Monday, July 31, 2006

What ever happened to the short story?

Caught this on Metaxu Cafe:
Condalmo: Short story: the underdog
... Given the much-documented shorter attention span of Americans today, as
compared to pretty much any time in the past, wouldn't it make sense that the
short story form would be the ascendant medium through which people read? Why
are short story collections the awkward little brothers of novels, both on the
review pages and among readers? ...

One might think that we would be more suited today to the brevity of short stories, but who is reading them these days? Writers.

Short stories for writers to create a track record, to justify a publishing house taking a risk on an author. Who is buying the literary journals where these short story writers are publishing? Other writers. It is self-perpetuating and I can't be sorry about that.

What happened to short stores in the mainstream? The New Yorker relies on the bland and predictable (not that they don't occasionally publish a good story; it's just usually by someone we already know) and The Atlantic only publishes fiction once a year now.

The fact is that real readers (those who aren't writers) prefer novels. They want the sort of involvement you can only get from a novel. One reader explained to me this way recently: "I don't get into short stories. When I'm just getting to know a character that's when the story ends.

I would love to see short stories grow in popularity, for the new issue of Black Warrior Review or Florida Review fly off the shelves. But as long as editors, agents, and other writers are reading them, it's okay by me.

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