Art of the Novella Series

Art of the Novella Series

By Aaron Britt
I'm something of a sucker for graphically clever series of paperbacks. Penguin's Great Ideas series is nice, if hit-or-miss, and of course the classic Penguin covers are second to none. I was wandering through Green Apple Books in San Francisco not long ago and came across another good looking series of pocket-sized lit: The Art of the Novella series from Melville House Publishing.

The fine folks at Melville House dropped a packet of the more recent series of classic novellas in the mail, and I can't wait to tuck Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs into my knapsack for my vacation next week. Not only does the forest green cover suggest the fictional Maine town Jewett wrote about, but its trim size makes it as useful with lunch and a swim at Lake Megunticook as in the seatback pocket in front of me.

The size is just right in this series, and the crisp design is one that tracks best across several books, though it stands up just fine if you've only got one. Design director Kyle Blue wanted the interior type to be just a bit larger, and I can see his point, but in the main I'm ready to give these books a thumbs up. David Konopka pioneered the design for the sereis, and Kelly Blair has shepherded it along for the last couple years.

And that the new batch includes an Italo Svevo work I'd never encountered--The Nice Old Man and the Pretty Girl--I'm impressed with the clear-eyed curation going on at the Melville Press offices as well.

For those for whom Svevo, Tolstoy, Chopin and the others represented in the Classic Novella series are a snore, you can always opt for the sister set in the Contemporary Novella. Lore Segal and Imre Kertesz await you.


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