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ande
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The Fires: Novellas

I really loved Alan Cheuse's characters and could have stayed with them for many more pages. But, at the time, I was grateful to have such a poignant, clever and funny read in such a convenient and well-honed package. What did you think? Do you read novellas often?
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IBIS
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Re: The Fires: Novellas

I had hoped to read THE FIRES and join in your discussion. But I had a hard time buying a copy of the book. The B&N I visited (in Fort Lauderdale, FL) was waiting for their shipment to arrive; and no library I visited had copies.
IBIS

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ande
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Re: The Fires: Novellas

Check again and join in (or order online!). The beauty of novellas is they are fast reads and we're ready to talk about it when you are.
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Re: The Fires: Novellas

I found a copy at the B&N here in Burlington, MA.

I will read them and join your discussion. I've always been puzzled by the literary differences between short stories and novellas. It will be interesting to hear Alan Cheuse take on that.
IBIS

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ande
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Re: The Fires: Novellas

So glad you found a copy. Alan has a lot to say about how a novella becomes a novella.
Here's a recent radio interview with Alan that should whet your appetite. This is from WAMC's Roundtable program with Jeff Donahue.
http://www.alancheuse.com/radio/roundtable910.mp3
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Re: The Fires: Novellas

Unfortunately my computer can't access the radio interview. I am interested in finding out more about novellas. Is there a written version of the interview somewhere?
IBIS

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Re: The Fires: Novellas

________________________________________________
ande wrote:
I really loved Alan Cheuse's characters and could have stayed with them for many more pages. But, at the time, I was grateful to have such a poignant, clever and funny read in such a convenient and well-honed package. What did you think? Do you read novellas often?
___________________________________________________

I've just finished reading THE FIRES, and I wished to stay longer with Gina because of her likeability. I laughed out loud when she tried to get a sample of urine into the little cup. It's happened to me so often that I immediately felt a kinship with her.

At the end of the novella, when she wakes up from her amazingly seductive dream, I felt very happy for her. I wondered how she would cope with widowhood. Although her future seemed positive, I wished to stay with her just a bit longer. Maybe another humorous, self-depreciating comment of herself would have ended the story much more satisfyingly.

I enjoyed the clever and funny THE EXORCISM novella. The whole "I forgive her/him" was hilarious, and simultaneously kind-hearted. Of the two novellas, this one left me feeling more emotionally satisfied, the story seemed complete. The length of it was enough to meet and understand the father-daughter, husband-exwife, husband-second-wife, father-college-dean, mother-daughter relationships that informed the story.
IBIS

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AlanCheuse
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Re: The Fires: Novellas

Thanks for your good comments about the novellas. They prove to me the point
I was trying to make in my recent post to you about interpretation, and the
reader as performer....
(I laughed, I have to say, at your candid response to the moments when
Gina is trying to offer a urine sample. The reviewer at the Los Angeles
Times actually opened her review with that moment, saying that as far as
she was concerned things didn't happen this way for women! I guess she
hadn't sampled enough experience, which is what I tried to do...)
Regarding the differences between stories and novellas and novels...
you're not the first reader to tell me that she wanted a little more
of Gina's life after the vision in the Roman hotel room...I don't think
that will come to me immediately...but I suppose it is a possibility down the line...


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Re: The Fires: Novellas

There are many wonderful, laugh-out-loud scenes in THE EXORCISM. Here are just two of them:

As Tom's driving through Connecticut to visit his daughter's college, he's listening to the Bhagavad Gita on his CD, and hums this mantra louder and louder as he drives.
(p.75) "Om I said to myself as I rode along. Om..."
"Om," I was saying now quite loud, "Ooooooommmmmm..."
A little further along, as I was turning north onto Interstate 93... "Om," I said, enjoying the sound no end, "Oooooooommmmmmmm...."

I could just imagine driving in my car in the lane next to him, and watching him saying his "Ooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmm" louder and louder.


(p.76) "Father." (That's what she called me, like something out of an English drawing room, and I've never understood why, but I forgive her.)
IBIS

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AlanCheuse
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Re: The Fires: Novellas

Happy to have made you laugh.


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Re: The Fires: Novellas and Religious Faith

The novellas described how some of your characters interacted with a variety of religions on a cultural level. It was interesting to read that none of them practiced any religion in the institutional sense.

In THE FIRES, Gina is in a Muslim country, and meets a Jewish man who helps her attend a Hindu purification ritual to cremate Paul's body. At the end of the novella, she has a poetic vision, or dream, of both the cultural and religious elements of her experience.

In THE EXORCISM, the Gita, a Hindu religious poem is played on a CD, and we meet Erna, a Brazilian faith healer, who performs exorcisms with Roman Catholic overtones.

It was an cultural tossed salad of the world's main religions. Many religious rituals require fire and/or water; these elements have paradoxical meanings--they both heal and destroy. They both give sustenance, as well as take it away.

