Jul 31, 2010

A quick note and a question

Remember how the possibility of having an European book bloggers convention was mentioned a while ago? Well, the fabulous Jodie at Book Gazing has taken up the reigns, and she set up a survey to try and find out the time and place that would be most convenient to people. Make sure you fill it out, and if you want to volunteer to help organise things, that would also be very much appreciated.

Also - what are your favourite novellas? This question has nothing to do with the fact that I feel that I haven't been getting any reading done lately (Middlemarch, much as I'm loving it, is partially to blame here) and that things will only get worse as September approaches. Nope. Nothing at all. It's not like I'd try to trick myself into feeling that my reading was productive by reading short books. Never.


  1. My reading has slowed this past week...blaming The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng. I am really enjoying this story, but it is a slow read, beautiful prose that I just take time to read and for some reason have to put it aside often. I guess it happens. September will slow me down as well with school starting back up.

  2. Ah novellas the fast way to feel accomplished ;) I love them and often they're much more focused and sharp than novels - just what you want when you fancy a bit of a jolt in yoru reading.

    I just finished 'Stone in a Landslide' last week (one of those books newly published in translation by Perinne Press) and that was lovely - very quiet book, but very interesting. 'The Bookshop' by Penelope Fitzgerald is one of my favourite novellas, perfect for the persecuted bibliophile. 'The Girls of Slender Means' by Muriel Spark is good, although I think you need to read that one a few times to really get everything she's writing about. It's so easy to read that it flies by, but I always want to revisit it because I sense so much more under the surface that I missed on the first read. And 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' by Joan Lindsay - disturbing for reasons it's hard to explain.

    Finally one that I hesitate to recommend, because it makes me angry and I'm not a fan of the author, but that is very thought provoking is 'Foe' by Jonathan Coe. It's revisionist fiction based on Robinson Crusoe. I think it's an opinion splitter.

  3. I am going in ten different directions, and I am distracted. I'm lucky to read everyone's blogs, let alone READ. Let alone write a REVIEW!

    I think it would be great if you had a book blogging conference for European bloggers. There are so many of you, and would really be a community builder.

  4. Kafka!! :D

    Or, perhaps, The Machine Stops by EM Forster, which is like a really long short story or a small novella. The Old Man and the Sea - very short, like less than 100 pages! Summer by Edith Wharton (not my favorite but you'll probably like it better than me). Enchanted Night by Millhauser (can't remember if you've gotten to that one yet). That's what comes to mind directly...

  5. Well, I for one think this strategy you're *not* employing seems quite sound. ;)

    I've been sitting here wracking my brain, and Ana, (how pathetic is this?!!), but I can't think of a single novella I've read that you haven't. And I'm sure you've already thought of this yourself (but I'm mentioning it anyway because I so love it when you read and introduce me to new comics), but there certainly must be some graphic novels out there that would provide that "accomplishment" feeling that you're *not* looking for, right?

  6. Simon asked about novellas last week, and I provided a bit of a list in my comment: http://savidgereads.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/the-beacon-susan-hill/ (can't figure out how to link to my comment so just scroll down a bit)

    Have you read The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill? If not, that one's just up your alley! I can't remember if I include Colette on the list w/ Simon, but her Claudine books are all quite short and lovely. Twinkle Twinkle by Kaori Ekuni seems a very Ana book (I talked a little about it here). Oh, and Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John: that's short! Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (in fact, a lot of the NYRB classics are on the shorter side so that might be a good resource). The Sorrows of Young Werther is a shorter classic (and as Amanda said, Edith Wharton has some novellas too-which I loved, even if Amanda didn't lol).

    And now I've scrolled through all of my books read this year, and I think I'm out. Maybe I should do a booklist of novellas on my blog!

  7. Shopgirl by Steve Martin.

    I hope you get your reading mojo back!

  8. I think it would be great if you all were able to get together!! My reading took a hit a few weeks ago...so I just went with it!!

  9. oh how awesome it would be to jump the pond and attend an EU book blogger conference!

    In terms of novellas, I haven't read many but Banana Yoshimoto's books are short--I've only read Goodbye Tsugumi and really enjoyed it. Can't remember if you've read her?

  10. Diquiet by Julia Leigh was a great novella. Very disturbing, but wonderful in a weird way.

  11. I like to offset longer books with a pile of novellas; even though I enjoy chunksters I do feel frustrated about how many other books I could have read during the time invested!

    I'll recommend three of my favourites: The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark, Horses by Keith Ridgway and The Visitor by Maeve Brennan.

