Nouvella’s favorites of 2015

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Who wants to read another year-end list? YOU DO, RIGHT? Of course you do. Without further ado, our staff’s favorite reads of 2015:


Rose Gowengordimer

I read a lot of great books in 2015. One that surprised me–only because I had never heard of it, no one told me it would be good–was The Late Bourgeois World, by Nadine Gordimer. It is a novella, originally published in 1966, that tells the story of a young, white South African woman whose white ex-husband has killed himself after having failed and betrayed a black African nationalist group he passionately wanted to help. Gordimer writes gorgeous prose; her observation of the waves of feeling that run between lovers and between parents and children is exact; and the questions she raises about how the priveleged can best serve as allies to the oppressed remain vital.


GrossmanJane Liddle

I had two favorite books this year. Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a Lost Child was a book I had anticipated all year and it surprised me and didn’t disappoint. Knowing how to end a book and story is hard, how to end a beloved series must be even harder, and Ferrante succeeded on every level.
My second favorite book is Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, written in 1959 but not published until years later. It’s a long hard book (it is Russian after all) that takes place during World War Two, so it doesn’t end well for most of the characters. But I was looking to read a long hard Russian novel and Life and Fate fit the bill and then some.


Esmée de Heerghost network

The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato: It was marketed as Fangirl for adults, but this book is so much more than that. It’s a pop culture extravaganza that will send you down a wikipedia rabbit hole.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: This book has four London’s, scary magic, a cross dressing pirate and the most amazing coat you will ever read about. Part two is coming out in February and I can’t wait to read how the story goes on.


NerudaCrissy Van Meter

I got married in 2015 and spent most of the year rereading passages of my favorite books for my wedding ceremony. And I fell right back in love with Pablo Neruda, and ended up reading (nearly) his entire collection this year. Specifically I love his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, and gushed over “The Song of Despair.” And almost everything else!


Deena Drewiswallcreeper

Like just about everyone else this year, I loved Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (what an intimate portrayal of a marriage! what movement!) and I obsessively devoured all four books of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan series (much has been said about this being one of the most striking and dedicated portrayals of growing up female, and I join that chorus). But since so much has already been written about those books, I’ll take a moment to reflect on something that was published in 2014 but I just got around to reading this year: Nell Zink’s The Wallcreeper.  It’s a book that holds you at a distance with its strangeness, in constant view of characters holding each other at a distance against a desperate (and, one gets the sense, irrepressible) pursuit of intimacy. I loved the way sex is portrayed as about as momentous as breathing; Tiffany and her husband seem to compete in their ridiculousness, and yet it never feels like Zink is inviting you to laugh at them. Plus, it was an unlikely sensation from a independent press!

Meet our newest readers!

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Esmée de HeerDSC_0116


Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them forever: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. The book is so funny until it hits you in the face with sadness and suffering.


Currently reading: Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.


Favorite food in the entire world: Pancakes for dinner. Nothing beats having breakfast foods at dinner.


If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: I couldn’t recite any poetry to save my life, but I did buy a great looking copy of Ariel by Sylvia Plath. I’ll make sure to memorize a line or two in the near future, just in case…


Nouvella PhotoJane Liddle

Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them forever:
Elena Ferrante’s last Neapolitan novel The Story of the Lost Child lived up to every expectation I had for a finale while also surprising me and breaking my heart.
Currently reading:
All this Ferrante fever has got me interested in the Italian woman novelist tradition, so I’ve picked up Grazia Deledda’s Reeds in the Wind.

Favorite food in the entire world: Pizza

If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: I don’t know much poetry by heart so I’d have to recite Fleetwood Mac’s “Sisters of the Moon.”


Sebastian Alberdi11313168_10204738623567288_8493123935888438624_o


Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them forever: Definitely has to be A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara; pretty sure Hanya has a huge collection of stolen socks — read it!

Currently reading: I’ve started three books recently (and I’m usually a book monogamist). Summer by Edith Wharton, Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson, and The Salt Ecstasies by James White. 

Favorite food in the entire world: Hard question but I love seafood — oysters, salmon, mussels, all that briny stuff.

If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? I used to be a huge Ginsberg fan, still sort of am sometimes.

