April 4, 2013

Book Club: Train Dreams & Novellas

While I was reading Denis Johnson's Train Dreams I wondered to myself why we don't see more novellas published anymore? Some of the most famous books have been novellas: The Old Man and the Sea, Heart of Darkness, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, etc. These are all great books but you don't hardly see the novella form published anymore. All I can figure is that publishing houses don't want to risk publishing little short novels in today's publishing world and that's a shame.

I digress though. If you remember the last Denis Johnson book I read was Tree of Smoke which I had to stop reading because I found that book to be completely uninteresting. I have the opposite opinion on Johnson's book Train Dreams.

Train Dreams is a perfect little 116 page novella that is a pure pleasure to read. It takes us through the life of Robert Grainier a loner of a man who lives in the Idaho panhandle working clearing trees for the railroads. The book takes us through his life as an orphan to the tragedy revolving his family to his fight to keep his peace of mind living alone while also helping others.

It's a tremendous little book that I sincerely recommend reading. It's filled with vivid imagery, sorrow, humor, and triumph. Great read.

And this brings me back to the world of novellas. Novellas in my opinion are the perfect books. They're long enough to completely flesh out a story and yet short enough that a writer can't take you down a rabbit hole. How many novels have you read where there's a section that you thought was completely pointless to the entire realm of the book? Novellas can't waste words. The story must be completely put together without a sentence wasted. And that's what makes them so good. There isn't a single wasted sentence in an entire novella.

Sadly though it looks like publishing houses no longer publish novellas and authors don't try to write them anymore. We all lose because of this.

1 comment:

  1. Animal Farm, Death in Venice, etc. All great novellas. My personal favorite is The Bridge of San Luis Rey.