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Novels in Three Lines Paperback – Aug 21 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (Aug. 21 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172308
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #59,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
None of today's major papers would print the types of obituaries and other news items Feneon wrote in the early years of the 20th century. They are mordant, cynical, joyful over the most bizarre and violent mishaps, attitudes and deaths, and crafted with the precision of a poet.

This book contains roughly one thousand 'novels' or life stories (or death stories) that summarize in the fewest words possible what a person expired of, what a city council fought over (usually religious matters), how this or that soldier behaved, and details of suicide (disembowelled, drowned, hanged), murder (knifed, shot), accident (slipping into machinery, being run over by cars), and mutilation (a lot of acid gets thrown around). You may think none of this could be funny, but Feneon's compression of events and his tone combine to make this book a rich, if narrow, slice of human behaviour.

Quoting from it would be like eating peanuts - impossible to stop. If you read a handful of entries, then you'll know immediately if it's what you might like. Or, you could give it as a gift to that person who's hard to shop for. Highly recommended. Luc Sante's introduction is very well done, and provides all the context one needs.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
if haikus were cold assessments of society, they'd be this awesome Oct. 16 2007
By J. Cole - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
if you think people drowning, killing themselves, getting hit by cars, or living sad lives at the turn of the 20th century in france has the potential to be laugh-out-loud funny, then you'll maybe piss yourself when you read this book.

it's not so much the content as it is Fénéon's impeccable timing that makes this book work. he turns a phrase, this guy. it's all just news blurbs, like the local stories from the usa today, but there's nothing about the execution that's even remotely similar.

one example - "Scheid, of Dunkirk, fired three times at his wife. Since he missed every shot, he decided to aim at his mother-in-law, and connected."

there are also some touching items.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Many Woes In Terse Prose Sept. 21 2007
By Lauregon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm ordering two more copies of this small book to send as gifts to friends who appreciate dark humor and irony. These tersely told tales are a delight and an inspiration. Readers may never again be able to read the newspaper without picking up imaginary scissors and a pen and paper.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An Amazing Book May 27 2008
By D. A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great book, opening up an aspect of modern literature that needs to be much more fully explored and understood. In his celebration of the quotidian, Feneon made it clear that the real world offers all that is needed to refresh one's vision. We could not have had Rauschednberg without Feneon, though I've no idea if he ever read this brilliant, modest book. Great introductory essay by Luc Sante makes this an even more important book for anyone trying to understand why so much modern art feels the way it does.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Life was tough in 1906 France. Jan. 27 2008
By Raymond Melancon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book gave a real insight into all the bad things that were happening in France back in 1906. It was a list of all the three line items that the writer put into his newspaper to fill out the page. Some of them had some wry humor but most struck me with sadness because of the terrible crimes and accidents that occured. The brevity of the items intensified the emotion. I couldn't read too many pages at a time. This book is not for the squeamish. I recommend it because it gives a view of life back then.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Madison Avenue Could Learn About IMPACT from Feneon March 22 2008
By David Wineberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Digesting an entire story and reproducing it in three lines is an art form. To have had it your daily paper was a privilege denied to all of us. Feneon could make the most mundane news item into a fascinating gem. He could communicate angles with extraordinarily efficient use of words. He was the Al Hirschfeld of news. Like Hirschfeld, Feneon's news items are tinged with humor:

Brandy he thought. Actually it was carbolic acid.
Thus Philibert Faroux, of Noroy, Oise, outlived
his spree by a mere two hours.

If you read this book while imagining the nationwide roundup page in USA Today, you will mourn the death of creativity. Journalism today is so dry and careful, so politically correct, as to be completely disposable and avoidable. Try this item, one of series describing the ongoing battle to get crucifixes out of classrooms in 1906:

Two mayors in the Somme were determined
to restore to classroom walls the image
of divine torture. The prefect suspended
those mayors.

And let me leave you with one last gem that could also never appear in an American paper today:

The name of a man arrested in Blainville
as a spy: Tourdias. His age: 24. His
profession: traveling salesman of bandages
and medicine.

Truly a novel, an elevator pitch for a Hollywood thriller. Leaves you asking questions, like nothing in the papers today. And that's the whole point, isn't it? Leave them asking for more!

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