A new Nouvella-ist

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

crissy2So very pleased to announce the newest addition to the team: Managing Editor Crissy Van Meter! In addition to helping us wrangle things ’round these parts, Crissy is also the co-founding editor of Five Quarterly, a super cool, collaborative online lit mag, and the fiction editor for the new and gorgeous Golly Magazine. When I first met Crissy, we had a solid five-minute swoon session about Dept. of Speculation, and I knew we were going to get a long just fine. Here’s a little bit about her:


Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them foreverWomen by Chloe Caldwell
Currently readingCollected Stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Favorite food in the entire world: Beans and rice.
If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ by Dylan Thomas 


On that note, we want to wish our former Associate Editor Emma Bushnell the warmest and fondest of farewells as she embarks on the second year of her MFA at Brooklyn. She’s one incredibly talented lady, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for her!

Find us in Minneapolis!

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

NV-Postcard-frontLoad up on Emergen-C and get that tote-bag-shoulder ready, because it’s time for AWP, friends! You can find us this year at table 1827. You’ll know it’s us because of the lobster table cloth and the big sign that says NOUVELLA. Also, I’ll be rocking the “Don’t be a lengthist” tank every single day. Also, we’ll have these postcards sitting on the table ————>


Elsewhere: I’ll be on the CLMP: New Trends in Literary Publishing panel on Thursday at 1:30 PM, alongside Graywolf Press head honcho Fiona McRae, super editor Nathan Rostron, literature’s favorite legal mind Jon Fine, and Oyster editorial director Kevin Nguyen. This is one of the big fancy panels of the conference, videotaped and everything, so hope to see you there!


And of course, our wonderful authors will be hanging out at the booth. Here’s the lineup:


Edan Lepucki will be signing copies of If You’re Not Yet Like Me on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

Derek Palacio will be signing copies of How to Shake the Other Man on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Matthew Salesses will be signing copies of (a very limited number of!) The Last Repatriate on Friday at 10:00 a.m.

Elizabeth Kadetsky will be signing copies of On the Island at the Center of the Center of the World (an exclusive early AWP release!) on Friday at 12:30 p.m.

Daniel Torday will be signing copies of The Sensualist (and you can bring your copy of The Last Flight of Poxl West, too!) on Friday at 2:00 p.m.

The 2015 lineup

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Dearest readers, without further ado (because who needs more ado?), we present to you our 2015 list:


Kadetsky_CoverOn the Island at the Center of the Center of the World


In the wake of a chaotic decade in New York, Netti and her eleven-year-old son, Ian, find themselves on the shores of Malta, a picturesque and antiquated Mediterranean island where the last world war still thrums in the nerves of its residents. When they witness an accident on the streets of Valletta, Netti becomes enmeshed in a mystery of old-world family alliances on an island little touched by time and outsiders. Faced with her own transgressions in the shape of reckless relationships and a constant pursuit of the bottom of the wine bottle, Netti desperately seeks to vindicate the crime and better herself as mother to her precocious, adolescent son.

       Detailed in sharp yet rich prose and a style reminiscent of Roberto Bolaño and Paul Bowles, On the Island at the Center of the Center of the World navigates a confounding existential crisis and the ultimate futility of the desire to escape oneself.


APRIL 21, 2015


EK author photoElizabeth Kadetsky

Elizabeth Kadetsky is the author of First There Is a Mountain (Little, Brown), a memoir of year spent in India studying with the yogi BKS Iyengar, and the short story collection The Poison that Purifies You (C&R Press), which was chosen by as one of the best under-the-radar picks of 2014. Her personal essays and short stories have been published in New England Review, Antioch Review, Glimmer Train, the New York Times, and many other venues. She is an assistant professor teaching fiction and nonfiction at Penn State and splits her time between New York City’s East Village and State College, PA. Her work can be found at









Ciao, SuerteAnnieMc-5


Decades after her son and his pregnant wife are kidnapped and killed during the Dirty War in Argentina, Beatriz is given a lead on the whereabouts of her grandson after a long and desperate search. Ciao, Suerte follows the sudden and tense reunion of Miguel, adopted by wealthy Patagonians as a baby, with his only remaining biological family: Beatriz and her estranged husband Giancarlo.

