Novels, short and sweet

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For a while I was having a hard time getting through just about any book I started, and I think I finally diagnosed the cause: the books I was trying were just too damn long. Something about short novels is working particularly well for me at the moment (I'm nearly done with Nabokov's Pnin), and I'm looking for a bunch of new ones. So, what great short novels (200 or so pages) are out there?

I'll start with Amis's Lucky Jim

David Elinsky (David Elinsky), Friday, 18 June 2004 18:22 (eighteen years ago) link

Bruce Chatwin - "Utz"
Michel Houellebecq - "Whatever" (or the extension of the battlefield)
Witold Gombriwicz - "Pornografia"
Conrad - "Heart of Darkness"
... more later

jed_ (jed), Friday, 18 June 2004 18:53 (eighteen years ago) link

the books i LOVE tend to be very long or very short.

jed_ (jed), Friday, 18 June 2004 18:53 (eighteen years ago) link

'Who will run the Frog Hospital' - Lorrie Moore
'Forty-Seventeen' - Frank Moorehouse
'By Grand Central Station...' - Elizabeth Smart
'The Great Gatsby' - FS Fitzgerald
'The Dead Father' - Donald Barthelme
'The Crying of Lot 49' - Thomas Pynchon
'Pierrot, Mon Ami' - Raymond Queneau
'Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age' - Bohumil Hrabal
'Magnetic Fields' - Ron Loewinsohn

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Friday, 18 June 2004 19:08 (eighteen years ago) link

Tim O'Brien - Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried

miloauckerman (miloauckerman), Friday, 18 June 2004 20:19 (eighteen years ago) link

The Pigeon by Patrick Suskind is very short and very good, though it could be hard to find, as it's out of print. Check your local used book store.

St. Nicholas Ridiculous (Nick A.), Friday, 18 June 2004 20:26 (eighteen years ago) link

strange that it is out of print - whatever happened to Suskind anyway?

jed_ (jed), Friday, 18 June 2004 21:43 (eighteen years ago) link

Is Suskind the author of Perfume? I've seen a handsome newish edition recently; I remember lovingthe book.

David Elinsky (David Elinsky), Friday, 18 June 2004 22:40 (eighteen years ago) link

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft. An epic in short form.

PVC (peeveecee), Saturday, 19 June 2004 03:10 (eighteen years ago) link

J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians. Just 150 pages or so. Nerve-rattling, in that kind of ascetic Coetzee way.

spittle (spittle), Saturday, 19 June 2004 04:12 (eighteen years ago) link

I hate novels that are long and full of "padding". When there is no progression, I get disheartened. The book should be as long as it needs to be, no longer.

Older novels tend to be shorter (recent writers appear to confuse quantity and quality). A lot of the English Victorian writers wrote short novels: Brontë, Dickens, Gaskill, Elliot, etc. Quite a bit of Modernist writing is concise: Hamsun, Woolf, Faulkner, Lawrence, James, Nabokov, etc. The angry young men, too, wrote while their hackles were up, which apparently didn't last long: Kingsley Amis, Braine, John Wain, etc.

Otherwise, go for the more recent "genre fiction" - pulp, thrillers, sf, crime, horror, and the like. A lot of this stuff is better than that produced by the self-professed "literary" novelists, who haunt the cafés of New York.

SRH (Skrik), Saturday, 19 June 2004 08:17 (eighteen years ago) link

"Tim O'Brien - Going After Cacciato"
It's a great novel, maybe the best Vietnam book, but here's a minor quibble: it ain't short. My paperback copy runs 392 pages.

"the self-professed "literary" novelists, who haunt the cafés of New York."
They're the ones w/laptops in Starbucks?

lovebug starski, Saturday, 19 June 2004 12:57 (eighteen years ago) link

Just read "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea" by Yukio Mishima over the weekend. Very short, creepy and sad. A decent introduction to the author's overall aesthetic for those who are curious.

theodore fogelsanger, Sunday, 20 June 2004 20:25 (eighteen years ago) link

"Anthropology" by Dan Rhodes

Jessa (Jessa), Sunday, 20 June 2004 20:44 (eighteen years ago) link

Anthropology is brilliant.

Sam (chirombo), Monday, 21 June 2004 08:17 (eighteen years ago) link

Fup - Jim Dodge
Sombrero Fallout - Richard Brautigan
Cannery Row - John Steinbeck

Mog, Monday, 21 June 2004 08:49 (eighteen years ago) link

Mog, we could be lovers if you continue with taste like that. Um, are you a girlie?

Mikey G (Mikey G), Monday, 21 June 2004 08:55 (eighteen years ago) link

Yes - and a happily married one. Sorry!

Mog, Monday, 21 June 2004 09:33 (eighteen years ago) link

No problem! My girlfriend wouldn't be too impressed either. Are you reading the Rebel Inc editions of the first two books above? I've got about 15 out of the first 20. They seem to be out of print now?

