Saturday, April 11, 2009

John Madera
recently asked me to contribute a list of my top ten novellas for a compendium he was creating. This is what I sent him:

I always have a hard time determining what constitutes a novella. For this I decided to define it as a short book. So, here are ten short books I would highly recommend (in no particular order):

My Untimely Death, by Adam Peterson

The Hour of the Star, by Clarice Lispector

Ray, by Barry Hannah

Light Boxes, by Shane Jones

Tender Buttons, by Gertrude Stein

Motorman, by David Ohle

The Bathroom, by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan

The Ballad of the Sad Café, by Carson McCullers

EVER, by Blake Butler

The entire thing is now up at his spot, and includes the following:

"In his introduction to Different Seasons, Stephen King also called the novella “an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic.” In an effort to expand the dialogue, clarify, and even muddy the waters further regarding this renegade, this outlaw called the “novella,” I contacted over sixty writers and editors and asked them to list and comment on their favorite novellas. Below you’ll find J.R. Angelella’s heartbreakers, soul dissectors, and sentence pugilists, Nick Antosca’s border-crossing list, Ken Baumann’s fractured dioramas, Matt Bell’s beautiful strange selections, Crispin Best’s lots of things happening in little places lot, Daniel Borzutzky’s “only works translated into English” list, K. Kvashay-Boyle’s heartstruck aweswellings, Blake Butler’s expectedly unexpected, Tobias Carroll’s Moody mood piece, Jimmy Chen’s trinity, Jackie Corley’s knife’s edge list, Matt DeBenedictis’s five is alive list, Nicolle Elizabeth’s fire ants, Scott Esposito’s primarily Latin-American tour, Brian Evenson’s obsessive confessionals, Brandon Scott Gorrell’s favorite novella, Amelia Gray’s time machine, Jim Hanas’s trip West, John Haskell’s “random and scattershot” list, Jamie Iredell’s reverse-chronological personal survey, Jac Jemc’s soul-crushers and mindbenders, Shane Jones’s “lucky eight,” Sean Kilpatrick’s unhinged list, Lee Klein’s humans being human more or less list, Catherine Lacey’s meditation involving “the bottled embodiment of an economy at its most opulent,” Reb Livingston’s list to reread, Sean Lovelace’s screw-ups, Lorette C. Luzajic’s bridge and tumble crowd, Josh Maday’s unbearable heaviness of being list, Carole Maso’s fractured sprawl, Ben Myers’s mad bastards and quiet recluses, Ben Pester’s curatives, Cooper Renner’s perfections, Adam Robinson’s brainy bramble, Bradley Sands’s bizarro fiction-heavy list, Tim Russell’s grisly and sexy list, Christine Schutt’s one, Matthew Simmons’s pretty accretions and misdirections, Joe Stracci’s pillars, Justin Taylor’s eros erosions, William Walsh’s top twenty!, Kevin Wilson’s list that, if you took out the references, could be read as a recombinant short story, John Dermot Woods’s books that live inside him, and Leni Zumas’s weird and worried wonders. Paul Kincaid and Clayton Moore redress two genre gaps by offering, respectively, science fiction and mystery lists. And you’ll also find lists from Steve Almond, Timothy Gager, Molly Gaudry, Renee Gladman (her introductory paragraph is an incisive mini-primer of the contemporary novella), Christopher Higgs, Lily Hoang, Michael Joyce, Michael Kimball, Gary Lutz, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Michael Martone, Kimberly King Parsons, Kathryn Regina, Peter Selgin, and David Shields."