I’ve been posting daily videos for The Short Story Advent Calendar, and enjoying it so much that I made a video for Novellas in November. Check it out:
I read five novellas during the month. Here they are, in very particular order:
- The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrente
- Grandma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret by Ondjaki
- Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
- Blue Skies by Evelyn Lau
- The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
And please do subscribe and like and all that on YouTube, so my children stop making fun of my stats.
Welcome back to the third edition of Novellas in November!
This event is so special to me, I stopped doing all other blog events. This year is super-special, because event creator The Book-A-Week Project is back, and is calling himself The Book-A-Week Project again.
How under appreciated are novellas? Well, how many times have you heard Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire referred to as his (900+ page) debut? Turns out, he wrote a novella back in 2008! No, I am not going to read it, as I already devoted weeks of my life to CoF, but you see: novellas get no respect.
It’s not all bad news. Giller Prize shortlisted Fifteen Dogs qualifies at 171 pages (and it’s freaking awesome,) and there are a couple of short story collections on there too – or baby novellas, as I like to call them.
Novellas are a great way to sample a genre or author you wouldn’t usually read, not to mention they’ll kickstart that Goodreads challenge as we approach year end. Wanna novella with us? See below for inspiration, follow me and #NovNov on Twitter, and let us know what you’re reading.
My 2015 novellas
- Ghosts by Cesar Aira (139 pages) Noted novella connoisseur Michael Hingston recommended this to me. I trust his recommendation so much that I dropped $14 on the ebook, which is a little hard to swallow for the length. It is creepy as hell so far.
- Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas (178 pages) Based on this intriguing review by JacquiWine.
- The Poor Clare by Elizabth Gaskell (60 pages) Because I wanted a super-shorty and because it’s Elizabeth Gaskell.
- The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (96 pages) Is this a novella? I don’t know. But it’s been on my shelf for a year or so.
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (183) Because novellas are short, not easy.
- Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey (119 pages) So I can watch the adaptation.
- Every Day Is For The Thief by Teju Cole(128 pages) Another one that’s been on the shelf far too long.
More novella TBR inspiration
- Check out my Goodreads Novellas in November shelf
- My 2013 novellas
- My 2014 novellas
- The Wandering Bibliophile’s posts from last year’s event
- The Book-A-Week Project’s intro post
You know what I’m missing? CanLit. Where my Canadian novellas at?
I think this novel would have worked better as a Twitter account.
Settle down, that’s not an insult! I love Twitter. I love comedy on Twitter. I love “weird twitter.” I love how well exaggeration works when you’re limited in other ways, say, to 140 characters. This novel is weird and full of exaggerations. It’s funny. But at 150 pages (in the ARC, anyway) it felt a little thin.
There are a couple of reasons I had Twitter in mind while reading this book:
- The author was profiled by University of Windsor and mentions that she’s writing a novel “which will “ravenously consume a variety of forms inherent in web-based composition in an attempt to capture the experience of living and reading in the digital world.” This piqued my interest, because a pet peeve of mine is when contemporary stories either ignore digital communications or create improbably situations to avoid dealing with them.
- Twitter is mentioned a few times in a book, but more generally, Adams plays with different narrative forms, like memoir, stand-up comedy, self-help, and choose-your-own-adventure. Taken together, it’s kind of satirizing what Twitter is today. Think about those “Twitter personality” people, you know, the ones with thousands of followers and dozens of tweets per day. They probably embody those types of writing too.
- You can easily dip in and out of this book, but you’ll want to keep going. It’s kind of like finding a Twitter account that’s all gold, so you go to their page and read all their tweets from the past six months in one sitting.
The story is reminiscent of Ali Bryan’s Roost: a bereaved single mother deals with the ridiculousness of parenthood and eventually gets their shit together. But where Bryan balanced the laughs with many poignant and uncomfortable moments, Adams stays closer to the slapstick side of things. I was left wanting more about the relationships – more about Carrie’s mom, her boyfriend, and her daughter. Not that I minded being in Carrie’s head, I quite enjoyed her cynicism and off-kilter humour, but I wasn’t that invested in her.
If you’re a regular reader here, you know that my genre kryptonite (TM Book Riot) is teen pregnancy. I appreciate stories that reminds us that there are more than three possible outcomes (1. Abortion 2. Adoption 3. Give up your dreams and become a mom.) Carrie’s mother plays a very active role in raising her granddaughter, allowing Carrie to be both a mom and a typical University student all at once. Carrie’s breakdown probably has something to do with Carrie trying to integrate her outward and “teenage mom” selves and failing without the bridge her mom provided.
I had a hard time rating this book. I liked it, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it because I don’t think a traditional novel was the best vehicle for what Adams wanted to say. I got nothing against novellas (I dedicate a whole month to them!) but this book is marketed and priced as a novel, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. I easily read it in a day. The book was featured on TLC blog tours, and the reviews are very interesting – some readers “get it” right away and love it, and some hate it. I’m somewhere in between.
When I say this book could have worked as (or with) a Twitter account, here are some examples of what I mean. Please follow all these women immediately, and give this book a try, too. Let me know what you think.
@MortimusGerbil for the absurdity of parenting:
@officialbuup for the absuridity of working in an office:
@smickable for the absurdity of dating among other things:
Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams is published by NeWest Press, who kindly gave me a copy to review. It’s available now. Check it out on Goodreads.
If you’ve been browsing round the bookish internet lately, you’ve probably heard a lot about what you should be reading in November:
Obviously these bloggers are all wrong. How can November be for anything other than Novellas? Alliteration doesn’t lie.
Last year, I had a blast reading classic and contemporary novellas all month. I even made a video. Maybe this year I’ll do one as a wrap up? It’s unlikely, now that I know what good book videos look like.
Anyway, on to my novellas!
- Tumble Home by Amy Hempel: based on the review here. “Reading it or any of her work is the surest way I know, besides having/watching a baby, to make life separate into moments.” Okay. Let’s see.
- Santa Rosa by Wendy McGrath: local author, local setting, sequel published a week ago, and this month’s #yegbookclub pick. No brainer.
- Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. My favourite novella last year was Bonjour Tristesse. This is another coming of age story set in France, and 19 pages in I’m already predicting 5 stars.
- Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore. For the title, obviously.
- Varamo by Cesar Aira. He seems to be the guy to read if you like novellas.
- Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville. I don’t know what it’s about, but the oft-quoted line “I would prefer not to” really speaks to me.
- Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving: it’s the current read on Classic Alice. I love Classic Alice even though none of these actors appear to be college age, and despite the fact that Alice and Andrew would have humped by episode 3 in real life. It’s like if Felicity was even more repressed. At least Alice doesn’t wear those awful sweaters.
Please comment below with your novellas recommendations, reading plans, or favourite episodes of Classic Alice or Felicity. I’m going to have to think about that one.