Mikey G (Mikey G), Monday, 21 June 2004 09:41 (eighteen years ago) link

Lovebug, I would think that there are a lot of people with laptops in Starbucks who are not self-professed literary novelists. Those people are not subject to my wrath. Perhaps the S-PLNs are a subset, and, I hope, a small one.

SRH (Skrik), Monday, 21 June 2004 09:45 (eighteen years ago) link

You're right: I don't know what those latte laptoppers think they're doing. The S-PLNs probably haunt their literary agent's offices, concocting stealth marketing plans and plotting a way to get published in The Believer.

lovebug starski, Monday, 21 June 2004 10:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives.

Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Monday, 21 June 2004 12:35 (eighteen years ago) link

"The Millstone" by Margaret Drabble.
"The Sound of Waves" by Yukio Mishima.
"Butterfield 8' by John O'Hara.

lovebug starski, Monday, 21 June 2004 12:51 (eighteen years ago) link

The Finishing School by Muriel Spark
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Cheese Monkeys by Chipp Kidd
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
Uncle Dynamite by PG Wodehouse

Archel (Archel), Monday, 21 June 2004 13:23 (eighteen years ago) link

Breakfast at Tiffanys - Truman Capote
Candide - Voltaire

Mikey G (Mikey G), Monday, 21 June 2004 13:34 (eighteen years ago) link

Everything by Penelope Fitzgerald, but especially The Bookshop.

Jaq (Jaq), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 01:50 (eighteen years ago) link

Michael Bracewell:

The Crypto-Amnesia Club (110 pp!)

Perfect Tense (168 pp)

Only Jerry the Nipper can reveal how short Missing Margate is.

the junefox, Wednesday, 23 June 2004 12:01 (eighteen years ago) link

Oh and I forgot Jack London 'Call Of The Wild'

*Are you reading the Rebel Inc editions of the first two books above? I've got about 15 out of the first 20. They seem to be out of print now? *

Yeah, Rebel Inc was how I got into Brautigan, Dodge and John Fante - some great books there. Dunno about them being out of print - certainly some Rebel Inc editions are still available on amazon - but it seems like some (inc Stone Junction) are now published under the banner of RI's parent publisher, Canongate. See for more...

Mog, Wednesday, 23 June 2004 12:26 (eighteen years ago) link

And 'Young Goodman Brown' by Nathaniel Hawthorne... and Martin Millar's 'The Good Fairies Of New York'... and... and...

Mog, Wednesday, 23 June 2004 12:34 (eighteen years ago) link

O Pioneers!-Willa Cather
I cannot talk enough about how much I love this book.

Jocelyn (Jocelyn), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 13:59 (eighteen years ago) link

Based on the brief research I've done, Perfume is the only Suskind novel in print. He had at least two other very short novels, one of which is The Pigeon, and a play in print, but none of those are currently in print. The copy of The Pigeon that I found used was $7 US for a hardcover copy, so it must not be ridiculously rare or in demand.

St. Nicholas Ridiculous (Nick A.), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 15:02 (eighteen years ago) link

Also I think he's dead.

And I have no idea what I meant by this:
and a play in print, but none of those are currently in print
I don't think the play is in print.

St. Nicholas Ridiculous (Nick A.), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 15:15 (eighteen years ago) link

I don't think Suskind is dead, according the author bio Vintage has. They think he lives in Munich. ILB may know better...

Jocelyn (Jocelyn), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 15:25 (eighteen years ago) link

Yeah, this is all from memory from one Amazon search I did about a month ago, so I could be wrong about any of that stuff. We should probably start a separate Suskind thread.

St. Nicholas (Nick A.), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 15:35 (eighteen years ago) link

A.L. Kennedy, 'On Bullfighting'

cozen (Cozen), Wednesday, 23 June 2004 16:30 (eighteen years ago) link

Lampedusa's 'The Leopard' is surprisingly short, though dense. Thomas Bernhard's 'The Voice Imitator', made up of 104 one page stories, must have inspired Dan Rhodes.

Snotty Moore, Wednesday, 23 June 2004 21:19 (eighteen years ago) link

Ooh, second 'The Sailor Who Fell...'. I found it a lot easier to read than Mishima's other stuff. Also, Vonnegut's 'Cat's Cradle'!

