Screen loves a short format
novellas’ cinematic cousins – for these slight volumes should be celebrated as a literary form too.
There’s something deliciously daring about a book that says no more than it needs to. Novellas are confidently self-contained, often trusting us to read between the lines.
It may be a more shallow reason, but the novella is pleasingly portable too. It won’t give you wrist- strain; having once spent three months trying to get through War and Peace, I can confirm the struggle is real. I’ve also long been a fan of taking novellas on holiday: they don’t take up half your hand-luggage allowance, and they don’t weigh you down when hiking through the Himalayas.
In an increasingly timepoor society – where reading is squished between long working hours, masses of “must-see” but sprawling American TV series, and a good deal of faffing about on social media – there’s also enormous satisfaction in actually getting to the end of a book. There’s a genuine thrill to something that can be read straight through on a rainy Sunday afternoon or over the course of a couple of commutes, whether that’s a pulpy thriller or a modern classic.
And, no snobbery here, but think how many classics are pocket- sized: Ernest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Albert Camus’ The Outsider, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, plus the works by Truman Capote, Anthony Burgess, Muriel Spark, F Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and Thomas Mann. Power through these in three months and you’ll be au fait with a great mass of our best, most heavy-weight writers – but without the excess baggage. – The Independent