Catherine Lacey’s Favorite Novella

The sad truth is that there are way more novellas that I want to read than ones that I have actually read and enjoyed. I tallied them up and this is the only novella that I have read that I feel passionately about. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I read Of Mice and Men last year, in one sitting, in the cafe of a Whole Foods and this is all a little embarrassing for a number of reasons. One is that I managed to reach my early twenties without reading a classic that is usually required reading for third graders and also a Nobel Prize winner. The second is that I was drinking a four dollar Kombucha, the bottled embodiment of an economy at its most opulent, while reading a book about two men struggling to make ends meet. Occasionally as I was reading, I would look at the floor-to-ceiling windows and catch a glimpse of a one-legged man in a wheelchair who was scooting in between the traffic begging for change. The third reason is more of a national embarrassment, or maybe not an embarrassment at all, but a nagging sense of guilt. This was the summer of 2008 and as our country was already 6 months into a recession that the federal government was refusing to acknowledge, I was reading a novella set in the Depression with main characters confronting an insurmountably cruel job market and dire poverty—the worst-case-scenario. Not only did I feel guilty, but I felt helpless in the shadow of a tsunami which economists were anxiously waiting to come rushing down towards us.

Thinking back to that novella now, I realize that I shouldn’t have felt guilty. Instead, I should have gotten to work on an essay about how Lennie Smalls, the witless main character with a strength that is beyond his own comprehension, is a perfect way to characterize the mortgage industry or the banking system or any number of financial institutions that are giving us their best dumbfounded looks as they slowly realize what’s going on.

In any case, I’m not going to write that essay now because things have gone from bad to I-can’t-read-another-editorial-about-how-bad-this-is. In any case, it’s a great little book.

Catherine Lacey is writing a book that is tangentially about Barbie, Elton John, and mongoose bicycles and more directly about obsessiveness, secrets that aren’t secrets and little girls who dream of being martyred. More HERE.

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