The Thing About Novellas

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Novellas, such as Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs, seem to be way more popular outside the U.S., and I don’t understand why.

What does a novella offer the casual reader?

  • a concise story
  • a quick read
  • a small but memorable cast of characters.

Think of the novella, then as a short, three-act play.

 

But if you don’t want your reading spoon-fed, if you want literary merit to go along with entertainment value, what does a well-written novella offer?

  • the depth of poetry
  • deceptive complexity
  • much for the reader to infer, i.e., offers the reader a place in the story.

The best novellas urge re-reading, peeling away the onion of meaning that lies before you, much as the best poetry begs you to read, and re-read, and re-read…

 

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