The novella—a long-ignored literary form—has been back in the news the past couple of weeks.
First, James Patterson announced the start of his latest project, BookShots, which will specialize in both digital and print books of no more than 150 pages each. Some of these he will write himself; some will be the work of other writers. Each will sell for under $5.
Now comes news of the death of the incredibly prolific, much-admired Jim Harrison, whose most distinguished fiction was in the novella format.
Both of these events brought a lot of focus to the plight of the poor, neglected novella.
Novellas certainly boast an illustrious lineage. Great ones were written by Henry James, Herman Melville, and J.D. Salinger, among many others. It’s hard to pinpoint why the novella has fallen out of favor, especially in a world where so many people claim not to have the time to read an entire book. As Patterson points out, his BookShots will be readable in one sitting.
There are times when the novella form is exactly what a story demands. The length of an average short story may not be sufficient to properly tell a tale, but that same tale might have to be overstretched to fit the scope of a true novel. Patterson’s idea is a fine one, and it promises to bring mid-sized books out of the shadows and back into the bookshops, drugstores, convenience stores, and supermarkets. You may even start finding them right by the checkout stand.
And if people start reaching for a new novella instead of The National Enquirer, the battle will already be won.
I’d love to hear from those of you who have favorite novellas–books that you feel found their ideal length—not too long and not too short.