As a writer who loves the novella, I am always interested to read what others have to say about the possibilities of this strange and lovely form. Most recently there’s this:
Although I wonder why the default suggestion seems to be that they are a perfect size for ebooks, I am glad to know that novellas inspire panels at literary festivals, debates online and off, and much discussion about length and the parameters of plot. I wish publishers weren’t so afraid of them. I have two out now, as a single manuscript, making the rounds. How would we market these, seems to be the lament — and although I understand it in some ways (a small book in a culture driven by excess and hype), I have to wonder where that old bold spirit went, the one that motivated publishers to take on unlikely titles and market them in the same way they would market anything: as necessary and vital books, not as something to apologize for. Years ago Jan and Crispin Elsted made a beautiful book of my novella, Inishbream, with wonderful wood-engravings by John DePol:
And Goose Lane Editions published a lovely trade edition of the book a couple of years later. I never felt that the manuscript was treated with anything less than respect as a work of literature rather than a abbreviated version of a real book. And for the New Year, my wish is that I find an equally congenial home for Winter Wren and Patrin.
It’s a perfect time of year to re-read James Joyce’s elegant example of the novella, The Dead. In his essay on the novella in the New Yorker last year, Ian McEwan wrote about The Dead: “A simple binary structure (a party, a hotel room) supports the evocation of an entire social milieu (decorous and fractious by turns) with extraordinary warmth. They seem to play out in real time, the dancing and singing at the aunts’ annual dinner, the family tensions, the barbed exchange about national identity.”
2 thoughts on “An argument for the novella”
I adore novellas. Two of my faves are Marie Claire Blais’ Three Travelers and Anne Hebert’s A Suit of Light – what is it about the French that celebrates this intense & memorable genre?
I just finished reading a new novel by a well-known writer. I finished it in an evening and realized that although there were more than 200 pages, the book itself was set in 14 pt. (or maybe larger). So it seemed like a strategy to make the book seem longer than it would have been set in 12 pt. It was curious to me. A small book gussied up to look bigger? Yes, you’re right about the French (and the Germans, the Italians, maybe Europeans in general) have a healthy respect for novellas. French-Canadian publishers too. Anyway, mine will keep making the rounds, I guess. Happy Christmas!