       Set in Madrid as Miguel is living out his late teenage years alongside his adoptive brother and girlfriend Inés, the novella interweaves each narrative with that of Eduardo, the lieutenant who brokered Miguel’s illicit adoption. Detailed in immersive, riveting prose reminiscent of Edward P. Jones and Alice Munro, Annie McGreevy’s debut novella is an intense examination of the spectrum of love—romantic, familial, national and imaginary—and how it simultaneously sustains and disappoints.


JULY 2015


Annie McGreevy

Annie McGreevy was born and raised at the Jersey Shore. She holds a BA in Literature from American University and an MFA in Creative Writing from The Ohio State University. She is currently a Senior Lecturer at Ohio State and is working on a novel.





Kiefer3-23-PFOne Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left to Hide

Renowned installation artist Frank Poole has embarked on his most ambitious project to date: an entire housing subdivision in the desert of Nevada, with every element painted stark white. By his side is his young wife Caitlin, his manager and confidante who keeps the volatile artist functioning from day to day. But as Frank grows increasingly anxious about his undertaking, Caitlin learns she is pregnant and begins to wonder what the future might hold for them both.

       At turns funny, tragic, triumphant and harrowing, One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left to Hide is a documentary film in prose. Structured as a “kinoroman,” a novella-as-film-script-as novella, the text explores the nature of art, of watching and of being watched, of life put on display, all the while focusing on the day-to-day existence of one couple as they work through the incendiary materials of their lives together.




Christian Kiefer

Christian Kiefer is the author of the novels The Infinite Tides and The Animals and has been an active songwriter, musician, and poet for a number of years. His work has recently appeared in Zyzzyva, Santa Monica Review, and Catamaran Literary Reader. He serves on the faculty of American River College in Sacramento and lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada with his family.

Our favorite books of 2014

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Jeva Lange, reader:

NightAtTheFiestas_V4.2 correct.inddI had a slower year in reading than usual, in part because I spent the bulk of my summer combing through manuscripts for work. I’ve been using the past few weeks to try to catch up on some of the big books of 2014; Claudia Rankine’s phenomenal Citizen and Ben Lerner’s close-to-home 10:04 have particularly moved me. And while 2014 holds many great runner-ups, one of my favorite discoveries from this year actually belongs to 2015: Kirstin Valdez Quade’s forthcoming debut, Night at the Fiestas.


I had the opportunity to read Quade’s collection of short stories last summer and I was blown away – I don’t think I’ve stopped talking about it since. With prose that consistently chills to the bone, Night at the Fiestas casts themes of girlhood, religion, and race against the unsettling landscape of New Mexico. But beyond being a collection that so perfectly paints a place (I’ve never been to New Mexico, but I can practically feel it in Night), Quade is an author fascinated by character – especially young women who are caught in the limbo between daughterhood and adulthood. And unlike other short story collections, where there are clear standouts and clear duds, every single piece in Night at the Fiestas is gripping, essential, and original; it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite. I can’t recommend it enough.


(If you want to get a head start, some of Quade’s work is already available in the New Yorker.)



toveRose Gowen, reader

A few weeks ago, I read the NYBR selection of Tove Jansson‘s stories, The Woman Who Borrowed Memories. I read her novels The Summer Book, Fair Play, and The True Deceiver last year, and The Summer Book and Fair Play especially have continued to live in my mind, so I was happy to have more Jansson. Many of the stories in this volume are good; “The Squirrel” is excellent. An older woman, a writer, lives alone in a tiny cottage on an island. She is alone until a squirrel appears. She watches the squirrel, and watching the squirrel, watches herself, and sees her loneliness and the precariousness of her self-sufficiency.

Emma Bushnell, associate editor

cookI think I will always remember 2014 as the year I first read Annie Ernaux. If you’re French and/or a better reader than I then this will be old news to you, but Ernaux is one of the most exciting and insightful living writers. This year I began with her fictionalized memoir of her mother, the somewhat horribly titled A Woman’s Story, and spiraled deep in love with her honest, self aware, and reflective prose. The novel begins at the event of her mother’s death, and follows her struggle to be honest with herself about her relationship with her mother and her anxieties about chronicling what she feels must be chronicled about her mother’s life before she forgets it. It’s an incredible piece of writing, deeply felt without ever once tipping into sentimentality, and if you don’t read it by the end of 2015 then you’re a fool.


