A post a little bit after June but I'm never going to pass up a guest post from Joseph McElroy:
Looking over the remarks on the novella currently featured on the EWN blog, I have to conclude that they say little of interest about the form, insofar as it is a form.They don't seriously think about the subject. Depending, though, on the examples chosen, I believe it can be shown that the novella or short novel is, historically, a kind of form, with characteristics that situate it somewhere between short story and novel. Length may be a factor in the development of certain patterns in the novella neither primarily plot nor primarily character, but is hardly a value in itself. I find one of the contributors to the Dzanc blog saying that nothing important has been written about the novella. To that I answer, begin by reading Howard Nemerov's essay "Composition and Fate in the Short Novel." You can find it in A Howard Nemerov Reader, University of Missouri Press, 1991. Nemerov was an important American poet for many decades, received all the prizes, including NBA, Pulitzer, and Bollingen, and was our Poet Laureate from 1988 to 1990; he also, in his earlier years, published five novels. Thinking about short novels by Flaubert, Conrad, Dostoevsky, Melville, Chekhov, Mann, Bellow, Kafka, and D.H. Lawrence among those of many other writers, Nemerov finds a theme of identity peculiar to the novella: "the mutual attachment or dependency between A and B has a mortal strength; its dissolution requires a crisis fatal to one or the other party; but this dissolution is represented as salvation. " That is where Nemerov finds the particular depth and economy of structure in the short novel. I came across his essay after I had written Preparations for Search, now re-issued as a Dzanc e-book. My New York City novella hardly illustrates Nemerov's mortal bond theme as he discovers and states it; yet then, for a narrative about a group of young people pulling apart from each other, Nemerov's insight illuminates what happens, as does my title.
Joseph McElroy is the author of nine novels, including A Smuggler's Bible, Hind's Kidnap. A Pastoral on Familiar Airs, Ancient History: A Paraphase, Lookout Cartridge, Plus, Women and Men, The Letter Left to Me, Actress in the House, and Cannonball (forthcoming). A volume of short fiction, Night Soul and Other Stories, has also been published. A volume of his essays, Exponential, was published in Italy (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2003). McElroy was the recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Ingram Merrill Foundations, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has taught at Columbia, Temple, Queens College of the City University of New York and NYU, among other universities. He currently lives in New York City.