#14: Gotham, by Nick Earls (Wisdom Tree #1)

Yes, I’m slow, so very very slow—two years too late. Cargoes by Nick Earls was originally published in October 2015 as part of Griffith Review 50: The Novella Project III, and I’ve had it sitting on my e-reader since then. Now that I’m finally catching up on my Griffith Review subscription, here we are…

Since its appearance in Griffith Review, the novella was re-released as Gotham, part one of the Wisdom Tree series of five novellas published by Inkerman & Blunt. The innovative series has received wide attention and the third novella in the series, Vancouver, won the People’s Choice Award at the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

I’ve been told there are some small sentence-level differences between the two versions, so I should be clear that I read the novella published as Cargoes, but I’ll refer to it using the newer title here since that’s how it is now most commonly known.

This novella is exactly what a novella should be. It couldn’t be anything else. It’s short, at just under 20,000 words and consists of only a few scenes, but this contained, tightly-structured surface hides great depth.

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#8: Whale Station, by Megan McGrath

They said there were no more whales but I’d caught one.

Megan McGrath’s Whale Station, published in Griffith Review 46: The Novella Project II, opens with the protagonist Rick chasing down and harpooning a whale off the coast of Brisbane. The novella takes us back to Tangalooma’s history as a whaling station that operated from 1952-1962, a history that I was only dimly aware of as someone who grew up in Brisbane. Located on Moreton Island, Tangalooma is now a tourist resort known for offering hand-feeding of dolphins and whale watching. I’ve been there just once, when work took me there for a social outing; it’s clear from McGrath’s evocative prose that her personal connection to and sense of this beautiful place is stronger than mine.

Whale Station is available to read online, but please do buy either the print or ebook version of Griffith Review 46. Reading from websites doesn’t work so well at a length of nearly 22,000 words.

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#6: Former Glory, by Cate Kennedy

What are Australia’s forgotten stories, those tales from history that don’t get enough of an airing? This 17,000-word novella by Cate Kennedy is the first of five that were selected for Griffith Review 46: Forgotten Stories (The Novella Project II). The subtitle promises fiction with a historical bent, but also something that strays from the well-worn beaten paths that Australian history tends to tread.

Former Glory is a quick read that felt shorter than it actually is, almost like a long short story, and it can definitely be read in a single sitting. It’s told from the present by Ed, a first-person narrator, so it doesn’t have the dusty texture that some might expect from historical fiction. Instead, it’s about an attempt by two artsy out-of-towners to restore the pub in a dying country town, with Ed’s reluctant help.

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What even is a novella?

The great battle of literary forms seems to focus primarily on the short story versus the novel, with the general consensus being that the novel is superior in its greater scope and possibilities—just try selling a short-story collection to a publisher!—but this over-simplification neglects poetry; it neglects the ultra-short gems of flash fiction that are prevalent online; and it neglects the novella.

Personally, I love them all. So why focus this site on novellas? And what even are they?

Well. The first answer is simple: the novella is oft-neglected, and yet I’ve enjoyed so many of them in the past few years. They deserve the increased attention that they seem to be getting. And they deserve more!

But what is a novella? Is it just a short novel?

Well yeah. Type the question into Google and you’ll be told that a novella is “a short novel or a long short story”. But how long is a piece of string?

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Yes. All of them.

In late 2014 Melville House announced their Art of the Novella series, an admirable project to publish classic novellas in book and ebook form. To celebrate the launch, they offered the first fifty-six of the books at a special price.

I couldn’t resist.

There have been some problems with the international shipping, but I’m expecting the books to arrive soon. When they do, I’m going to stare them in the face and read—in the words of Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction—”everything motherfucking last one” of them.

honeybunny

Along the way I’ll post reviews, my thoughts on the novella as an art form, favourite quotes and whatever else I can come up with. It could take years, but I’m in this for the long haul.

Join me!

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