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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10 Summer Reading Classics

Here are my suggestions for some summer reading classics. We tend to focus a lot on the writers of the 19th century. With this list I tried to include an assortment of novels from other centuries. Amazingly, all are still available. The old really is new again.

I’ve listed them in alphabetical order but feel free to read them chronologically or mix them up.

Anna Karenina / Leo Tolstoy (1877) – This story has found new life thanks to Oprah and her book club. The story centers around Anna, a married Russian woman, trapped in a loveless relationship. In an effort to avoid an unhappy life she begins a secret relationship with Count Vronsky. 864 pages are coated with love, angst, anger, jealousy and guilt. All derived from affairs of family, affairs of society and affairs of the heart.

Canterbury Tales, The / Geoffrey Chaucer (1386-1400) – A collection of twenty five stories, or tales if you prefer, featuring such lively characters as a knight, a nun, a miller, a cook, a friar, a physician, a monk and many more. Each character or pilgrim has their own story that is told during their journey to Canterbury. Chaucer’s 528 page collection gives an interesting and sometimes comical look into fourteenth century English life.

Don Quixote / Miguel de Cervantes (1605) – The adventures of a knight, Don Quixote, and his suire, Sancho Panzo are the focus of this 1056 page literary classic. Translated many times over, this latest addition has been a pleasure for many Quixote fans.

Great Gatsby, The / F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925) – Visit the decadence of 1920s New York. Jay Gatsby made himself fabulously wealthy to get the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately she married another man. Through a series of planned meetings they end up together but their relationship leads to devastating consequences neither could have predicted. A quick read at 180 pages.

Gulliver’s Travels / Jonathan Swift (1726) – Lemuel Gulliver is an adventurer with a love for the sea. On four separate excursions he encounters habitants not characteristic to every day life; the mini Liliputians, the giant Brobdingnags, the intelligent Houyhnhnms and the deformed Yahoos. Each though physically different have moral and philosophical representations to societal life. An entertaining 336 pages.

House of Mirth, The / Edith Wharton (1905) – Lily Bart is a New York socialite with little means other than her beauty and wit which have allowed her to live, for some time, off the attractions of wealthy suitors. She is quickly approaching thirty and realizes she will have to make a decision if she is to maintain the social standing she’s become accustomed to. A comfortable 352 pages.

Madame Bovary / Gustave Flaubert (1857) – Once considered notorious for it’s lavish content, it is now a bestseller. Emma Bovary is bored with her life, despite being married to a doctor and having a beautiful daughter. She begins a series of affairs to fill her time. 328 lustful pages.

Mrs. Dalloway / Virginia Woolf (1925) – What does one day in a life look like? Woolf shows the reader what happens in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party and is constantly interrupted by people, events and her own thoughts. Another short read, at 216 pages.

Portrait of a Lady, The / Henry James (1881) – Isabel Archer is an American in London. Time has come to find a suitor. She unexpected comes into a nice fortune which makes her task all the more difficult. A rich story full of deceptions and secrets. 656 pages to keep you busy.

Utopia / Thomas More (1516) – Welcome to the fictional island of Utopia, where laws are few, no one goes hungry and equality just happens. This 176 page documentation delivered interesting concepts long before it’s time.

Have a great summer getting reacquainted with some classics.

Joyce, Murdoch and Woolf on Film

It’s no surprise literary fiction novels make great movies. What surprises me is the literary fiction authors themselves (or their inspiration) also make good movies. It’s important to realize when watching movies based on real people a certain artistic license may have been taken to make the story more enticing. During filming a different direction often arises because it feels right to move the story there, just like writing a novel.

Here are three novelists and three movies depicting them:

Nora

Nora-Film-CoverIrish novelist, short story writer and poet James Joyce is considered one of the world’s greatest writers. He is best known for such works as Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. He was born in Dublin in 1882 and died in Zurich in 1941 at the age of 59 of a perforated ulcer. The movie Nora is about the woman and often inspiration in his life. Ewan McGregor plays James Joyce and Susan Lynch plays Nora Barnacle (Barrington). While the movie is titled after her it basically begins and ends with Joyce. Starting with their first encounter in 1904 and focusing mainly on his attempts to complete and publish the collection of short stories, Dubliners. The movie is beautifully shot and the accompanying music inviting.

Purchase Nora from Amazon.com.
Purchase Nora from Amazon.ca.

Iris

Iris-Film-CoverIris Murdoch, also born in Dublin but transposed to London was a novelist philosopher who had a prolific career producing over 20 novels. She is most famous for her first book Under the Net and The Sea, The Sea which won the 1978 Booker prize. She was born in 1919 and passed away from Alzheimer’s in 1999 at the age of 80. The movie, simply titled, Iris depicts her life through the eyes of her husband, novelist and professor John Bayley. It flips back and forth between her youth and the onset of her disease. Kate Winslet portrays her young spirit and Judi Dench captures it with the Alzeimers. Except for Kate’s hair it is a beautiful film of love, loss, respect and forgiveness.

Purchase Iris from Amazon.com.
Purchase Iris from Amazon.ca.

The Hours

The-Hours-Film-CoverVirginia Woolf, British author and feminist, is a significant literary figure especially for women. She is best known for such works as Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando and A Room of One’s Own. She was born in London in 1882 and died in London in 1941 (a few months before and after Joyce). She was 59. The Hours is based on a Pulitzer novel by Michael Cunningham of the same name. Three women are connected the book Mrs. Dalloway in three different times. Nicole Kidman plays Virginia as she writes it. Julian Moore plays Laura who’s reading it. Meryl Streep is Clarissa whose nicknamed after it. It really only shows a glimpse into the life of this author but still the performances are stirring especially those of Kidman and Ed Harris.

Purchase The Hours from Amazon.com.
Purchase The Hours from Amazon.ca.

While film adds an interesting aspect to the authors they should only be looked at as a supplement. The best way to get to know an author is through their works.

Originally published 12/17/2005 on Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.