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Posts Tagged ‘Alexander McCall Smith’

So, we are now 10 days in to the Novellas in November challenge (#NovNov on Twitter) and I’ve been having a smashing time. I’ve surprised myself by finishing 5 novellas already, three new reads and two rereads: Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith, Light Boxes by Shane Jones, Ticknor by Sheila Heti, All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman, and Train Dreams by Denis Johnson.

I started Ticknor first, but was reading it before bed when I was able to focus more on the narrative and the language, so I actually finished Portuguese Irregular Verbs first because it was a commute read (and had the advantage of being absurd and amusing, which was a good kick-off to the entire endeavour), and finished Light Boxes second (which read very quickly, in part due to the fragmented nature of the narrative). I enjoyed the internal dialogue that Ticknor has with himself (the voice that constructs a narrative in his head and the voice that reveals the inaccuracies in that constructed narrative even as it is being shaped). Portuguese Irregular Verbs was a funny take on the pomposity of academia, and I may continue reading the other novellas in this trilogy (whether I will tackle them this month is unknown). Light Boxes is surreal and strange and basically a vision of my future because up here in the frozen north the idea of an endless February hits a little too close to home. I found the imagery in Light Boxes to be remarkable, almost cinematic at times, and now I can’t wait to read his new book, Crystal Eaters. All My Friends Are Superheroes was a single sitting read one evening, and it was an absolute joy to revisit (having originally read it in 2003) because it is funny and quirky and moving all at once (and of course, it left me pondering what my own superpower might be…). Train Dreams blew me away again (having originally read it in 2012), and I remain stunned that the Pulitzer Prize jury in 2012 did not award the prize to Johnson. This novella is an incredibly tight narrative of one man’s experiences in the northwest U.S. from the late 19th C. to mid-20th C. It is a profoundly moving story that encompasses a wide range of issues from masculinity and racism in America to settlement and the notion of progress.

I’ve really appreciated the sense of accomplishment that comes from being able to finish a book in a couple of short sittings without worrying about getting too far behind on my day-to-day work. From the mid-point of the semester, guilt usually prevents me from picking up anything lengthy, and then I languish without narrative meat to feed on. However, these novellas have satisfied my appetite for stories with humour and emotional heft, without the unrealistic commitment of hours at this busy time. I think everyone should pick up more novellas to have on hand for just such circumstances.

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