Monday, September 19, 2011

With friends like these...

Two cheers only for Neil Gaiman's efforts on behalf of the campaign to save the short story on BBC's Radio 4. Short-story writer Claire Massey draws our attention to his foot-shooting defence of the form in the Guardian:
...short stories are the best place for young writers to learn their craft: to try out different voices and techniques, to experiment, to learn. And they're a wonderful place for old writers, when you have an idea that wouldn't make it to novel length, one simple, elegant thing that needs to be said.
No, no, Neil, and No again. Short stories are not just the training ground for novelists, and they are not just the repository for ideas that don't fit the (implied) better form of the novel. These are precisely the assumptions that lead to the cultural marginalisation of the short story, written off as the poor cousin of the novel. The short story at its best is a high art form. A good short story can be harder to write than a novel, involving linguistic and structural intensity yet delicacy that require supreme authorial control.  This is why we need to work to protect it.
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