Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Save Me from the Short Story

This week the books blog Vulpes Libris pays tribute to the short story while yet paradoxically providing an insight into the general prejudice against the form. Yesterday's post was a round-up of favourites (and the Bitch is pleased to have her own collection offered by the esteemed Dovegreyreader). However, the blog's coordinator Leena ended up asking for contributions from other bloggers, since she drew a blank with her fellow foxes, who confessed to little interest in or knowledge of the form.

While today's blog offers an appreciative review of the great collection The Fantastic Book of Everybody's Secrets by Sophie Hannah, it also includes a contribution from Elaine of Random Jottings who, although going on to recommend several (canonical) short story writers (including the lengthy stories of Henry James), says this:
My main problem with this genre is that the narrative can be over far too quickly and just when you are getting interested in the characters and situation you turn the page and find that that is it, you have come to the end. I have lost count of the number of times I have done this and thought, oh damn just when it was getting interesting. When I am reading fiction I like something solid, something I can really get into so I somehow feel cheated with a short story and irritated that I am not going to know what happens next. I gather that short stories are regarded as being an art form on their own, incredibly difficult to write and anybody who can do them properly is regarded as a literary giant. This may be true but when I pick up a collection of short stories and find they are described as ‘exquisite vignettes’ (and yes this has happened), my main reaction is to run screaming from the room.
There is of course a whole essay to be written about the implicatons of this for the ways in which we read and our expectations of what we read...
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