Saturday, March 10, 2007

Best of What?

Yet another 'Best of', this time Granta's second Best of Young American Novelists. For Cult-of-Youth watchers, the cut-off age has come down from 40 to 35 (and in my opinion Jack's explanation does nothing to dignify this), but the really interesting thing to me is the fact that 7 of the 21 are not novelists at all but short-story writers. Jack says:
Reading the submissions, it seemed to us that many story collections deserved as much if not more attention than the novels, that there was a great liveliness and insight in them...
You could look on this as a good thing, more proof that short stories are in the ascendant, but I wonder. Why call these writers novelists, then? Why not call the list Best of Young American Fiction Writers? Short stories are after all a very different form from novels, requiring very different narrative skills, and not all writers of one can write the other. You read on and it becomes clear:
...often, given their binding structure of character and location, they were nearly novels in any case. This accounts for the number of writers on our list (seven) who have yet to publish a novel.
Ah, so they were short story collections aspiring to be novels! And notice that yet, implying that old notion that short stories are merely an apprenticeship for writing novels.
Post a Comment