While pulling together our winter issue, in which we highlight the novella, I’ve been in a variety of settings where I’ve been asked to explain exactly what a novella is. Over several months of researching and gathering titles, keeping a running list of classic novellas, writing about novellas, editing people writing about novellas, reclassifying some short novels as novellas and changing them back again—never once did I pause to ask myself that very same question. And yet, when asked, I always had an answer.
Posts Tagged ‘Issue 3’
Interviewed by Kaitlyn Greenridge
Tiphanie Yanique’s debut short story collection, “How to Escape From a Leper Colony” was released in March 2010 by Graywolf Press. The National Book Award Foundation recently named her one of the “5 under 35 Emerging Writers.” In addition, she was nominated for the 2010 Cork City Frank O’Conner Short Story awards and her book was nominated to the Boston Globe’s “Sixteen Authors to Watch.” She is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Kore Press Fiction Prize, The Academy of American Poets Prize, a Fulbright Scholarship in writing and the Boston Review Fiction Prize. She is currently a professor of Creative Writing and Caribbean Literature at Drew University. She is from the Virgin Islands and lives most of the year in Brooklyn, New York.
There’s something special about the novella form. Long enough to bind—too many pages to staple, words enough to merit book length without resorting to margin tricks—but short enough to read in a sitting, with breaks for coffee, underlining, pencil-sharpening, maybe lunch. Melville House publishes a series of backlist novellas—the classics, Turgenev and Eliot and Shelley and Proust—and a line of contemporaries, many appearing in English for the first time, all bound in eye-catching glossy covers the titles in a font so big you can be sure everyone in your subway car will notice your discerning taste. So here’s this, one of the latest from their contemporary line: The Union Jack, Melville House’s second offering from Imre Kertész, the Hungarian writer and translator who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002.
In Josh Weil’s The New Valley, a collection of three novellas, we meet three solitary men, each in their own unique fog of grief. The rural Virginia they have always known is transforming around them, dreamlike. The most reliable of landmarks, the rivers and farms and gas stations, come to symbolize something new—the desire to be seen, the fear of being dispensable. The characters and their environment are interdependent; they change each other. In this and other ways, Weil’s work echoes Winesburg, Ohio.
On the 14th of November, 1999, a curious advertisement appeared in the London Times next to a story about a Monaco based financier. After close scrutiny the reader could surmise that the advertisement was actually a declaration from the “First Committee” of an institution calling itself the International Necronautical Society, or the INS. Nobody had heard of it, since the INS was a just-launched semi-fictitious organization with a strange objective—what might be best summarized as a death manifesto. Holding the important title of “General Secretary” was an INS member by the name of Tom McCarthy.
Tony Tulathimutte’s Brains—winner of the Malahat Review’s annual novella contest—is a great story by a talented writer, despite the unappealing title.
At first readers might be put off by the somewhat affected, if self-assured, narration that introduces the main character, Diana, a child prodigy who becomes the unpopular valedictorian of her high school class at the age of fourteen. Though Tulathimutte’s formal diction keeps the reader at arms length, it aptly reflects the condescension and emotional distance of our brainy, friendless, perhaps even asexual protagonist, who sees herself as separate from the rest of her species:
At the heart of Milena Agus’ beautiful, crystalline novella, From the Land of the Moon, lies a question of truth. What is the truth behind any “true” story? When we look back on the events of our lives and create stories by telling them to others, how much can possibly be true? If my sister’s memory differs from mine, even drastically, is one of us necessarily lying? Or did we each simply experience the event differently? If my sister then appears crazy to me, is she crazy? Or am I failing to understand her and her worldview? Is truth the same as accuracy?
Anthony De Sa’s first book, a collection of linked short stories, came out in Canada to critical acclaim, was short listed for the 2008 Giller Prize and the City of Toronto Book Award, and won the Premios Talento Prize in Portugal in 2009. This Archipelago Books’ release marks the arrival of this new Portuguese-Canadian writer’s work in America.