As soon as I decide to embark on my A-Z of Shorter Fiction, look what I find!  An entire series devoted to “The Art of the Novella”, published by Melville House Publishing.  Good quality white paper.  Minimal art work – all emphasis on the contents.  As lovely in their way as Puskin Press publications.  From the backflap:

Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognised 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.”

As a mission statement it sounds fine.  But is it true?  Is the novella really unrecognised as an art form?  And what’s renegade about it?  I’ve loved novellas ever since my first encounters with the German novelle at university.  I adored Storm, Keller and Schnitzler then and I still do.  So I’m really curious about a goodly number of titles in this “Art of the Novella Series”, particularly those written by  classic authors I’ve never read due to their daunting reputations.  Hence I look forward to discovering Edith Wharton, Hermann Melville and (I never thought I’d be saying this) Henry James!  And let’s not forget the Russian delegation. (Gogol, Chekhov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky) Not everything needs to be an epic!

My first purchases from the series were:

Unknown (to me) American authors:

And the inevitable German novelle of distinction:

Which to read first?  In the week when another sordid kiss and tell has kept the gossip mongers busy here in the UK, the time is right for Wharton’s “The Touchstone”

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