Friday, January 30, 2009

Fiction Review

The novel I read this week was assigned for class (again). I'm getting kind of sick of not picking out my own novels to read. This one was called Beast by Donna Jo Napoli -- also the writer of The Magic Circle. This too was marketed as a children's book, or young adult I suppose. I feel the need to state that I am not a fan of novels in the present tense. Think of all the bitching people do about how stale fiction in the second person gets and substitute "present tense" for "second person" and you'll have my opinion: it gets trying. And stale. Our anthropological inclination is to be storytellers and to tell stories of things that have already happened -- note the verb tense, or, more precisely, not the meaning. Narrating novels in a present tense, "as they happen" manner appears to be a throroughly modern trend that goes against my DNA.

Beast, as you may have guessed, is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In this case the young prince is Persian and eventually makes his way to southern France in the form of a lion because he has heard that French women love roses. He too loves roses and believes that the rose will be the only way to sway a woman to love him in the form of a flesh eating lion.

I was not thrilled. But, if I was eleven I probably would have eaten it up.

On the short story front, a student of mine recommened (and then loaned me a copy of) Tom Perrotta's collection of short stories Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies. I started reading one but will hopefully get more time to settle down and read through it tonight. I can't recall if the student recommended it based on the prompts we were doing in class or the few pages I had them read from Stephen King's memoir/instruction book On Writing. Either way the stories seem very much the King style of in your face, moving on through the action, boy-story that King writes to tell about his youth.

My blog readers also recommend their fave short stories/novellas last week.
Jud suggested "The Moon is Down" by John Steinbeck, as well as "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson. (I can honestly say I didn't know the latter was a short story, totally thought it was a novel. Then again I thought the same thing about "Brokeback Mountain" which I've only read the first three pages of despite the fact that it's a short story and the book technically belongs to my high school and I really should return it.)

Aquarius suggested the last short story she read, which was "Runaway" by Alice Munro. I can't say I've read this one either but anything by Munro is always nice. Or, at least, it is now. When I was a sophomore in college I heartily disagreed but I'm more patient now -- which may be the only thing all that case law reading did for me in law school.
Mella seconds my feeling that anything by Munro is a great start, and went on to recommend several collections: Monkeys by Susan Minot, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley, and Emperor of the Air by Ethan Canin.

As always, comments and further suggestions are more than welcome.

Highly Recommended