November 17, 2010

Inaugural Blog Tour: The Art Of The Novella


More and more, we find ourselves in awe of the quality, depth and variety of places on the internet talking about books. Thus, we’ve decided to take a year-end look at how those places talked about our titles. (Read the kickoff.) The point is to feature not only the titles we proudly published in 2010, but also some of the great writing about those titles from around the internet. In some cases the writing may only mention our book. In these instances the posts would of course have to be extraordinary.

The blogs featured today are all violating one of literature’s oldest dictums: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Who can blame them though? After all, they’re talking about The Art Of The Novella series.

Flagrant bragging out of the way, let’s get to these blogs talking up our book design. Not to lose any literary street cred we’ve closed the piece with some discussion of the matter between those award-winning wraps.

First we have a somewhat sparsely updated but nonetheless visually entertaining blog called form and effect. In a post about the wonderful Three Lives & Company bookstore, emphatically titled “DO Judge A Book By Its Cover” we came upon this enjoyable observation:

Favorite Find: One of my all-time personal favorites, Kate Chopin’s classic The Awakening.

But this was a published version I was not familiar with, from the thick manila-feel of the cover to the block print title. Upon examination I found the publisher and jotted it down: Melville House Publishing. I wanted it just because it was different! But I maintained composure and stuck with my planned purchases. Once home, however, I logged onto MHP’s website straight-away. It turns out Chopin’s pink book is part of a Melville House Publishing series called The Art of the Novella. I admit, there is a small part of me that wants every single one in the series just because their rainbow shades would look great on display. Given I could find a place to display them…

This is an ideal post, in our minds, as it is one that celebrates books as place, art and content.

Moving on, we have two posts from two slightly upscale blogs. One of them “On Covers” and the other on bookstores in NYC. .

BookTwo is a book industry blog and as such provides a lot of original perspective on the subject of the business of books. In its “On Covers” post one need go only half-way down to find our titles held up as a an example of good book cover art.

The second is the blog of Penguin U.K., which technically should seem too big for this series. It is a noble piece of travel writing on New York bookstores and as such warrants inclusion. Included in the blogger’s tour of New York stores is Melville House and this means they stood before one of our revolving bookshelves loaded floor to ceiling with The Art Of The Novella.

There was no way we couldn’t get a photo of these bad boys: Melville House’s ‘Art Of The Novella’ series. With little prompting I could have bought each and every one of these designer beauties. Nothing else to say: just look and drool

Go check out the other bookstores that landed themselves on the bookstore tour of NYC.

Now, about those novellas…

The Nice Old Man and The Pretty Girl by Italo Svevo

The fable-like story of an old man’s sexual obsession with a young woman is a distillation of Italo Svevo’s converns–attraction of an older man to a younger woman, individual conscience versus social convention, and the cost of sexual desire. This novella is a marvel of psychological insight, following the man’s vacillations and tortuous self-justifications to their tragic-comic end. It is presented here in a translation first commissioned and published by Virginia Woolf for her Hogarth Press.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Condemned as “sordid” and “immoral” on its publication in 1899, this story of a woman trapped in her marriage effectively ended Chopin’s career but was revived as a proto-feminist classic in the 1970s. What Newsweek calls Chopin’s “prophetic psychology” insures its timeliness today.

Adolphe by Benjamin Constant

First published in 1816, Adolphe is the story of a young man with all the privileges and advantages of a noble birth, bt who’s still haunted by the meaninglessness of life. He seeks distraction in the pursuit of the beautiful, but older and married Ellenore, a fictionalized version of Madame de Stael. The young Adolphe, inexperienced in love, falls for her unexpectedly and falters under the burden of the illicit love.

The Country Of The Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

The story of an endearing, unlikely friendship set against the backdrop of a remote and beautiful Maine coastal town, The Country of Pointed Firs is one of Sarah Orne Jewett’s most loved works, and it quickly earned her a reputation as a talented writer upon its publication. Praised by Alice Brown for its “idyllic atmosphere of country life,” Jewett’s moving novel shows her intimate understanding of New England and its unique inhabitants, whose prickly exteriors often concealed a warm and loyal nature.

Parnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley

“When you sell a man a book,” says Roger Mifflin, the sprite-like book peddler at the center of this classic novella, “you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue–you sell him a whole new life.” In this beguiling but little-known prequel to Christopher Morley’s beloved Haunted Bookshop, the “whole new life” that the traveling bookman delivers to Helen McGill, the narrator of Parnassus on Wheels, provides the romantic comedy that drives this charming love letter to a life in books.

Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.