Tuesday, April 19, 2011
A fun list of littles from a famous author
Matt Burgess is batting lead-off in a series of weekly postings written by friends of Micawber's. We've got some authors and agents and sales reps who have agreed to lend their wit and wisdom to us. Matt's first novel "Dogfight, a Love Story" was a MN Book Award finalist. I am also including a wonderful image of him grilling a NY Yankees cap. That's class, folks.
This top five list is born out of longing. I finished Adam Levine's wonderful, 1000-page debut novel, THE INSTRUCTIONS, and then, feeling all cocky, I started, and am now chugging my way through, Henry Fielding's brick-sized TOM JONES. And so I give you five really short novels in a variety of genres.
My favorite really short sci-fi novel: Kurt Vonnegut's SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE. A shattering, impossible novel to describe, but here's one subplot: the main character, a former WWII prisoner-of-war, is kidnapped by an alien race that appears to humans as a toilet plunger with a hand at the top. They put him in a zoo and force him to mate with a porn star.
My favorite really short western novel: Charles Portis's TRUE GRIT. The Coen Bros. movie was really great, but it doesn't have Mattie Ross's hilariously stilted narration with its bitter digressions and inexplicable use of "quotation marks." Typical passage: "Thank God for the Harrison Narcotics Law. Also the Volstead Act. I know Governor Smith is "wet" but that is because of his race and religion and he is not personally accountable for that."
My favorite really short fantasy novel: Muriel Spark's THE BALLAD OF PECKHAM RYE. The Devil (in the form of Douglas Dougal, a.k.a Dougal Douglas) is hired to do human research into the private lives of a blue-collar town in England. It's insane. Someone gets stabbed in the neck with a corkscrew!
My favorite really short espionage novel: John Le Carre's THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. Graham Greene called it the best spy story he ever read. Le Carre, like his once-in-a-lifetime character George Smiley, stays four steps ahead of you the entire time. Oh man, what an ending.
My favorite really short crime novel: Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. This was the hardest pick for me to make because crime fiction is the genre closest to my heart, but TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is so tremendously good and there's someone in your life who hasn't read it yet and you should go to a bookstore (like, say, Micawber's) and buy it and give it to them and wait for them to thank you.
If you want some more of Matt's thoughts here is a link to an interview with Bookslut.