  12. I like the idea and have said will help if I can. Having said that now I am on the judging board for 'The Green Carnation Prize' and then off to Brazil for a few months am not sure how helpful I might be... eeek.

  13. I'm a short story fan and I use them to break up (energize?) my reading of longer books.

    novellas? have you tried the NYRB by Zwieg titled The Chess Story?


  14. You can always make yourself smile reading a Charles de Lint short story.

  15. I think of myself as loving novellas but looking through my lists I realize I have not actually read many lately—something I should correct! But I would definitely recommend some of the shorter Russian fiction I read earlier in the year, especially The Tales of Belkin by Pushkin and A Hero of Our Time by Lermontov. And I've read several in Melville Houses Art of the Novella and Art of the Contemporary Novella series and have liked them all.

    And in shorter fiction, I really enjoyed the stories in Lydia Millett's collection Love in Infant Monkeys. Bizarre but good.

  16. I don't know about novellas, but when my reading slows down I sometimes switch to young adult fiction (especially dystopian for some reason) and that gets me back into reading.

  17. The European Blogger's Convention sounds wonderful! I will keep an eye for news on that :)

    Novellas - I am thinking and thinking :) Of the ones that I can remember now I would say that I liked Ivan Turgenev's 'First Love' and 'Spring Torrents' (also called 'Torrents of Spring'). Both of them are wonderful! I also loved 'Siddhartha' by Herman Hesse (it is regarded as a novel, but is short enough to be called a novella) and 'A Hero of our Time' By Mikhail Lermontov (again - regarded as a novel, but short enough to be called a novella). I am hoping to read 'The Pigeon' by Patrick Suskind (a novella) soon. I also read a raving review about 'A Single Man' by Christopher Isherwood and I am planning to read that also soon.

    Maybe you can try reading a book of short stories - you can finish one story soon and don't need to worry about finishing the book. Maybe a book of short stories by Alice Munro or Raymond Carver or Somerset Maugham :)

  18. Forgot to mention one more thing. I am planning to start 'Middlemarch' soon - the size of the book is intimidating but I am also looking forward to reading what Eliot says about her times :)

  19. Haha, I love how we trick ourselves sometimes because we're so darn compulsive with our reading we need to feel that accomplishment!

  20. I'd so love to go to the Euro Book blogger convention and meet some of my favorite book bloggers :)

    As for novellas...hmm...Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banarjee is novella length, there's the AMAZING Enchanted Night by Steven Millhauser, The Einstein Intersection by Samuel Delany, Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge, This is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis, At the Firefly Gate by Linda Newbery (did you read this one?), Ooooh...The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy!! Love that one! The Tiger Rising by DiCamillo is good! Ok..that's all I've got...that's enough :p

  21. Ysabeau S. Wilce's novellas are both awesome! "The Lineameants of Gratified Desire" is my favourite. You can read it through Access My Library, but you have to register to view the whole thing. I believe the registration expires after two weeks, too, unless your library subscribes to them.

    I also love PURPLE AND BLACK by K.J. Parker, but you'd have to buy that one so it's rather less accessible.

  22. Hm, novellas. I actually don't read many of them! I really should, because I know there are some great ones just waiting to be read.

  23. I don't believe there are as many novellas published now as there once were. A lot of Henry James' shorter works were really more novella than story (Washington Square, Daisy Miller, etc.). I read Jane Smiley's "The Age of Grief" long ago & loved it--it is what made me a fan of hers. And there's Carson McCullers' "Member of the Wedding" which I've not read, but is probably accessible. Wish I knew more!

  24. Some novellas/short novels that I've enjoyed include Doctor Glas by Hjalmar Soderberg or The Book of Chameleons by José Agualusa.

    And the small Canadian novella Smuggling Donkeys by David Helwig is one of my all time favourites, but I'm not sure it is widely available. :(

  25. I could tell you of course to read the two Peirene novellas: Stone in a Landslide and Beside the Sea. Also, I think I have a list of novellas saved somewhere, but I'd have to look for it. Oh, and Violet reads some wonderful novellas from time to time!

  26. Ooh novellas. I too like Henry James' The Aspern Papers and Washington Square. Then I was chilled by Joyce Carol Oates' Beast, and Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives. And I remember being hugely intrigued by Alan Judd's The Devil's Own Work. But for real novella territory you have to go back to those 19th century Germans - Kleist, Storm (oh Immensee...!) and Keller.

    The EU conference sounds hugely intriguing!

  27. I haven't really read all that many novellas, but one that comes to mind is Cranford. You may have read that one already, and it might be a little long to be considered a novella. I'm just not sure! If you do come across a good selection of them, would you consider posting it? I am always looking for new ideas!

