Felicia at the Beach: Stories by Max Nussenbaum
This thesis began as a novella, which I referred to as a novel because, as I explained in my incredibly obnoxious proposal, "the word 'novella' sounds too pejorative." I worked on that novella for a very long time-I would guess around three hundred years, but in looking back at my calendar I see that it was actually more like six months. This perpetually-untitled work revolved around the story of Len Carrion, the hapless manager of a failing fastfood chain who discovers that one of his fry
... is, or at least once was, able to fly. I eventually wrote seventy-one pages of this novella, and that hopeless mush of typos and Times Roman ended up containing only a single good sentence, which I will share with you now: "Funerals weren't parties, he realized, but you did dress up and drink and get introduced to a lot of people you'd probably never see again, so really, they weren't that different." Pretty good, right? That sentence was around two one-thousandths of my original thesis, so apparently all I have to do if I ever want to write a great novella is write five thousand terrible ones and then extract from each of them the best thirty-one words. But anyway. Around two months before the deadline for thesis submissions, I realized-or, more accurately, finally accepted the realization that I had long been suppressing-that, with the exception of the delightful sentence I just shared with you, every word of those seventy-one pages was bad. Like, atrociously bad. To get a sense of the level of bad I'm talking about, imagine a training manual for McDonald's employees that's been drafted by a pretentious Jonathan Franzen impersonator 1 . Oh, and the Franzen impersonator has just turned thirteen, and spends an inordinate amount of time describing the character and appearance of women's breasts. What I'm trying to say is, it was very bad writing.