I’m currently writing a feature article for The Canberra Times on the problem child of literature – the novella. It seems to me that down the ages the novella has had a tendency to well and truly punch above its weight. Stories like Thomas Mann’s Death In Venice (1912), George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (1952) have had a massive impact on Western literature and each has very firmly found its place in the literary canon. But are they long short stories or short novels? For example, my 1993 Arrow Classic edition of The Old Man and the Sea contains references to this amazing gem being a short story, a long short story, and a novel. It’s a bit like a motor-bike manufacturer describing its latest model as a mono-cycle, a very fast mono-cycle, and an open-air rocket on wheels.
I’m intrigued about all this because by some extraordinary miracle I’ve written one, a novella, that is. I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote the thing other than I just sat down to tell a story and by the time I’d finished it I had 40,000-word manuscript on my desk, a manuscript, I was convinced, would have a life in the bottom drawer. To me, Fall On Me feels like a novella because it has a focused scope, which is common to the short form of the story, but it also has narrative depth (at least I bloody well hope so), which is common to the longer form. Further, it might have a moral purpose, but who I am to judge.
I’m also intrigued with the novella because it is such a misunderstood little beast, and I completely love misunderstood…anything really.
But enough about me.
What are your thoughts on the novella? How would you define the thing? When you choose fiction to read, do you prefer the expansiveness and long journey of the novel? If you’re a fan of the novella, do you have a favourite?
Do you not care about definitions?
Do you not care at all – would you rather just go fishing?