IN 1965, Andy Warhol began recording his conversations with Robert Olivo, better known as the actor Ondine, as well as Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, and a whole roster of other regulars at the Factory, the studio Warhol kept in New York City. The artist had decided to write a novel, a contemporary riposte to James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), and planned to make the recordings his text. Over a few different sittings, roughly 24 hours of material was gathered, and in the fall of 1968, two high schoolers were hired to transcribe the material. Though their names were excluded from the cover and copyright page, Warhol did mention “two little high school girls” who worked at the Factory, “transcribing down to the last stutter” in Popism: The Warhol Sixties , his 1980 memoir. In 1968, a: A Novel was published with all the spelling errors and mistakes that they had made. This is the setting for Nicole Flattery's debut novel Nothing Special (2023), the title of which is also Warholian, the proposed name of a proto-reality, hidden-camera television show that the artist dreamed up but never made. Flattery's Nothing Special opens, however, much, much later—in 2010, when Warhol has been dead for more than two decades and Mae, now a former New Yorker living in an unnamed town, is visiting her dying mother in the nursing home where she lives. Then the timeline switches, and it is 40 years in the past. Mae is a 17-year-old, with an alcoholic mom and no father, who mostly has been muddling her way through life. In the way that only makes sense to a high schooler, she suddenly finds herself ostracized by her peers, a demotion that she accepts in stride. “I wanted to have a very profound experience,” she says, a very teenage thought. She begins to spend afternoons riding department store escalators, enjoying the serenity of the shops, the “comfortable” women, the performance of being seen. “Every day that week, I smoothed down my t-shirt and brushed my hair in the bathroom before I stepped on the escalators,” she recounts. “I […]
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