Friday, January 20, 2006

Books: Short Stories

The Guardian has an article on the "lost" art of short stories that advocates are trying to revive. I wonder how successful they will be.

Excerpt from The Guardian article:
Good short fiction requires the reader's time and attention. It relies not on explanation but asks for interpretation. It conveys the narrative qualities of our existence by embracing the past, present and future. You can't leave and come back to a short story the way you can an episodic, multi-narrative novel, or episode of Eastenders. The short story demands commitment.

I was talking to a friend last year about my growing interest in exploring the short story form; I was looking at the weakness of my writing style: I write too much but say so little. I was impressed by how the great short story writers can compact such intensity and complexity in words, and I aspire to it.

The friend later remarked to me she had problems getting into poetry and short stories. As a genre, they don't seem to grip her. I wondered if she just never found the author or poet that spoke to her - or was it an issue of attention span. After careful consideration, I decided it's a bit of both. ;p

We don't appreciate the short story form enough. But then, we don't appreciate poetry enough either. It's a pity that as our attention span slowly diminish, our ability to recognise beauty is also slowly weathered away.

I suddenly recall what R once said about Raymond Carver's writing. She calls it "the phantom limb syndrome." I like this expression. I know how a Raymond Carver story can make you feel.

Have you ever felt so dulled, that you don't even feel it when your body's screaming at you? Then one day, like a kind of miracle, under the most mundane circumstances - you feel something.

A really good short story or poem can make you feel this way.

2 comments:

pigro said...

Wasn't much of a short-story reader myself till recently, but allow me to recommend _Open Secrets_ by Alice Munro. Lovely stuff.

By the way, let me know what you think of A L Kennedy when you've gotten round to her.

Dark Orpheus said...

Ah, A L Kennedy. I've only read "On Bullfighting" so far, and currently waiting for the paperback copy of "Paradise." Her few short stories have not hooked me yet.

Have you tried Amy Bloom? Her short stories are among my favourite.