Is The Short Story Becoming Hip?

In noting, earlier this month, the appearance of major articles in both the New York Times and the Guardian on the short story (on the same day no less), Short Review editor Tania Hershman asked, “Have we slipped through a wormhole into another dimension?” Maybe not, but April was a good month for the short story:

  • In the New York Times, A.O. Scott’s “In Praise of the American Short Story” acknowledges the commercial limitations of the form, but also warns against undervaluing it. The appearance of biographies of Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever and Donald Barthelme offers occasion to look back at 20th century masters. And Wells Towers’ new Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (getting a lot of attention these days) “provides the most vivid recent example of the way a good story, or a solid collection of them, can do more than a novel to illuminate the textures of ordinary life and the possibilities of language.”
  • In his Guardian piece, James Lasdun “celebrates growing confidence in an often overlooked form.” He does so with a tough look at five recent story collection debuts from around the world: the Wells Tower from America, but also authors from Ukraine, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.
  • The 2009 Pulitzer for Fiction, just announced, went to Elizabeth Strout for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of linked stories “set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating.”
  • Finally, the online journal The Rumpus earlier this week premiered a new column by Peter Orner (Esther Stories) called The Lonely Voice focused on… the short story (and, of course, taking its name from Frank O’Connor’s classic study of the form). His plan is to check in every week or so with thoughts about a particular story. This week: Peter Taylor’s “Allegiance.”
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. VERY INTERESTING. AS I RECALL YOUR NOVEL IN PROGRESS IS A LINKED WORK OF SHORT STORIES REVOLVING AROUND THE SAME CHARACTER. IT’S A NEW CONCEPT TO ME. I GUESS I’M STUCK IN THE TRADITIONAL NOVEL FORM (LONG FORM) AND SHORT STORY FORM AS TWO SEPARATE PARCELS. I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU COME UP WITH ALL THIS INFO BUT AM GLAD YOU DO. I ALMOST WENT INTO AN MFA PROGRAM YEARS AGO AT UC-IRVINE, BUT MY FAMILY JUST DIDN’T ACCOMMODATE THE AMOUNT OF TA WORK THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN INVOLVED. SO I WROTE ON MY OWN, CLASS HERE AND THERE AT UCLA. THE MASTER CLASS WAS IT FOR ME. MY ‘NOVEL’ FAMILY IS DEAR TO MY HEART AND I THINK I HOPE I HAVE A ‘NOVEL’ STORY TO TELL. BEST, LISA

  2. I found this extremely helpful. I was thinking about concentrating more on my long novel, and paying less attention to the short stories that I noticed could be modified to be linked.

    Thanks for the great post.


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