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“Fleishman Is in Trouble” Turns the Marriage Novel Inside Out

But this state admits of its own quantitative categories, so that a relatively brief novel may be termed a novella or, if the insubstantiality of the content matches its brevity , a novelette , and a very long novel may overflow the banks of a single volume and become a roman-fleuve , or river novel. Length is very much one of the dimensions of the genre.

The stories are little new things, novelties, freshly minted diversions, toys; they are not reworkings of known fables or myths , and they are lacking in weight and moral earnestness. It is to be noted that, despite the high example of novelists of the most profound seriousness, such as Tolstoy , Henry James , and Virginia Woolf , the term novel still, in some quarters, carries overtones of lightness and frivolity. And it is possible to descry a tendency to triviality in the form itself.

The ode or symphony seems to possess an inner mechanism that protects it from aesthetic or moral corruption, but the novel can descend to shameful commercial depths of sentimentality or pornography. It is the purpose of this section to consider the novel not solely in terms of great art but also as an all-purpose medium catering for all the strata of literacy. In the fictional works, the medium is prose, the events described are unheroic , the settings are streets and taverns, not battlefields and palaces. There is more low fornication than princely combat; the gods do not move the action; the dialogue is homely rather than aristocratic.

It was, in fact, out of the need to find—in the period of Roman decline—a literary form that was anti-epic in both substance and language that the first prose fiction of Europe seems to have been conceived.


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The most memorable character in Petronius is a nouveau riche vulgarian; the hero of Lucius Apuleius is turned into a donkey; nothing less epic can well be imagined. The medieval chivalric romance from a popular Latin word, probably Romanice , meaning written in the vernacular , not in traditional Latin restored a kind of epic view of man—though now as heroic Christian, not heroic pagan.

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At the same time, it bequeathed its name to the later genre of continental literature , the novel, which is known in French as roman , in Italian as romanzo , etc. The English term romance, however, carries a pejorative connotation. But that later genre achieved its first great flowering in Spain at the beginning of the 17th century in an antichivalric comic masterpiece—the Don Quixote of Cervantes, which, on a larger scale than the Satyricon or The Golden Ass , contains many of the elements that have been expected from prose fiction ever since.

Novel | Definition of Novel by Merriam-Webster

Novels have heroes, but not in any classical or medieval sense. As for the novelist, he must, in the words of the contemporary British-American W. Auden ,. The novel attempts to assume those burdens of life that have no place in the epic poem and to see man as unheroic, unredeemed, imperfect, even absurd. This is why there is room among its practitioners for writers of hardboiled detective thrillers such as the contemporary American Mickey Spillane or of sentimental melodramas such as the prolific 19th-century English novelist Mrs.

Henry Wood , but not for one of the unremitting elevation of outlook of a John Milton. The novel is propelled through its hundred or thousand pages by a device known as the story or plot.

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The dramatist may take his plot ready-made from fiction or biography—a form of theft sanctioned by Shakespeare—but the novelist has to produce what look like novelties. At the lowest level of fiction, plot need be no more than a string of stock devices for arousing stock responses of concern and excitement in the reader. His tastes ran to younger women, or theirs to him.

When Rosamund Bland declared her availability, Wells accepted on the dubious grounds that her predatory father was also pursuing her: better H. Wells himself kept a record of his amorous pursuits, discreetly left unpublished until If the documentation nonetheless remains incomplete, what are novelists for?

View all New York Times newsletters. Only when Rebecca West, an able novelist and a journalist of genius, enters the narrative do we feel that we have a character equal to Wells.

Three-volume novel

Trained as an actress and active in feminist circles, she had borrowed her nom de plume from a dangerous heroine in Ibsen. And on the altar, very reverently placed, intensely there, is a dead kitten, an eggshell, a bit of string. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser. See next articles.


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