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Novella Challenge

March 7, 2008

[Ed. note: I was going to wait to post this until closer to the start date, but I’m having a family movie night, so no time to write an acNovella Challengetual post.  Anyway, this way hopefully more of you will sign up!] Trish (of Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?) is hosting her very first challenge, and it’s a good one. The idea is to read six novellas (defined as between 100 and 250 pages) between April and September. I’ve never been much of one for novellas (I’ve had particularly bad experiences with Henry James-Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw-and Thomas Mann-A Death in Venice), but that’s all the more reason to give them an extra try. Plus, when I looked at her list more closely, I realised that there were several I really liked: The Old Man and the Sea (I was the only seventh-grader who enjoyed this one), Mrs. Dalloway, The Stranger (I read it in French, which of course made it extra cool, lol), The House on Mango Street, Stardust. While I was surprised to see some of these on the list (250 pages seems awfully long for a novella-I tend to think of anything over 200 as a novel, but apparently I’m wrong!), it certainly inspired me. The goal is to pick six novellas to read between April and September; that’s one a month, and as these are all shorter, I feel I can fit them in. I already had the first two on the list, and for the other four my rule was that the library had to have them. Since it’s difficult to browse in my library catalog, that meant I used Trish’s handydandy list and checked which ones my library had. Here’s what I came up with (BTW, did anyone else have to Google whether to use quotes or italics for novella titles? Or am I just too nerdy for words?):
“Gigi and the Cat” by Collette (I finally mooched this one last month: it’s been on my wishlist forever. I’ve heard great things about Collette, and Audrey Hepburn played Gigi in the stage version, so I wanted to start there.)
“Oroonoko” by Aphra Behn (Part of my ongoing attempt to read more classics. I first heard of this on Dorothy’s blog, and I’ve been wanting to read it ever since. What a great reason to finally mooch it!)
“The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” by Carson McCuller (I love Southern fiction, and I have no excuse for not having reading anything by McCuller earlier. I’m so glad my library has this one.)
“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad (This is one of those classics I’ve always put off, because I was told that weird Vietnam movie with a Marlan Brando cameo-Apocolypse Now-was based on it. But sometimes we have to push ourselves, and the library had it.)
Collected Novellas: “Leaf Storm”, “No One Writes to the Colonel”, “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I really like Marquez, and I was so happy to see the library has not one but three of his novellas! I’ll read at least one of them.)
“The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett (I’ve been a bit hesitant about this one, despite the reviews, but then I foudn out from Ted that Bennett also wrote the play “History Boys,” which I really liked. So since my library has it, I’m happy to give it a shot!)
Finally, as an alternative in case something happens, “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells thanks to Debi’s great review of it. My library has it, and I feel like it’d be good to read a sci-fi classic.

And in case you want to join in the fun, but aren’t sure what to pick, here’re some books that I’ve loved that come in under the 250 page limit, linked to my reviews where possible!
“Embers” by Sandor Marai (A lyric Hungarian story)
“Khufu’s Wisdom” by Naguib Mahfouz (By the Nobel prize winning Egyptian author, set in Ancient Egypt)
“Looking for Alaska” by John Green (Printz-winning YA coming-of-age story set in a Southern boarding school)
“Birchwood” by John Banville (Set on an Anglo-Irish estate, combines a touch of magical realism with a bit of stream-of-consciousness to tell a story of old family secrets)
“Jia” by Hyejin Kim (Written by a South Korean woman who’s worked with North Korean refugees, this novel is her description of the life of an average North Korean)
“Gossamer” by Lois Lowry (A charming story for the child in all of us about the little beings that bring us dreams)
“Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast” by Bill Richardson (By a popular Canadian radio broadcaster, a mixed-genre book centered around an out of the book B&B for book lovers)
“The Kitchen Boy” by Robert Alexander (Historical fiction about the last days of the Romanov family)
“The Children of Green Knowe” by L.M. Boston (A charming story for the child in all of us full of well-meaning ghosts and a mysterious old estate)
“The Small Room” by May Sarton (About a brand-new college professor’s experience on a small New England liberal arts college)
“A Morbid Taste for Bones” by Ellis Peters (The first of a mystery series set in Medevial England with the Welsh monk-sleuth Brother Caedfel)
“Mariette in Ecstasy” by Ron Hansen (Set in a convent in early twentieth century upstate New York, it centers around whether a young noviate is experiencing stigmata or making it up)
“Coraline” by Neil Gaiman (A scary story for the child in all of us)

That should be enough for anyone to get excited about the challenge!!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2008 10:34 am

    This one sounds so cool…I have a whole bunch of novellas sitting on my TBR shelf, so I think I may do this one even though i said no more challenges. And I’ve been wanting to read The Kitchen Boy ever since your review. Hmmmmm….

  2. March 8, 2008 3:05 pm

    Thanks for posting the suggested list of books. I’m a fan of Naguib Mahfouz and John Banville but have read neither of the books mentioned. That would be a good start. I also snatch a book called End of the Alphabet and that would fit in the novella requirement. This challenge is something to look forward to in April :)

    Have a great weekend.

  3. March 8, 2008 10:18 pm

    Chris, you know you want to-look at all those ellipses! ;)

    Matt, have a great weekend as well. :) You and I have a lot of the same favourite authors!!

  4. March 9, 2008 1:12 pm

    I’ve been going through my shelves of unread books to see if I have any so I can join in :)

  5. March 9, 2008 8:33 pm

    Oh yeah and you enjoyed The Master and Margarita eh?! :)

  6. March 10, 2008 12:56 pm

    This is a very cool challenge. I’ll definitely be signing on for it. Thanks for spreading the word.

  7. March 11, 2008 6:27 am

    How fun–novellas are great. I’m listening to Coraline right now (Neil Gaiman is even reading it) and it’s excellent!

  8. March 12, 2008 3:00 pm

    This is a great idea for a challenge. I’ll follow it closely.

  9. March 13, 2008 4:55 am

    Iliana, awesome!

    Matt, I did. See? We’re book soul mates! lol

    Kate S, I’m glad you’re signing up.

    Danielle, ohhh-I wish I got to listen to Gaiman reading Gaiman. I do have Anasis Boys on CD and while it’s not read by him, it’s awesome.

    LK, great-I hope you sign up. :)

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