For those long time readers who remember my review of a short story collection, Lost in New York City, you may recall the special place in my heart in which dwell short stories and the under-appreciated novella. Well, Tuesday evenings, I always browse through Shakespeare & Co. bookstore (Wash Place & Broadway) after my statistics class before jumping onto the train to head home. At this point in the day, my brain has been liquefied by drawing up confidence intervals (which I still do not know how to do), and I walk into this bookstore mentally challenging it to pique my interest. I like Shakespeare & Co. because not only is the store of the same title in Berkeley, one of my favourite haunts – of which it is apparently unaffiliated, but, because everywhere you look there’s a book. The books are falling over each other to be noticed. I love it. One day one will jump into my hand and arrest my curiosity winning the challenge.
While I was browsing, I found The Dead by James Joyce. I have been meaning to read the other great stream of consciousness writer ever since I have been on my Virgina Woolf tip, so this shorty seemed to be a good introduction without the commitment of, say, Ulysses. Moreover, once I was fingering the book, which is light and small – just right for my lady hands, I was hooked. The cover is bold yet simple in design (I know we’re not to judge books by their covers, but one day I hope to create these book covers – it’s just the repressed fine art major trying to express herself, I guess). And I realized this Joyce treasure was part of a series, The Art of the Novella series. Amazing! Flipping to the back I satisfied my curiosity reading the list of the published authors. Not only was I surprised by the number of novellas already on the list, but I was surprised by whom was on the list. Herman Melville and Henry James top the list just to give you a taste, and naturally our good man Joyce is on there. Since I do not want to spoil the fun for you, I will abstain from my shock of seeing Edith Wharton and George Eliot holding it down as the only women. 😉
It is refreshing to see this series. Writing is an art and ought to be explored through more forms than the novel or poem, to be uber-simplistic about it. Especially, in this day and age, people rely on that oh-so-problematic sound byte for their knowledge. Being that a novella is shorter to be done in an hour or so perhaps, I predict for the future, THE RISE OF THE NOVELLA – mind you, not a displacement of the novel, just an increasing presence alongside novels and poems. I do particularly like the “About the Series” description:
“Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature’s greatest writers. In The Art of the Novella series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time.”
I guess I should say something about the publishing company, eh? Melville House Publishing is based in Hoboken, New Jersey. While Melville House is a small independent company (Take down the esteemed random house and harper collins!), they are mostly known for their release, Who Killed Daniel Pearl? The House has no inhibitions about their political leanings which is admirable and daring. In addition, to good ethics, the House was started by a husband and wife team who love the feel of books, which I also share and respect. Aesthetically, I like the look and what it represents; their existence is of the noblest intention, thus one of the few items I shall never feel guilty for buying. To find a good interview with one half of the founding team I direct you to http://www.mhpbooks.com/rights.html in which you should then click on their “about” link, up pops a dialog box (if not, perhaps you should take a look at your pop-up blocker) in which you should click “press clips” and voila! you have many press links from which to select.
Viva El Cuento!