Novels-in-Stories

A reader of this blog recently asked me to send cite ten examples of a novel-in-stories. And, somewhat to my surprise, Google searches along the lines of “novel-in-stories examples” are the number one way people who don’t know me have found this blog. In fact, if you do that Google search, my site is usually listed first. Who knew?

See my sidebar and click the page Claudia: a Novel-in-Stories for my own definition of the form–in particular, how it differs from a collection of linked stories. There is a Barnes & Noble listing that combines the two, and includes some books (like Annie Proulx’s Accordian Crimes) that don’t seem to belong. There are also multiple listings for a number of titles, and some significant exclusions, but it’s worth a look. And at his fine blog Perpetual Folly, Cliff Garstang has a series of Missing Links posts where he, too, throws the two forms in together. (He posted eight short reviews late last year and hasn’t added one for a couple of months–but he’s teaching and writing and promoting his own story collection, In an Uncharted Country.) The two forms certainly belong on the same continuum, though in my mind there’s a clear aesthetic distinction to be made.

All that said, here’s a not entirely unbiased list of mostly recent examples:

  • Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout (which won the 2009 Pulitzer)
  • Stones for Ibarra, Harriet Doerr (a National Book Award winner, published before the term was in vogue, but very much with that feel)
  • Up the Junction, Nell Dunn (also pre-dates the term)
  • A Brief History of the Flood, Jean Harfenist (who used to belong to a writers group I’m in)
  • Normal People Don’t Live Like This, Dylan Landis
  • More of This World or Maybe Another, Barb Johnson (which I’m reading and will later review for The Short Review)
  • Our Kind, Kate Walbert
  • Monkeys, Susan Minot
  • How to Hold a Woman, Billy Lombardo
  • O Street, Corrina Wycoff
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Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How about Twisted Tree by Kent Meyers? Amazing. One of the most unified, well-melded ones I’ve read.

    Tamara

    • Author and title new to me–but I like the description “well-melded” and will have to check it out.

  2. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

    You know what might be interesting is a novel in short stories by different authors.

    • Good suggestion, Mia. I keep forgetting she wrote a novel.

  3. Don’t forget the original novel in stories: Winesberg, Ohio. “Union Street” by Pat Barker is another fine example, as is John Updike’s “The Maples Stories: and Gloria Naylor’s “The Women of Brewster Place.” And of course, the soon-to-be legendary “Hollywoodski”.

  4. Hollywoodski, absolutely.
    And I think “The First Desire,” by Nancy Reisman, a fabulous writer, might have been called a novel-in-stories if it didn’t also fly as a novel, period. I remember thinking that the chapters could have worked alone, in a deeply satisfying way. (Many of them? All? I’m 300 miles from my bookshelves.)
    Love the Pat Barker, the Harfenist, the Strout, the Doerr.

  5. LOVE MEDICINE by Louise Erdrich.


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