In another review for The Times, Dwight Garner acknowledges the short story-ness of Bennett’s book even as he insists that the work is a novel: “‘Pond’ is a slim novel, told in chapters of varying lengths that resemble short stories. There’s little in the way of conventional plot.” Hmm. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Garner was describing a short story collection.
This phenomenon of misidentifying a story collection as a novel is surprisingly common, both in book reviewing and in polite conversation. A number of people seem to use the term “novel” as a synonym for “book,” and because of this I sometimes see even works of nonfiction referred to as novels. (I won’t call anyone out on this point, since it’s really quite embarrassing.) More often, the word “novel” is applied to collections when all of the stories within feel strongly of a piece (and consequently are favorites of the creative writing workshop).
Mr. Szalay’s own stream of perception never falters in its sensitivity and probity. This book is a demonstration of uncommon power. It is a bummer, and it is beautiful.
With the publication of “Today Will Be Different,” she has now written two works of fiction (her previous novel, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” was published in 2012) that are truly smart and deep and funny — worthy of laughing out loud rather than merely saying “LOL.” Semple brilliantly conveys a whole array of angst — self-deprecation and existential dread and a panic attack of neuroses — while simultaneously packing in a liberal dose of levity.