But there were plenty of excellent novels published in 2014 as well! Maggie Shipstead’Astonish Me, about the tumultuous lives of ballet dancers and the poor regular folk who get swept into their world, was a deliciously satisfying followup to her fabulous debut Seating Arrangements. David Bezmozgis‘ The Betrayers was also a 2014 hit, proving him, once again, to be one of the best dialogue writers currently in the business. And talking of some of the best in the business—is Ben Lerner capable of writing a novel that is less than mind-blowing? That may not be a rhetorical question; 10:04 pretty much answered “no.”


Lastly, a shoutout to my favorite debut story collections of the year: Diane Cook‘s Man V. Nature and Shelly Oria‘s New York 1, Tel Aviv 0. Please, go out and buy these massively impressive titles posthaste. And when you do, be aware that  you will likely finish them by the time you return home. The writing in each is just that lively and effortless. Diane and Shelly, please write more in 2015!


womenDeena Drewis, editor

I hadn’t read any of Helen Oyeyemi’s work prior to picking up Boy, Snow, Bird but after coming across an interview in the London Review of Books titled “Helen Oyeyemi: ‘I’m interested in the way women disappoint one another’” I was already half in love. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the novel, though I’ve always been wary of fairy tale re-tellings—a (perhaps unfounded) concern that the story or novel will defeat itself by getting too clever or cute. But Oyeyemi’s novel is so smart and subtle, her characters so engaging and deeply flawed, and it interacts with the original story in a tremendously powerful way.
Speaking of women disappointing one another, I recently finished Chloe Caldwell’s WOMEN. A really moving, bold piece of work. And I loved every component of it—not only the text itself but the cover, the way it feels in your hands. Plus, it’s a novella published by an indie press!

Lastly, to join in on the chorus of praise: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. It’s heartbreaking and funny; the precision is astounding. It’s a book for people who believe in marriage and people who don’t, easily consumed in a single sitting or two (which is becoming all the rage, we hear!)

Five years ago today

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

This morning, as I lay in bed doing my wake-up Instagram scroll (ugh, I know), I came across a happy reminder of what happened on this day five years ago: Emma Straub’s novella, Fly-Over State, was published. It was the first novella published by Flatmancrooked, back when Nouvella was still a tickling in its fallopian tubes.




Now she’s New York Times best-selling author Emma Straub, author of Other People We Married, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and one of the summer’s biggest hits, The Vacationers. It’s been such a thrill to see such a talented, big-hearted author meet this kind of success and we look forward to whatever is in store for her next (our guess is that Rafa Nadal is going to write her a fan letter).


In the spirit of Fly-Over State’s 5th birthday, I wanted to take this opportunity to let everyone know what’s new with our authors since their novellas have come out. And so, in chronological order:



Alyssa Knickerbocker! Your Rightful Home was released on February 15th, 2010 and sold out of it’s Launch run in 4 days. Since then, Alyssa has been busy being a boss as the Halls Emerging Artist Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing from 2012-2013, and prior to that, the Axton Fellow in Fiction at the University of Louisville from 2010-2012. She’s currently at work on a novel set on the Kitsap Peninusla in Washington, has had stories published in Alaska Quarterly Review, West Branch, Five Chapters, American Short Fiction, The Carolina Quarterly, Brooklyn Magazine, and Meridian.


Edan and colbert

Edan Lepucki! Her novella, If You’re Not Yet Like Me, was the third novella released by Flatmancrooked in October of 2010. Nouvella re-released the title in February of this year, with a new granny-pantied cover. And, uh, in case you missed it, in the last couple of months, things have been pretty crazy for Edan. Her debut novel California, published by Little, Brown, in July, was featured on The Colbert Report in light of the Amazon v. Hachette battle and Amazon blocking pre-orders and delaying shipments of titles by the latter. Her novel debuted at #3 on the New York Times Bestsellers List! Rumor has it there are film rights in the works, and Edan is currently at work on her second novel.


mat bio pic big

Matthew Salesses! Since he officially kicked off Nouvella with The Last Repatriate in October of 2011, he’s released the novel I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying with Civil Coping Mechanisms and the vital essay collection Different Racisms with Thought Catalog. He’s currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Houston and writes the Love, Recorded column for The Good Men Project.



