“Shattered novella” is what Ryan’s calling it, but really, it’s hard to know what to call this thing other than art. It is a novella, in the sense that it’s a unified narrative spanning a long period and covering a lot of pages, but it’s a novella in the form of a microfiction cycle, in the sense that each chapter stands alone as a tiny glimpse into these lives. But they’re barely even glimpses, really — even “microfiction” feels too large for these moments. They’re more like (as Will Crain points out on Corrective Lenses in “Our Chapbook Could Be Your Life: An interview with Ryan Werner“) tweets or Facebook statuses, but I worry that’s selling the book short. Soft isn’t at all that glib or gimmicky. “It was always more ‘Amy Hempel meets Steven Wright’ for me than ‘Facebook status,'” Ryan says in the Corrective Lenses interview, “but it’s definitely nice that how I write has dovetailed with how people receive information these days. I’ve always liked tiny things or, conversely, big things made up of a million tiny parts.”
It’s a stunning project and well worth checking out.
Here’s a blurb that’s not really from Nick Hornby (it’s one of the “fake blurbs from real authors that you may treat as fact if it’ll make you buy my goddamn book”):
I shared a Facebook status Ryan Werner wrote one time. It was about the Rick Derringer song ‘Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo.’ This book is about music and girls. Really groundbreaking stuff, I’m sure. — Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity.
(True story #1: Soft really is about music and girls. True story #2: Ryan and I really did once engage in a brief Facebook exchange with the real Nick Hornby, and it really was about music.)
(PS: Sorry for the post title, Ryan. You knew I had to go there.)
(PPS: Thanks, Ryan, for the shout-out in the interview.)
(PPPS: I met Nick Hornby once and he signed my cast, and I don’t think Ryan has ever stopped being jealous of that.)