  28. What a great idea, a convention, I'd LOVE to come to such an event! Wow, how exciting!

    Try the Percy Jackson books - not novellas, but they go sooo quickly!

  29. Here's the review page from the November Novella Challenge I hosted last year:


    I'll probably host it again this year, and once more, start it more like, mid-way through October in order to let people use some of what they read for the fall Read-A-Thon and overlap challenges for Halloween with some of the spookier novellas.

  30. Wisteria: Middlemarch is taking me forever too, despite the fact that I'm very much enjoying it. But I feel that I haven't finished a book in ages and it's driving me crazy :P

    Jodie: Thank you so much for all the recommendations! I've been in touch with Perinne Press and promised to give them my new address for a review copy once I move, so I'll wait until then. And now I'm kind of itching to get my hands on The Bookshop and VERY curious about Foe.

    Sandy: Sigh, I know the feeling. Let's just blame it on the summer.

    Amanda: Ooh - I remember waiting to read that E.M. Forster story after Cara Powers review it, but then I forgot about it. Thank you for all the great recommendations! I don't have Enchanted Night yet, but Chris made me want it of course :P

    Debi: The problem with comics is that I'd have to buy them and I'd feel really guilty getting new books before I move - even if I do get them read before then :\ And besides I just might have caved once already and got myself one recently. *cough*

    Eva: Thank you so much for all the recommendations! I have only read one of those, Werther, and I regret to say it's one of the few books I threw across the room in disgust - I hated it THAT much :P Bur the others all sound great!

    Heather: Sadly I wasn't that big a fan of Shopgirl - one of the few cases where I far preferred the film to the book! But thank you anyway, and thank you for the good wishes :D

    Staci: Wouldn't it?

    Trish: If I were rich I'd so pay for your flight :P I do like Yoshimoto and I loved Goodbye Tsugumi, but I haven't read Kitchen yet and that's short too, so thank you for the reminder!

    Amanda: "Disturbing" is the magic word to get me interested :P

    Claire: That's exactly what I feel too! And thank you so much for the recommendations.

    Simon: I hope you'll enjoy your time in Brazil! And thank you so much for offering to help despite being busy. Many of us are on the same boat (able to help a little but not organise the whole thing), but hopefully if we all work together we'll make it happen.

    Cindy: I haven't, but I'm off to look it up!

    Rhinoa: That's actually an excellent idea :D

    Nicola: I've been meaning to read Pushkin for ages, and my recent experience with Chekhov renewed my desire to fill my reading gaps with it comes to the Russians. Thank you for the reminder!

    Alyce: I do love YA, but sadly there isn't much of it left on my tbr pile and I'm not sure what I'd be able to find here :\ (I'm trying not to order any new books until I move.)

  31. Vishy: Do start Middlemarch! I just finished it today myself and I'm in awe - it's an immensely rich, nuance and moving book, and also a lot more readable than I had imagined. Also, thank you so much for your recommendations! The only one I've read is Siddhartha, but it's been so long that I really should read it again. I think I was too young to appreciate it properly at the time. And thank you for reminding me of A Single Man, which has been on my radar lately. Also, short stories are an excellent idea!

    Christina: Trick ourselves? I have no idea what you could POSSIBLY be talking about ;)

    Chris: is At the Firefly Gate the one about a boy who befriends an older lady? I've been DYING to read that ever since you review it! Thank you for the reminder :)

    Memory: Oooh - I could do with some more Wilce. And two weeks should be plenty of time to read them ;)

    Emidy: Quick and great reads - what more could we ask for? :P

    ds: Thank you for reminding me that I've been meaning to read Daisy Miller! And for the other suggestions too, of course. It's true; most novellas do seem to be on the older side. I wonder why that is?

    Melanie: Thank you for the suggestions! I've been meaning to read Agualusa for far too long. And that's a pity about the Helwig one :(

    Iris: I'm saving the Perinne Press titles for after I move, so that they don't have to ship a review copy international to me. But I'm very much looking forward to reading them!

    litlove: You've reminded me that my edition of The Turn of the Screw actually has The Aspern Papers too, and yet I never got around to reading it. Thank you! And thank you for all the other suggestions :)

    Zibilee: Cranford! That's an excellent idea, especially as I want to read a lot more Gaskell this year.

    Joanna: If it does happen, I hope you can make it!

    J.T. Oldfield: Thank you! I remember that last year I didn't sign up for the challenge and then read a bunch of novellas anyway, which was awful of me :P I promise it won't happen again this year!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.