On today's Armchair BEA topic of novellas & short stories: I am a lover of novels. As a reader, the long prose narrative is the form of fiction that has always most appealed to me. I would say I have probably read more plays, in fact, than short stories in my lifetime. I have certainly read some passionate defenses of the short story form, and I agree, in principle, that the short story has much to offer. Short stories are often very tight and well-written; they can be thought-provoking and hit you with a powerful and emotional punch at the end.
And yet . . . I have struggled with the short story form, I must admit. To me, they often seem to end abruptly, and I am left wanting more. Sometimes stories feel, somehow... unfinished. A great novel, by contrast, allows the opportunity for a reader to fully immerse themselves in the world that the author has created ... to leap into the minds and hearts of the characters and follow them on an emotional journey, to experience the richly imagined sights, sounds and smells of a place or time period different from one's own. A gifted novelist builds layers and reveals aspects of characterization or plot over time, and one of the joys of a reading a novel is uncovering those layers and aspects as the book progresses.
But let me give some love to the short stories or novellas that I've read recently and I have truly enjoyed. Karen Russell, first of all, is a master of the form and has received wide critical praise for her short stories. I first experienced her work by reading her novel Swamplandia! (read it, if you haven't--it's wonderful!), and because I simply felt I HAD to have more Russell, I tackled her short story collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove and her novella Sleep Donation. I recommend them both; but honestly, I still love her best as a novelist. I also want to mention Junot Diaz, another darling of the literary fiction world, and deservedly so. In This is How You Lose Her,a collection of linked short stories mostly centered on the romantic experiences of his semi-autobiographical character Yunior, Diaz's prose just crackles, and his fresh and unique voice shines through the pages. Some of his stories simply startled me.
Some short story collections I would like to read include Emma Donoghue's Astray and Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. Any other recommendations? As a reader, how do you respond to short stories and novellas?