Review by Frank Plowright
Carolyn Nowak’s stories are instantly engaging, mixing the ordinary world with fantasy lives, some almost skewed animation pitches, and constantly teetering on the edge of absurdity. They’re about bonding, about freedom, about isolation and about self-discovery, but connected by a good nature and an observational sense of humour. Nowak hones in on the little things, the embarrassments, the hesitation, the small recollections oozing meaning, and creates scenarios where you can cuddle up with a tiger on the couch or if you lose your tongue, there’s a robot replacement readily available. The only limits are Nowak’s imagination, so no limit at all really, and there’s a very likeable individuality. No-one but Nowak would take her path when considering the core of these stories. What could a lifelike sex robot be used for if the sex option was discounted?
It’s the sex robot story, actually ‘Diana’s Electric Tongue’ that’s the longest of five pieces, unfolding sensitively from what might under other hands have been a crass beginning. We learn about Diana’s life piecemeal, putting together small snippets to construct almost a whole, while Nowak keeps throwing in great concepts as asides. Wouldn’t life be improved if onions were genetically modified to make you laugh instead of cry? You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be captivated by Diana and her regrets.
Nowak’s imagination extends to her art and storytelling. She has a loose cartoon style, but modifies this for each story, some being more realistic than others, but every approach having detail applied with a flourish. The most audacious is ‘The Big Burning House’, a collaged construction involving social media, video stills from a lost film, and the voiceover of two vloggers as they discuss their good fortune.
Always thoughtful, conceptually interesting and often funny, Girl Town makes you salivate about what more Nowak has to offer.