Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review

Sixteen Short NovelsSixteen Short Novels by Wilfrid Sheed

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Death is a personal matter, arousing sorrow, despair, fervor, or dry-hearted philosophy. Funerals, on the other hand, are social functions. Imagine going to a funeral without first polishing the automobile. Imagine standing at a graveside not dressed in your best dark suit and your best black shoes, polished delightfully. Imagine sending flowers to a funeral with no attached card to prove you had done the correct thing. In no social institution is the codified ritual of behavior more rigid than in funerals. Imagine the indignation if the minister altered his sermon or experimented with facial expression. Consider the shock if, at the funeral parlors, any chairs were used but those little folding yellow torture chairs with the hard seats. No, dying, a man may be loved, hated, mourned, missed; but once dead he becomes the chief ornament at a complicated and formal social celebration.” - John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat.

"When there was room on the ledge outside of the pots and boxes for a cat, the cat was there--in sunny weather--stretched at full length, asleep and blissful, with her furry belly to the sun and a paw curved over her nose." - Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson

"He was a fairly humane man towards slaves and other animals; he was an exceedingly humane man toward the erring of his own race." - Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson

"He is useless on top of the ground; he ought to be under it, inspiring the cabbages." - Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

" Possibly, I even regret, myself, that I have given so few slaps in the face during my life." - Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

“Above all, don't believe your friends when they ask you to be sincere with them. They merely hope you will encourage them in the good opinion they have of themselves by providing them with the additional assurance they will find in your promise of sincerity.” - The Fall, Albert Camus

"Now was acutely itself: yesterday and tomorrow became the myths." - John Fowles, The Ebony Tower

This is the first book from my friend Mary I've finished and I loved it. I found I love short novels(20,000 - 30,000 words) in general. Longer than short stories, the author can go into more depth and detail and the reader has more to get ahold of. Being shorter than a full length novel the author is forced to be economical and write a tight story. No detracting filler in a novella. And collections of short novels like this one give the reader a variety of writers to experience between one pair of covers.

This volume offers a wide variety of well respected authors. The editor chose excellent examples of the short novel while avoiding selections over-represented elsewhere. I only out-right disliked one(Fowles' The Ebony Tower) and most of the rest make me want to explore more.

I've avoided Faulkner since high school, too thick, but I found Old Man like a delicious Southern gumbo. Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat is light and fun. Ward No. 6 gives us Chekov at the height of his short story powers before he switched to plays. O'Hara's Andrea gives us an interesting study in point of view. The main character is enjoying his unencumbered life and his long-running affair, but suddenly the ending makes it clear it was very different for her. And I discovered a love for Joseph Conrad and Willa Cather.

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