Sunday, March 20, 2011

Erica’s 5 Great Novels Under 200 Pages

Erica’s 5 Great Novels Under 200 Pages

Because really, who has time to read anymore? Hey, Dickens, I have a life. Places to go. People to see. Could you maybe cut it down to a tale of just one city instead of two?

Tinkers by Paul Harding (Bellevue, $14.95)
Has the distinction of being the shortest book that it took me the longest to read. I wallowed in its language: lovely, languorous, poetic, effulgent. The final thoughts of a dying man unspool as visceral memory and sensation, intertwined with the life of his epileptic father. 191 pp.

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson (Grove, $14.00)

Maybe it’s best if I don’t tell you what this novel is about. If I try to I’ll say things like web-footed gondolier’s daughter meets Napoleon’s cook and walks on water. In lesser hands this strange book, which exists at the intersection of fairy tale and myth, could easily devolve into a circus. Winterson gives us an elegant carnival. 176 pp.

The Stranger by Albert Camus (Vintage, $12.00)

Lots of isms afloat in this book: existentialism, absurdism, nihilism, stoicism. But it’s not the big ideas that keep drawing me back to this deceptively simple story. It’s Meursault, the titular stranger, who struggles with existence outside of the social mechanism and, at times, outside of reason and remorse. 123 pp.

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid (Farrar Straus & Giroux, $13.00)

As a 19 year-old West Indian girl working as an au pair for a white family in the city, Lucy negotiates issues of class, culture and coming-of-age in an unflinching voice that is spare, sharp and lyrical. 163 pp.

Push by Sapphire (Vintage, $13.00)

This is a tough read. I won’t sugar coat it. Precious Jones lives a dark life scarred with abuse and illiteracy. Though she learns to read and write, it doesn’t dull the edges of the brutality that is part of her reality. But literacy does give shape to her experience, allowing her to build and protect her own personhood. 191 pp.

March 2011, Erica David

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