Novella November 2021: The First Week

on Monday, November 8, 2021
It's been a tough eighteen months to be a Melburnian. The world's longest lockdown has sucked the energy from us all and I, for one, have been creatively bereft. Still, what had to be done had to be done and now we find ourselves at the other end, with life returning to something resembling normal. A newfound vigour is coursing through the air. There's bloody traffic on the roads. I have to talk to people again. Oh well. I suppose it couldn't have happened at a better time for me because it's my favourite month of the year - Novella November. Yep, for thirty days I throw caution, responsibility, real work and life to the wind so I can read a book a day and live tweet it. For those who have Twitter, please follow me @BramPresser. For those who don't I'm emerging from my Blog Coma to do weekly updates for the rest of the month, posting the bite-sized reviews in batches. Hopefully that will also kick me into gear to keep going through December and beyond with usual programming. Anyway, happy Novella Novella. Hope you find as much joy in the perfect literary form as I do!

Water Music - Christine Balint
As always, I begin with a Viva La Novella Prize winner. Drawing from an obscure historical footnote, and riffing on identity, belonging and art, Balint has given us a book about music that, in its lyricism, is itself musical. Bravo.

The Solitary Twin - Harry Mathews
Killer swan song from America’s first Oulipian. A tangle of stories that unfurl in sinews to reveal the truth behind identical twins whose appearance has upended a small town. Sex, deceit, murder and a twist that really stings.

Among the Hedges - Sara Mesa
Teenager Soon wags school in a local park, where she befriends a homeless old man with a penchant for birding. Sinister undertones course beneath the delightful innocence, making for a beguiling, compelling little read.

The Most Precious of Cargoes - Jean-Claude Grumberg
A peasant catches a baby thrown from a cattle train bound for hell. The child grows up, loved by her new family, while her father struggles to survive. A traditional but not cliched fable, it will tear at your soul.

Astral Season, Beastly Season - Tahi Saihate
Kooky Japanese gem about some school kids so hell bent on proving their B-grade idol isn't a murderer that they kill a bunch of people to throw police off the scent. A surefire cult classic in the making with unexpected depth.

Chasing Homer - László Krasznahorkai
Words, images and percussive soundscapes (via QR code) collide in this paranoid, obsessive quest of self-nullification and perpetual exile as a means of escaping unknown, would-be murderers. Intense and utterly mesmerising.

Assembly - Natasha Brown
At last, a zeitgeist book that doesn't suck. Assembly is an exhilarating bomb placed beneath the classist, racist, misogynist, colonial foundations of British society and set off to spectacular effect. Just read it.