Julia Alvarez likes Lila & Theron
By the Book: Julia Alvarez
The author of novels including “In the Time of the Butterflies,” just reissued for its 25th anniversary, has always been taken with Milton’s Satan: “Sorry, God, but he got the better part.”
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I’m in love with a form I call “the short poetic novel” — short lyrical novels that might almost be classed novellas but they tip over into something deeper, more expansive, the way a 17-syllable haiku opens up and floods the imagination. Novels like William Trevor’s “Reading Turgenev,” Kent Haruf’s “Our Souls at Night,” Julie Otsuka’s “The Buddha in the Attic,” Ron Hansen’s “Mariette in Ecstasy,” Colm Toibin’s “The Testament of Mary,” Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart,” Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Maud Martha,” David Malouf’s “Ransom,” Graham Swift’s “Mothering Sunday,” Bill Schubart’s “Lila & Theron” — oh Lord, there are so many good ones. Before I die I want to write one. They’re impossibly difficult to write. The old saw — If I’d had more time I would have written a shorter letter — applies.