Daniel Torday! The Sensualist came out in April of 2012 and later that year won the National Jewish Book Award for Outstanding Debut Fiction. Not bad for a book that’s 4 x 6 inches, eh? Dan’s first novel, The Last Flight of Poxl West, got picked up by St. Martin’s and is due out in March of 2015. Above are the ARCs hot off the press (and you know George Saunders doesn’t give out blurbs to just anybody).


dec pick

Panio Gianopoulos! A Famliar Beast came out of the gates antlers a-blazin’, getting named an Amazon Best Book of December of 2012. Panio has since been working on a short story collection, which I can’t spill the beans on just yet 🙂 (what a jerk).



Derek Palacio! The most mysterious man of letters since Thomas Pynchon, Derek Palacio’s novella How to Shake the Other Man came out in May of 2013. It went on to become a finalist in the Lambda Literary Award for Debut Fiction as well as the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, and Derek’s first novel recently was picked up by a prominent literary agent. You’ll want to keep your literal eye out for this guy, because he’s about as active on Twitter as Annie Proulx.


Next up: On an Island at the Center of the Center of the World by Elizabeth Kadetsky, whose short story collection, The Poison That Purifies You, is out from C&R Press on September 21. On an Island will be out in February of next year, followed by Ciao, Suerte by Anne McGreevy. Heartiest of cheers to our authors past and future, and to our readers, for whom we are forever grateful. Stay tuned!


Meet our new readers

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

We’re so very pleased to announce the three new additions to the Nouvella team! Below, Jeva, Rose and Lauren tell us about some of their favorite written things.


Jeva Lange-f-qmEaq

Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them forever: I just read Huckleberry Finn for the first time since I was too young to get it, and it blew me away.

Currently reading: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Karolina Waclawiak’s How to Get Into the Twin Palms.

Favorite novellaHeart of Darkness is a clear winner for me but I have a soft spot for Breakfast at Tiffany’s too.

Favorite food in the entire world: Diet Peach Snapple is kind of my addiction (I realize I’ve cheated and this is not technically a food).

If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: I read “Where They Lived” by Marjorie Saiser in a newspaper when I was a teenager and loved it so much I committed it to memory. I’d recite that.



Rose Gowennouvella photo

Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them foreverThe Summer Book, by Tove Jansson. I read it not long after reading the first volume of Knausgaard’s book, and after reading Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante—both sock-stealers as well. In contrast to Knausgaard’s  fast maximalism, and Ferrante’s volcanic rage, Jansson’s prose is careful, reticent, and spare, yet the emotion that courses through her story is just as strong. It was instructive to see that something so quiet could be so affecting.  A young girl spends a summer mostly in her declining grandmother’s company, after her mother has died; the father, in his grief, throws himself into work, and is largely absent. Like the Knausgaard and the Ferrante—like all good family stories—The Summer Book asks how one can be one’s whole self in a family while supporting and submitting to the needs and desires of the other members, themselves whole persons, connected, but always separate.

Currently reading: Currently, I am reading Irretrievable, by Theodore Fontane. Like The Summer Book, it is a NYRB reissue. I will almost always buy a NYRB book; that press has led me to books I love, strange and unusual books that surprise me, and books I wouldn’t otherwise have known about, that interest me. Irretrievable falls in the last category: I don’t love it, but I’m interested. Nineteenth century German novel about a marriage falling apart.

Favorite novella: So many excellent works fall into that long story/short novel zone; for today, I will choose as a favorite novella Miss Lonelyhearts, by Nathanael West.

Favorite food in the entire world: My favorite food is a taco I ate in the Safeway parking lot in Guerneville, next to the taco truck; is a cheesy potato pancake I ate in a market in Paris; a blackberry I picked in West Marin in the late eighties; that peach ice cream we used to make; the beef stew with polenta my husband made when I was pregnant with our son; the lentil and bulgar salad with walnuts and tarragon I make every summer that no one likes as much as I do.

If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: If I had to recite a poem, I hope I would be allowed to use a book, since I don’t have any poems committed to memory; then I would recite Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” because it is so ecstatic and strange, and sounds good out loud.



