The Screen Novella
Likely, you have not heard the phrase, “screen novella”, few have, being as it is a new term for a new literary form, a form of my invention, a combination of screenplay and novella.
I am certain you know the novel, that form of prose fiction developed for common readers, readers challenged by the exacting discipline of voicing verse.* “Novel”, as you know, intends something, anything new and fresh, a novel hair-curler, for instance, or a novel literary form, prose fiction, for instance. A novella too is new, or it was new, 600 hundred years ago when Boccaccio composed Decameron, a response to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Boccaccio admired the “Comedy”, wrote and lectured on the Comedy’s fine points. Boccaccio in prose challenged master Dante’s verse. How not: most ambitious, late writers will challenge the best early writers by changing the rules of the game. Yes, “the game”. Writing is a word game, as all writers come to know. If you do not know, well, reference Auden. “Novella”, as you expect, is an Italian word which in English intends a diminutive, a petite novel, a novel less than 20,000 words.
We all know screenplays … well, we all know of screenplays, though few beyond professional actors, directors, producers, and writers have read or even seen a screenplay. If you’ve not read a screenplay, I recommend Puzo and Coppola’s The Godfather, puts you straight into the drama, the tension, just like being in the movie, just like being in the action, though when reading a screenplay you create the picture, you exercise picture-making in a brilliance of graphic imagination. Before movies, “moving pictures”, plays were on stage, or in halls, or were played upon oxcarts, as did Thespis play when he invented tragedy. Thespis plays have not come to us, though many plays of Thespis’ direct ascendents have …. you know, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, though not our Agathon.
Likely, you know the plays of Shakespeare, if greater than 50 years. These days, students are not expected to know or even to read the major particulars of our formative civilization. Few of the half-century-less know of their citizen selves, of their generating Classive selves, of the language which made us, US. If under 50, to know love’s force, read Romeo and Juliet; to understand political ambition, read Julius Caesar; to know manhood, read Hamlet – and do not leave off the beginning and end as do most Hamlet movies and printed abridgements … the point of the thing is the manhood of Fortinbras, the man who answered, “to be powerful”, to win.
You might like to know, Shakespeare’s plays average some 22,600 words, a three-plus hour read, alike the three-minus hour read of a novella. I have wondered: why live in poverty when in some three hours’ time one can grow rich in mind; why not memorize some bit so that you might find patience in recital when key fidgeting, waiting for a wife or female friend.
The screenplay has many virtues, among which, the engagement of the mind through dialogue. The novella has many virtues, among which, the action of the mind’s-eye through picturing. Both, excellent exercise toward virtue. You will remember a truth we learn from tragedy, “Our virtues are our ending, our undoing, when willfully practiced.” Best, I think, to mediate one virtue by melding, by balancing a virtue with its opposite virtue. But then, I am Libra Sun (Taurus Moon, Scorpio Rising, et cetera), balanced, constant, relentless, virtues mediated with ease, dreams, enthusiasm.
Now to our question, the definition of a thing in both: the Screen-Novella, what is it? A spoken whole through which a world is seen.
My practice of the screennovella is a triplicate of tetralogies: The Aegea, The North Woodsman, Appleseed, a theologicon spanning four millennia. Each tetralogy employing a prose unique to its character. Appleseed tells the times of Swedenborg’s disciple, John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed; its first book, Appleseed’s Progress, is the third in its tetralogy. Woodsman tells the times of the American Herakles, Paul Bunyan; its first book, Bunyan’s Chores, is the second of its tetralogy. Aegea tells the times of American Akrotiri; its first book, Sama the Prince, is the first of its tetralogy.
Sama the Prince occurs in Classive civilization’s predawn, a time whose particulars come to us in cameos and burnt idols, in rumors and buried cities, in myths and legends, in snatches of mysterious language, in hints from Homer, Solon, Platon, et alia. By the title, you might think the screennovella dilates upon a prince, it does not, Sama the Prince dilates upon a youthful priestess, Aiyana, spiritually-gifted daughter of Kubaba, her growth into feminine wisdom and power, no need here to lessen femininity in service to corporate interest, Marxist wish, and the nonsenses of liberation.
You know Aiyana. If a boy of anytime or anyplace you have met her. If a girl by nature, you are her, more or less. If a nambla boy of the Holder contagion, you pretend to be her. Whoever you might be, in reading of Aiyana you will be informed and entertained, for the screennovella is alike all literary forms, an art that delights in teaching beautifully, stealthy, easily. Aiyana is a vessel fulled with spirit’s potentiality, bodied to be active in the universe, a feminine power that shapes civilization, and a silly girl necklaced, curled, and awkwardly unsure, alike the half-plus of you.
In telling dialogue, the screennovella speaks through the reader’s imagination into mind where a reader comes to grow by wisdom, as do characters in Shakespeare grow, as do we grow in symbiosis, alike a Red Cross Knight (reference Spenser’s Faerie Queene). In spoken pictures, the screennovella shows through the reader’s imagination places of invention, God-seen, precedented in the works of God, unprecedented in picture-making, each picture being a newly evolving scene not unlike the skene of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, tableau of the Sistine altar’s stage-set, backdrop to the first actor, the Pope (not a slight … I am Catholic, devout, mostly … merely observing truth); not unlike Girard’s arcadian phantasms, atmospheres that mediate appearances with spiritual-realities.
Should mention: Sama the Prince is the first of the screennovella, the first practice of a new literary form, a creation of a genre, neither historical nor fantastical, realistic nor magical, but a genre genuine, sincere, sensitive to the soul of the reader, “the soul’s mind” you might say, that place where ideas live mind-to-mind vastly through time.
And one thing more: the screennovella is a script, alike an actor’s or a physician’s script, a prescription, a voice in dictation mediating wisdom. The screennovella script is intended to prompt actors, to inform directors, to guide cameras, to awaken producers who might fund films, films wholesome and good alike kind-American-Disney before Disney became progressive-reeducation-Disney.
Alike all things invented through tradition, the screennovella is both familiar and strange. I hope the familiar is not a bore, the strange is not a freak. This first, Sama the Prince, though available to readers this past year, is just now in editing, and is soon to be released in the fixed edition. The next in the Aegea series, Potina, Lady of the Stag, will be available later this year (2022 … God willing). Next books of Appleseed and North Woodsman are in mind though not yet in word.
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*These days, most everyone reads verse as they read prose. Perhaps other poets, Homer, Shakespeare, Shelly, Yeats, forgive the vulgar, violent fault, I do not.
And this note: “Ascendent”; we do not descend from some muddy amoeba to you, as Darwin would have us do (a downward progression from goo to goo); no, instead, classively we ascend within tradition from Homer to your neighbor to the good, “toward God”, some might say.
Featured image: a mosaic of Roman Crete.