Form – Novella

One of my favorite forms of literary fiction is the novella. Starting at approximately 19,000 words (and running as long 40,000 words) it gives the literary fiction reader a little more meat than a short story but requires less commitment than a full blown novel.

Like short stories it is not unheard of for them to be published as a collection or in literary magazines. If a novella is extremely well received it will get a cover of its own. Some publishers try to pass them off as a full length novel while others clearly state “novella” either in the title or in the description. Individually packaged novellas can range from 130 pages to 250 and generally have larger print than the standard novel.

The novella is not limited to the genre of literary fiction and is quite commonly used in science fiction and mini mysteries.

Keep an eye out for these literary fiction gems:

Ten Classic Novellas

  • The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)
  • Animal Farm (George Orwell)
  • The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Truman Capote)
  • Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
  • The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)
  • Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
  • Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
  • The Touchstone (Edith Wharton)
  • Mathilda (Mary Shelley)

Five Modern Novellas

  • Legends of the Fall (Jim Harrison)
  • The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennet)
  • Everyman (Philip Roth)
  • Shopgirl (Steve Martin)
  • Memories of My Melancholy Whores (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

For an excellent series with over thirty classic novellas (as well as a series of contemporary) check out Melville House Publishing’s The Art of the Novella.

This piece was first posted on 7/23/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

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15 Women Authors Who Have Improved Fiction

Have you been making use of your library card? Here is a small selection of notable women writers who have improved fiction. If you haven’t already read some of their work you should make it a point to add them to your reading list before the year is finished. You’ll be glad you did. This listing is in alphabetical order:

Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888) is best known for her novel Little Women which is part of a series dealing with the March Sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Later novels in the series include: Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys. She published over twenty novels, most of which we never hear about.

Jane Austen (1775 -1817), unlike Alcott, is well known for all six of her novels, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey. But it’s Pride and Prejudice that has had the most impact. Where would we all be without Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy?

Charlotte Bronte (1816 -1855) is best known for her novel Jane Eyre. Bronte made plain, strong, beautiful and loveable. She had two other published novels: Shirley, and Villette.

Emily Bronte (1818 -1848), who was not to be overshadowed by her older sister Charlotte, published only one novel Wuthering Heights but she is often referred to as the bigger talent. It would be wonderful to see the magnitude of her talent had she not died so young.

Pearl Buck (1892 -1973) was a prolific writer, producing over thirty novels, numerous works of non-fiction and short stories. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature as well as the Pulitzer Prize for her 1931 novel, The Good Earth.

Kate Chopin (1851 – 1904) wrote two novels and a few short story collections. Her most notable work is her novella, The Awakening, about one woman’s search for her sexual identity. A powerhouse of contention for a book produced in 1899. The book has since been revived.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) is known for her poetics than for novels but she has contributed significantly to the world of writing especially for women writers.

Harper Lee (1926 – ) is best known for her novel on racial inequality in the South, To Kill a Mockingbird. She won a Pulitzer Prize for this novel in 1961. She has been reclusive since the early success of this novel but it is said she is still writing although she hasn’t published another book. Imagine the gems that will be found in her writing room.

Doris Lessing (1919 – ) won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007 for her body of work which includes The Golden Notebook and The Good Terrorist.

Margaret Mitchell (1900 – 1949) is probably one of the most quoted authors. But does she really “give a damn”? Gone with the Wind is also one of the highest selling novels in America. She wrote one other novel, Lost Laysen, published posthumously.

Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) was known mainly for her poetry (and her death) but she did write one novel, The Bell Jar which is said to be loosely reflective of her own mental illness.

Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851) made it cool for women to write about ethical science fiction when she created “The Modern Prometheus” or what we all know as Frankenstein.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896) wrote over ten novels but is best known for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with its strong antislavery theme. She didn’t just write about it, she lived it. Her writing and actions was one of the first steps towards the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Alice Walker (1944 – ) created a stirring novel about an emotionally and physically abused black woman in the South. The Color Purple won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. She has a number of other novels and short story collections, many that deal with the same issues.

Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) probably influenced us more with her non-fiction than her fiction; like her most notable essay Room of One’s Own but she also wrote eight novels including Mrs. Dalloway.

There are many women who have had a positive and forward moving effect on literature but this space is small so I’ve limited it to fifteen. If you think that someone absolutely should be mentioned then please share them in the comments.

This piece was originally posted on 7/29/2008 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Mary Shelley – In Brief

Mary Shelley is the British author behind the 1818 novel, Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus), about a scientist with insane notions of building a man from leftover human body parts. It’s a novel written by a woman ahead of her time. It asks the same moral question we ask today when it comes to science and technology: “Just because it can be done, should it be done?” It also brings into the light our responsibility for such actions.

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Shelley was only eighteen at the time she started writing Frankenstein. It was her first novel and is considered a masterpiece, which is rare for any woman. She wrote Frankenstein during the French and Industrial Revolution when science and technology were coming into their own; creating a myth reflective of the time she grew up in but still containing many aspects relevant to today.

Mary was surrounded by death so it is not surprising she would write a book about creating life and losing it.

Her Parents

Mary Shelley was born in London in 1797. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a feminist pioneer and wrote one the first woman manifests. She died giving birth to Mary. Her father, William Godwin, was a novelist and founder of philosophical anarchism. When Mary was 3 or 4 her father married a woman named Claire who already had two children of her own. Mary never really developed a motherly bond with her.

Her Lover

After schooling Mary returned home to find Percy Shelley working with her father as a disciple. He was a great romantic poet and she fell in love with him easily despite the fact he was already married to another woman and had one child. Percy was into ‘free love’ and was often unfaithful. It was also rumored that he was a nudist, atheist and vegetarian. Of course, her relationship with Percy was not supported by her father; so she snuck off to be with him in Switzerland along with a bunch of his writing friends including Lord Byron who had his own scandalous behavior. Percy died in 1822 in a boating accident during a storm while they were living in Italy.

Her Son

After many ill attempts, Mary had one surviving child with Percy. Percy Florence grew into a respected man who married, worked as a writer and cared for his mother. Mary was devastated by Percy’s death was forever worried that her son would die a horrendous death like his father.

When Mary moved back to England in 1823. She had lost everything so she stayed with her father and his family. She continued to be a writer and publish her husband’s works to help support herself and see to Percy Florence’s education. She had three more successful novels, poems and short stories. She also wrote about feminist figures for encyclopedias. It was not until Percy’s grandfather died and her son became a Baron that she was able to live in resemblance of comfort.

Her Contribution

It is said that Mary Shelley never contributed to feminism like her mother had but I disagree. She is a perfect example that a woman can have a family and be an intelligent contributor to society. After her husband died Mary took care of her family by earning a living with further writing.

Mary understood science and technology and was able to create a world that everyone deemed possible and is still enjoyed decades after her death. She wrote what is considered one of the best novels of all time. A feat not many feminists (or not) can claim.

In 1851 Mary Shelley, the “creator of the modern myth of science” died in London at the age of 53 from a brain tumor, leaving behind a literary legacy she would never have fathomed in her short lifetime.

This piece was originally posted on 9/29/2007 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.