Lauren PerezPhoto on 6-11-14 at 11.39 AM

Last thing I read that was so good, not only did it knock my socks off, it stole them forever: Karen Davis’s Duplex. Her prose is like unexpected fireworks–sudden, magical, and a little frightening in its beauty.
Currently reading: Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End. Just started a new job, so it seemed appropriate.
Favorite novella: If I’m being honest, it’s The Crying of Lot 49. Or Bartleby.
Favorite food in the entire world: I have very strong feelings about burritos. And pie. Basically filling wrapped in carb casing=A+++
If someone absolutely forced me to recite some poetry, I would recite: in middle school they made us recite a poem in front of the class–something to do with public speaking. I chose Emily Dickinson for length reasons, and to this day I still have “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” memorized. (not really a feat at 8 lines)


Novella Month is the best month

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

novella month 2014

Our favorite month has arrived once more.  To celebrate, we’re putting the whole store on sale for 30% off (e-books are already discounted; no code necessary). And below, check out some of our favorite bits of novella-related things from the past year or so.


-Did you read Sleep Donation, a novella by Karen Russell? It was released by Atavist Books in March with a fancy, interactive website to supplement and promote the e-book format. A hopeful interpretation of the changing publishing landscape and where novellas fit in.


-We’ve got new brethren! Check out Black Hill Press, whose fearless leader, Kevin Staniec, is doing rad things for the novella form. There’s also the very handsome Dock Street Press. Both presses are actively seeking novellas!


-Our pals at The Lit Pub is also taking novella submissions!


The Deerbird Novella Prize, awarded by Artistically Designed Press, was awarded to Jenny Drai for Letters to Quince.


Adore, a novella by Doris Lessing, was made into a movie starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright. (It was just OK.)


-Did you know that Song of Fire and Ice (aka the source material for Game of Thrones) author George R.R. Martin writes a ton of novellas? Because he does.


-Recent(ish) novellas we recommend:

Brown Dog, a collection of novellas by Jim Harrison

Dirty Love, a collection of linked novellas by Andre Dubus III

“The Hanging Fruit” in Joan Silber’s National Book Award-finalist collection Fools

The Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. The big stamp on the cover of the book says “A NOVEL,” but c’mon, Knopf. It’s a novella if there ever was one, and a breathtaking one at that.


-Here’s the list of novellas we crowd sourced two years ago.

Our favorite books of 2013

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Here’s what the Nouvella staff was reading (when we weren’t reading submissions!):


Melissa melissa

I don’t read nearly as much as I wish I did (writing a senior thesis is time consuming, who knew?) so I read most of these in erratic spurts throughout the year. Still, I think the fact that I finished them at all is a testament to their quality.


Dear Life by Alice Munro

It would have been blasphemy not to read Ms. Munro’s work this year, given her status as the 2013 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Dear Life centers on the fleeting moments that irrevocably change Munro’s characters’ lives, whether they be as dramatic as a spontaneous affair, or as minor as the pursuit of a specialist doctor in an unknown town. Each of her stories builds to a meticulous climax that leaves a sort of numbing, troubled reverie.


My First Summer in the Sierras by John Muir

Long before his activist fame, John Muir was a young Scottish immigrant paid to shepherd sheep through the Sierra Nevada foothills. Muir’s lush, even anthropomorphic descriptions of California’s flora and fauna make this short work surprisingly endearing and paint a vivid picture of California in the not-so-distant past.


Too Far to Go: The Maples Stories by John Updike

This collection of short stories should be depressing, seeing how it details the failing marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Maple. Somehow, though, this simply isn’t the case. Written over the course of 20 years, “Too Far to Go” is a masterwork that tidily, and hilariously, demonstrates Updike’s powers of empathy and snide observation. Though the doom of the Maples’ marriage is foreshadowed even from the beginning of the collection, the characters’ paradoxical love for one another develops and evolves until the book’s poignant ending.


Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote

Best read in Capote’s native New Orleans with a beignet in hand, “Music for Chameleons” remains a giant in the canon of short story writings.  Capote can rarely escape a review without being deemed “lyrical” – but with good reason. The author’s wit and graceful use of language keep his personality-based stories feeling as vibrant as they did more than 30 years ago.