I wondered if you could comment on how these religious overtones helped to color your stories?
IBIS

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Why a novella? A word from The Fires' publisher

Andrew Gifford, publisher of The Santa Fe Writers Project, is a lover of novellas, which is one obvious reason why he published The Fires. He'll be visiting with us shortly to talk about why he was attracted to The Fires. And also about SFWP.
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Re: The Fires: Novellas and Religious Faith

Once again, I'm the writer but here just another reader...
The theological texture that you describe suprises me, because
I hadn't done any of this for that purpose, except in that I
wanted to give each character his or her spiritual due, and
each is different from the other in this regard...But it
is all there, yes, I agree with you...(Maybe I'm a closet
Zoastrian, with all that fire flickering and smoking...But
fire is the sign of destruction/creation that all religions
speak of...)
The nature of our lives today reminds me of what I've read
of the late Mediterranean culture in the first centuries BC
and AD...People were hungry for a faith that consoled them,
but also one that didn't demand too much from them...and
a dozen or more religions vied for the allegiance of the
populations of the region, from Rome to elsewhere....
Christianity ended up become the dominant religion because
it demanded very little from its converts, except that they
adopt a few simple practices and accept Christ as their personal
savior...
If you look at the world today you can see a similar swirl of
spiritual activity...from Christianity to Buddhism to Islam to
Judaism...but to say the simplest one will triumph is to oversimplify....
And Yeat's line sticks in my mind--what rough beast slouches toward
Bethlehem, etc...


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Re: Why a novella? A word from The Fires' publisher

Well, first, thanks to all of you for supporting The Fires and participating in this forum.

The Fires is our second release, and we took a bit of a dare releasing two novellas, but I didn't get into publishing to just tow the line. In the current publishing environment, it's daring enough simply to start up a small press, so why not go wild? I published our first title, Moody Food, because I believed in the book and wanted to see it on the shelves. When I first read the novellas that would become The Fires, there was no doubt that they would be our next title. The Fires is easy to publish. It's great writing from a great writer. We're proud to have it out there.

So why do I have an attraction to the novella form? For years, SFWP has run a literary awards program. By far, the novella is what we see the most. So many great works have come through SFWP's doors over the years and it's sad that novella (and short story) authors are pretty much doomed before they even get to the gate in the publishing world. There's no point lamenting that fact if you don't take action and try to change it...and, with all of your help, we are. Ideally, The Fires will help us launch a novella series from multiple authors.

The novella is also an important American artform. It is, by no means, exclusively American, but it's something that shaped our literary movements in the 19th and early 20th century. With that in mind, The Fires ties in beautifully with a book from Applewood Press, which Alan edited -- Seeing Ourselves. Check it out.

For more about us, we're at www.sfwp.com.
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Re: Why a novella? A word from The Fires' publisher

Interesting that so many writers write and then submit novellas to your awards program. If it's such a popular form for authors why such a disconnect with the publishing industry at large?
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Re: Why a novella? A word from The Fires' publisher

Well, that's a question I don't think we'll ever get answered. There is, certainly, a disconnect between publishing and authors. I think the industry has lost its way, becoming obsessed with the machine aspects of churning out books and making money. But, I also think there's something of a pendulum that swings from favoring the big wigs to allowing an environment where small presses can rise up. We saw that in the 60's and 70's, and small presses are again coming back around after a few decades of suffering. Not quite there yet, but I predict we'll be back into a more free-form period in the 2010's.
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Re: The Fires: Novellas and Religious Faith

Alan Cheuse wrote:
... If you look at the world today you can see a similar swirl of
spiritual activity...from Christianity to Buddhism to Islam to
Judaism...but to say the simplest one will triumph is to oversimplify....
And Yeat's line sticks in my mind--what rough beast slouches toward
Bethlehem, etc...
_____________________________________________________________

Interesting that Yeats SECOND COMING would come to your mind. Who knows what religion will thrive after Christianity?

I did respond to the spiritual texture in THE FIRES, (although you didn't mean it to be read that way). Your comment of giving your characters their spiritual due is unique to my reading. I don't come across many modern stories which describe faith-filled characters.

A character's spiritual life is not obvious to the naked eye. For example, an author could write an exhaustive biography of Mother Teresa, and never once mention her deep faith. Not that anyone would do that since she's so well-known. But it is easy to overlook, and not mention, that invisible aspect of faith-filled lives in contemporary stories.

As a reader of much contemporary writing, what do you think?
IBIS

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AlanCheuse
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Re: The Fires: Novellas and Religious Faith

Ibis,
These particular characters are searching, rather than having found an
answer. Which may be characteristic of a lot of western people today.
In the work of other writers we find the life of the spirit answered
in the absence rather than in a positive way. With the exception of
some of Updike's characters, and the fallen Catholic aura in the best
work of Robert Stone, I don't know many writers who add this breadth to
the lives of their characters.
I may be wrong. Other people have some other ideas about this?


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