My love for big novels is longstanding and deep-seated. Friends’ eyes glaze over as I go on and on about my affinity for expansive works that plop a reader into a massive universe and–if I’m being honest–could use the help of a no-nonsense editor. My shelves are full of door stops and my plan for spring break (less than a week away!) is to shotgun a few volumes of The Familiar by Mark Z. Danielewski, but I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to short novels. Not too long ago I read Train Dreams by Denis Johnson on a flight and later polished off Loner by Teddy Wayne over a rainy weekend.
The sharpest work of short fiction I’ve encountered recently is The Vegetarian by Han Kang. It’s a gritty piece of literary fiction that–unlike much of my experience with fiction in translation–does not require a deep knowledge of its home culture to feel the impact. And at just over 200 pages, it’s a quick read that takes much longer to process. Kang presents a subtle violence throughout the novel that diminishes Yeong-hye (the main character) and leaves a mark on the reader.
If you find yourself with a spare hour or four, check out some of the 35 novels linked above and give one a shot. Based on the few I’ve read from those lists, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.