Simon A. Smith's Reviews > Sylvia

Sylvia by Leonard Michaels
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Sep 08, 08

bookshelves: favorites, novellas
Read in September, 2008

Pound for pound (weighing in at a scant 125 pages) this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Keeping with the boxing analogy, Michaels writes with a sort of punchy, muscular prose style that is both plain and profound at once. I kept marveling at how skilled he was at saying so much in so little space. His physical descriptions of characters were particularly impressive. It isn't often that the narration about the size and shape of a character's lips becomes one of the most pleasurable parts of the story, but Michaels has a real gift for revealing, shaping and drawing story through his characters.

The copy I own bills the story as a "fictional memoir." I have no idea what that means, but it didn't bother me. If it's a memoir then it's the best memoir I've ever read. If it's a novel then it might be considered a little abrupt or unfinished, but that still wouldn't change the fact that it is filled with high-quality writing throughout.

I guess I'd recommend the book to young writers, New York historyphiles, and masochistic boyfriends. In Sylvia, Leonard Michaels manages to make dark and disturbing a joy to read. Now, if you'll pardon me, I'm off to find more books by this guy!
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