The Center for Fiction came together to celebrate Nicole Flattery’s highly anticipated, brilliant debut novel, Nothing Special. Set in the electric atmosphere of New York City in the 1960s, Nothing Special is a subversive story about Mae and Shelley, teenagers navigating the complex world of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Tasked with transcribing conversations between Warhol and his enigmatic entourage for his novella obscura, Mae’s obsessive voyeurism at the frontlines of the ’60s countercultural movement numbs her to her own reality. Flattery was joined by novelist, short-story writer, and cultural critic Lynne Tillman (Men and Apparitions) for a ventilation of this whip-smart coming-of-age story that brings to life the timeless, tender, and mordantly funny experience of young women carving out their identity during this iconic moment in history.
By Nicole Flattery
Published by Bloomsbury
New York City, 1966. Seventeen-year-old Mae lives in a rundown apartment with her alcoholic mother and her mother’s sometimes-boyfriend, Mikey. She is turned off by the petty girls at her high school, and the sleazy men she typically meets. When she drops out, she is presented with a job offer that will remake her world entirely: she is hired as a typist for the artist Andy Warhol.
Warhol is composing an unconventional novel by recording the conversations and experiences of his many famous and alluring friends. Tasked with transcribing these tapes alongside several other girls, Mae quickly befriends Shelley and the two of them embark on a surreal adventure at the fringes of the countercultural movement. Going to parties together, exploring their womanhood and sexuality, this should be the most enlivening experience of Mae’s life. But as she grows increasingly obsessed with the tapes and numb to her own reality, Mae must grapple with the thin line between art and voyeurism and determine how she can remain her own person as the tide of the sixties sweeps over her.
For readers of Ottessa Moshfegh and Mary Gaitskill, this blistering, mordantly funny debut novel brilliantly interrogates the nature of friendship and independence and the construction of art and identity. Nothing Special is a whip-smart coming-of-age story that brings to life the experience of young girls in this iconic and turbulent American moment.
Nicole Flattery is the winner of the An Post Irish Award, Kate O’Brien Award, the London Magazine Prize for Debut Fiction, and the White Review Short Story Prize, among other accolades. Her work has appeared in the Stinging Fly, the Guardian, the White Review, and the London Review of Books. A graduate of the master’s program in creative writing at Trinity College, Dublin, she lives in Galway, Ireland.
Photo Credit: Conor Horgan
Lynne Tillman is a novelist, short story writer, and cultural critic based in New York. Her book-length autobiographical essay Mothercare, about caring for her ailing mother for 11 years, was published in August 2022. Her most recent novel Men and Apparitions was published in 2018 by Soft Skull Press and a new edition of her 2006 novel, American Genius, A Comedy was published by Soft Skull Press in 2019. Her novella Weird Fucks has been reissued by Peninsula Press (2021, UK). A short story “The Dead Live Longer” appeared in N+1 in 2019, as well as “The Small Act of Leaving the House” in Lithub in 2020. Tillman writes regularly on art and culture in museum catalogs, artists books, and journals, such as Aperture and Frieze.