The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick
Actually a novella and a story that are linked, this set from the Lish years at Knopf is one of the strangest tellings of a Holocaust-related vision ever, including one of the most searing images of most everything I’ve ever read.
Flet, by Joyelle McSweeney
One of a pair, so far, of short books (with her Nylund the Sarcographer) that totally reinvent the senses and dimension-making possible in fiction. I hope she writes ten more of these.
Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, by David Foster Wallace
Technically a long short story, but long enough to be most people’s novella, if not novel, an early incarnation of the meta-time mixed with amazing storytelling that Wallace can do like no other.
Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine, by Stanley Crawford
The greatest fever dream ever put to paper. Works harder per syllable per line than most books could ever want to. If I ever get a tattoo, it will be of a line from this book.
In Urbem, by Nina Shope
Utter destruction and iconography and mythmaking, one of three novellas in her incredible Hangings book from Starcherone.
The Revisionist, by Miranda Mellis
I have read this book 5 or 6 times now, a few of them back to back. Reinvents mapmaking and the body over and over again. Really fun.
In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan
I don’t see how anyone could read this and not fall in love. His description alone of the way the lady friend steps on the same board of the bridge every time kills me.
Ray, by Barry Hannah
The master at his most masterful. I can’t get the idea of one of the “overhead shots” from early on in this book out of my head. Voice at its finest.
Europeana, by Patrik Ourednik
Not really a novella, not really a novel, not really nonfiction, not really sure what this is, but I know that when I was told about it, my friend said, “Pick this up and read any page, you’ll buy it.” I did.
The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares
Theoretical ideas about time, identity, space, film, and everything else Borges ever wrote about, but all compacted into one of the tightest, most refreshing short novels I can remember.
The Sanza Affair, by Brian Evenson
One of my earliest introductions to the great master, and one of the many reasons I fell in love with his work.
The Levitationist, by Brandon Hobson
A more apt rendering of the supposed “surreal” than most who’d used that name can muster. Hobson can put more feeling and ramification in a paragraph you’ve never seen the likes of than most surrealists or realists conceive of.
Blake Butler is the author of EVER, a novella forthcoming from Calamari Press. His work has appeared in Fence, Willow Springs, The Believer, Ninth Letter, and many others. He is the editor of Lamination Colony and No Colony, two experimental journals of new prose. He lives in Atlanta and blogs HERE.
Butler made the American Reading List (FYI): http://americanreadinglist.blogspot.com/