2013 was a fabulous year for fiction, and I read several books that won’t leave me anytime soon: Shani Boianjiu’s The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, an astonishing debut novel about three girls coming of age in the midst of ancient conflict, left me breaking out in goosebumps on overheated subway cars and pressing it onto anyone I came in contact with with missionary zeal. Another amazing debut work was NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, which I fasted for a day to read because I couldn’t put it down to make hot food. Established favorite authors also came out swinging: Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland and Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah both delighted me as much as I’d hoped they would, and Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories brought a Munro-like heft back to the short story form.




The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. Reading this reminded me of the way I felt when I read The Bell Jar for the first time—a sort of possessive kinship that you feel (unreasonably) protective of. The novel is filled with this recklessness, a disregard that shape-shifts into loneliness, that betrays the characters in an instant. It is imaginative and expansive, and the main character, Reno, is a badass. And there are passages like this:

“Sandro said he couldn’t understand how his mother tolerated this ridiculous man in any capacity. I understood that she did tolerate him, and even why. She was lonely, and his ridiculousness was a form of vitality. It brought something to her life. In any case, men were that way, but I couldn’t tell Sandro that men were ridiculous, and since his mother was not a lesbian they were her only option.”


All That Is by James Salter. Here’s something I’ve noticed about James Salter novels: It’s very difficult to summarize most of them without making them sound very boring. It could very well be the summarizer and not the book, but when someone asked me what All That Is is about, it came out something like, “It’s about this man’s life. And love. And loss.” In the most literal sense of the phrase, I suppose James Salter leaves me a little speechless. I’d read somewhere that Richard Ford had to repeatedly put the book down after finishing a chapter and pace the room. I wish I’d known about this pacing tactic before I read it, because after certain passages, instead of pacing I would just sit there with the book resting against my chest, staring blankly at the ceiling. Pacing seems like a necessary activity for the blows Salter’s writing delivers again and again.



Chris (2)Chris

Enon by Paul Harding

Paul Harding’s 2009 debut novel Tinkers immediately became my favorite book when I read it a couple of years ago, so I was champing at the bit to dive into his second novel Enon when it was released this past September.  While the somberness and relative darkness of Tinkers left me feeling calm and at peace, probably from the power of its spare prose alone, Enon left me feeling unsettled.  The novel follows Charlie Crosby in the aftermath of the death of his 13-year-old daughter and the subsequent failure of his marriage.  Observing Charlie as he sinks lower and lower and not being able to help him is painful.  And while the novel ultimately decides to take it easy on the reader towards the end, it does not offer redemption.  Enon was perhaps best summed up by Mr. Harding himself at a reading I had the pleasure to attend when he said – and I’m paraphrasing here – everyone thinks that tragedy and sorrow follows a predictable plotline where everything turns out fine in the end, and that’s not always the case.


Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

We’re in the business of publishing novellas so it’s only natural that one of my favorite books in recent history is a novella.  Having first read Denis Johnson’s novel Tree of Smoke a few years back, which was impressive but long and psychologically taxing, I was hesitant to pick up Train Dreams – albeit a much shorter book – for fear of putting myself under the same mental strain.  I was happy to discover though that Train Dreams is unlike Tree of Smoke in terms of complexity.  The novella dreamily, but succinctly, follows Robert Grainier throughout his mostly lonesome life in Idaho during the first half of the 20th century.  The big landscapes, wilderness, wildness and simplicity of life that can be found in the American West have always spoken to me and Train Dreams taps directly into that.


Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

I’m hesitant to write about David Foster Wallace.  His presence in the general population’s consciousness has skyrocketed over the past few years – what hasn’t already been said about him or his writing?  But, alas, I’ve never read a book as long as Infinite Jest so I might as well weigh in based solely on my pride in my accomplishment.  I thought Infinite Jest was a thoroughly enjoyable read that takes place primarily in two locations: a children’s tennis academy and an alcohol/drug recovery house.  While page upon page of prose without a single paragraph break does not cater to my short attention span, I found the book to be highly readable as it drew me into its flow.  Foster Wallace has a way of intertwining his virtuosic stream-of-consciousness episodes with emotional punches that hit you directly in the heart.  Whether Infinite Jest is a literary masterpiece or not, I will leave up to others to debate, but I do know that the chapter in which the friendly tennis game of Eschaton (look it up) melts down into slapstick chaos is the funniest thing I’ve ever read.