Vinnie (vprabhu), Thursday, 24 June 2004 15:10 (eighteen years ago) link

"Versailles" by Kathryn Davis
"Haroun and the Sea of Stories" by Salman Rushdie (kid's book, but who cares? It's great.)
Half of Calvino's stuff is pretty short
"Desperate Characters" by Paula Fox

Jessa (Jessa), Thursday, 24 June 2004 16:48 (eighteen years ago) link

Tristan et Iseult! I'm reading a modern-French translation but there can't NOT be ones available in any language you prefer. God, no wonder the tale's lasted so long -- it's not very long but twist after twist after edge-of-your-seat... it's go romance, it's got adventure, if the folks who brought us the LOTR trilogy don't go on to film it they aren't as smart as I thought... I'm seeing visions of... oh yeah! The girl who played Eowyn being cast as la blonde et fiere Iseult, reine de Cornouailles, oooooooooommmyum yum yum...

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Friday, 25 June 2004 22:27 (eighteen years ago) link

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Brian Sawyer, Tuesday, 29 June 2004 17:24 (eighteen years ago) link

thomas mann' s Death In Venice (short novel, loooooooooooong film)

erik, Wednesday, 30 June 2004 09:58 (eighteen years ago) link

I think Suskind's death has been greatly exagerated etc.

The Pidgeon is still in print in the UK as is the childhood story (which is far more satisfying that the awfulness of Perfume).

Mikey G (Mikey G), Wednesday, 30 June 2004 10:23 (eighteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Nicholson Baker - A Box of Matches. the best book i've read for some time.

jed_ (jed), Friday, 24 March 2006 00:58 (seventeen years ago) link

of course most of Baker's Novels are good and short.

jed_ (jed), Friday, 24 March 2006 00:59 (seventeen years ago) link

Second on Nicholson Baker. Also, Magnus Mills - all short, funny, and a little strange.

Ray (Ray), Friday, 24 March 2006 11:42 (seventeen years ago) link

I quite like Magnus Mills.

Jed OTM re Pornografia. Cosmos isn't that long either.

Matt (Matt), Friday, 24 March 2006 13:20 (seventeen years ago) link

Elizabeth Hardwick - Sleepless Nights - 128 pages great. Vivid and compact, follows a dreamlike logic, quasi-autobiographical and sensuous.

o. nate (onate), Friday, 24 March 2006 15:32 (seventeen years ago) link

otm. Billie Holliday makes an appearance in there too!

The Day The World Turned Dayglo Redd (Ken L), Friday, 24 March 2006 16:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I never get tired of recommending Cees Nooteboom on here but "Rituals" and "In The Dutch Mountains" are short and ace. "The Following Story" I enjoyed less, even though it's of a similar length.

I have read a lot of Barbara Comyns over the past few years, and each novel's pleasingly brief. I'd recommend "The Vet's Daughter" and "Who Was changed and Who Was Dead" over the more readily available "Our Spoons Came From Woolworths".

There are tons more and I'm having trouble bringing them to mind, but a fe follow: "Gardener To The King" by Frederic Richaud is v slim and v wonderful. "Silk" by Alessandro Baricco is tinier but less marvellous, still pretty good. "Sweetness" by Torgny Lindgren is fab. Also all of the Jean Echenoz I've read is well worth the short time necessary to read it (I've read "I'm Off", "One Year", "Double Jeopardy" and "Piano"). That's not supposed to be as backhanded a compliment as it sounds!

Michel Faber's two novellas "The One Hundred And Ninety Nine Steps" and "The Courage Consort" are his best work, I think.

I haven't read a book over 350 pages for ages. I'm a bit scared of Frank Kogan's tome, for that reason (while looking forward to it vey much, obv).

Tim (Tim), Friday, 24 March 2006 16:30 (seventeen years ago) link

I've just read "The Paper House: a novel" by Carlos Maria Dominguez, which runs to 103 small-format pages, including illustrations, and shouldn't trouble you for much more than an hour or so. It's a tale of the perils of bibliophila run out of control, I like it.

Tim (Tim), Monday, 3 April 2006 09:22 (seventeen years ago) link


google pr main, Friday, 7 April 2006 00:19 (seventeen years ago) link


google SPAM that I, your friendly mod, am tired of, Wednesday, 12 April 2006 18:39 (seventeen years ago) link

This thread is now for registered users only. My apologies.

Casuistry (Chris P), Wednesday, 12 April 2006 23:16 (seventeen years ago) link

beckett, mercier and camier

i wonder whether there might be reason not to call it a novel. i wonder whether someone more knowledgable than me could go through this thread and point out which ones might not 'really' be novels. also whether there are any that are 'lyric novels'.

Josh (Josh), Thursday, 13 April 2006 11:03 (seventeen years ago) link

Wow. That must have been bad spam!

"East is East" by T. C. Boyle
"Rich in Love" and "Dreams of Sleep" by Josephine Humphreys (but not her new one set in North Carolina, I forget its name)

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Thursday, 13 April 2006 12:47 (seventeen years ago) link

seventeen years pass...

Oops! Wrong thread. Very wrong thread

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 4 May 2023 20:53 (one month ago) link

Well, it's short...

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 4 May 2023 21:07 (one month ago) link

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