Those of you with a childish sense of humour* can stop chuckling now.
I have often thought about the importance of a story’s length, ever since reading the introduction to Michael Marshall Smith’s What You Make It. In fact, I hadn’t really read many short stories before then – that the National Curriculum prescribes so many novels and yet so few short stories, until only recently, is a matter for another post. I remember being amazed at the sheer power of the form, the succinctness and the viscerality. (Especially true of ‘Hell Hath Enlarged Herself’, which made me put the book down afterwards and just think.** Indeed, I have mentioned before that in fact, I think the greatest form for the horror story is the short.
Regarding short fiction – which seems to be undergoing a renaissance, at least amongst readers if not markets, as Nicholas Royle’s article today on the form suggests – I think that there is a lot to be said for the form in modern society. The short story is lauded for its ability / inclination to be read in an entire sitting.*** With so many distractions in today’s society, a story that is designed to be read in one fell swoop forces back the tedium of reality and its responsibilites. It doesn’t let you out – you are forced to maintain your suspension of disbelief until it is done.
There are a lot of fragmented stories these days. The way in which most people read novels. Television dramas – serialised and often interrupted by adverts. Even movies tend to be interrupted by people going to the toilet.
Do you prefer to read novels to short stories? What do you enjoy most about the short story form? What is your favourite short story and why?
* Thought clearly more than a child’s knowledge.
** Read it.
*** See Nick’s article/