp Edges Bumping Against Each Other” that discusses body image, borderline depression disorder, and eating disorders. The repetition of what the body is and should be follows: “The body, like most things, is amoral. The body, like most things, is a tool. The body’s morality depends on its user. The body’s morality is determined by the types and amounts of consumption it participates in” (148). Nash engages in conversations of body and control and desire and disorder within this section.
The fourth section “Moneyshot” begins with a flash fiction piece “Off Screen I Ache” which is
poignant and memorable in its brevity. The tale of deterioration and decay of oneself. “Survivalist” invites Elizabeth Ellen, deputy editor of Hobart, founder of Short Flight/Long Drive Books (SF/LD) into this piece. In “I Live In A World Where Men with Money Want to Take Away My Wife” Nash uses the most experimental of structure as she plays with line breaks and enjambment and prose. The reader can imagine a conversation between E. and B. One of intimacy and desire and longing:
you can see the hunger in my eyes.
The fifth section “POV” opens with “Summer Thighs” that begins “I wanted to fuck god or I wanted to fuck something else that wanted me on my knees” (191). The personalization and vulnerability are apparent in the intimate nature of first person point-of-view, making it striking and memorable. The sixth and final section “Snuff” opens with Deathwish 006: “There are ways of being broken that feel like a kind of death” (220). It concludes with a piece “Room Service” that once again plays with repetition of “the man on the screen” and follows until his final moments. This time, the reader plays voyeur as we view the most private moments, and it’s an intense note to leave off on, as we reckon with our own roles in Nash’s visceral stories.
Madison Brown is an MFA Creative Writing candidate at the University of Central Florida. She has worked as an Editorial Assistant for Braddock Avenue Books since 2017. As a Queer woman, her writing often dramatizes conflicts related to women’s sexuality, mental illness, and the body.