Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The short story and the concept of the best

My take on the National Short Story Award, the current shortlist and the BBC short story cuts - on The View From Here Magazine.


Dan Holloway said...

Very well put. I remember a few years back reading the judge's brief on the Bridport. I think it was Tracey Chevalier. She said she was looking for a story with a good twist.

One of the delights of the short story is that it is a form particularly suited to non-linearity (and not just the "start in the middle and work back up to it" or "interrupt a linear narrative with aflashback that cleverly shades what's on either side" sense). I have an inkling that readers are also much more willing to accept an open-ending, in part because a really good short story can give the sense of having dipped into a set of circumstances at a random moment but nonetheless one that lets the reader extrapolate in all directions, in part almost certainly because of the psychology of reading (put bluntly, when you've invested several hours you are less forgiving of authorial tricksiness at the ending unless you can see a blooming good reason for it).

There are so many wonderful stories out there but many of "the best" go under the radar - the point I wish was raised more often, as with many prizes, is that I wish the public were made more aware of the restrictiveness of the so-called collections of the best. i can't help thinking that one of the reasons some people aren't excited by literature is that they read "the best" and think "if that's the best then it's not for me".

Elizabeth Baines said...

Good point about open-endedness. You've also set me thinking about the particular role the reader plays in processing a short story - food for thought I'll be chewing on.