A winter’s song – goodbye Pete

The_Weavers_at_Carnegie_Hall“Snow, snow, falling down. Covering up my dirty old town…”

I knew he was knocking on but I was still surprised and saddened by the death of Pete Seeger on Monday, 27 January. I grew up with Pete’s music, especially his recordings with the Weavers – The Weavers at Carnegie Hall had been a childhood favourite.

My Facebook page filled with tributes and postings of his music and I posted plenty of my own. But it was a couple of days later when I remembered his haunting ballad, “Snow”.

Though the lyrics and music are Pete’s own composition, it has an eerie East European folkish feel to it. It’s a worthy companion piece to Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town”. The hush and melancholy of “Snow” complements the beery good cheer of the Pogues, who popularised the MacColl song. Surely there is room for both in our musical and emotional repertoires…

Pete was 94. Up to the end he was singing at Occupy Wall Street actions and environmental protests. You can read a full obituary here.

Fryer’s delight – and a look at novellas and novels

Happy new year, everybody. And a happy first birthday for this blog. I committed my first posting here on 3 January 2013, which was mainly a tale of WordPress woe.  

As I enter my second year in the blogosphere, I won’t go on about resolutions except for the most relevant one… to blog more. But before I attack my blogging back-log, I’ll start the year on a complimentary note. Matthew Fryer, who gave Helen’s Story an enthusiastic review earlier in 2013, has also highlighted Helen in his best of 2013 roundup:

“Special mention also goes to the lustrous Helen’s Story by Rosanne Rabinowitz. Functioning as an update/sequel for Arthur Machen’s “The Great God Pan”, it will please anybody who enjoys a thoughtful reworking and fresh point-of-view on a classic.”

So extreme thanks for the recognition and positive words, Matthew!

I was also very interested to see that Matthew counted Helen in the novel rather than novella category. At just under 40,000 words Helen would be considered a novella in most camps, and PS Publishing advertises it as a novella on its website. I’ve always thought of it as a novella myself.

So Matthew’s article has inspired me to think further about these two forms.

When I write a short story, it usually threatens to grow into a novella – I am engaged in a struggle with such an unruly story as I speak. Furthermore many of my stories extend to 10,000 to 12,000 words, or what’s known as a novelette.

I’ve always relished a good novella, and nothing hits the spot more than a collection of these beasts. I’ve also noticed that some novellas read as a longer short story, while others contain the layering you usually find in a novel. I have enjoyed both types of novella, but maybe the latter satisfies and resonates the most.

Much of Alice Munro’s work lies in this category; she is able to convey the timespan and complex story arcs of a novel in about thirty pages. Elizabeth Hand and Nina Allan have also written this kind of novella.

So can we define these forms by word count, or is it the structure and mood that defines the short story, the novella and the novel? Could there be an essence of novella-ness that is neither extended short story or condensed novel, but a fictional form in its own right?

Answers on the back of a postcard, please!


Helen’s here in some excellent company