Inspired partly by Books on the Nightstand's Year of the Short Story, I've been reading more short fiction lately. (As it happens, this month's read-along story is "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried" by Amy Hempel, which I've loved since high school and would recommend to everyone.)
Reading short stories from various authors and genres is an interesting and useful experience, but I just can't get into short stories the way I do novels. Maybe that's an obvious statement, because there simply isn't as much there to get into. But what I mean is that usually I don't find the short story length satisfying. Either the few pages of the story leave me wishing I could read a longer work focusing on those characters, or there's not enough there to make me care very much.
I know I have read short stories that are rich and well-crafted enough to feel like the perfect length -- "In the Cemetery...", for example, and probably many of the other frequently anthologized stories I read in classes. But it's a rare thing. I remember that after first encountering the Hempel story in the anthology we were using for an English class, I got the collection it appears in, and every other story by the same author left me disappointed.
So I feel as though I'm somewhat lacking an appreciation of short stories as a literary form, which is one reason I've been reading them. And I'm definitely lacking the ability to write short myself. Lately I can't even think up a story idea that would be interesting and short, let alone execute it well.
When I was a teenager, I wrote short stories all the time, though in retrospect many of them were more like opening scenes of novels. I don't know if any of the stories were any good, but at least they must have been based on ideas. I guess now my brain is just too busy generating novel-related ideas to think about unconnected characters in unrelated situations.
Last time I posted about short stories was two years ago. In that post, I resolved to revise and share my most recent short story, from two years before that. I never did get around to that project. I still haven't even looked at the story (which continues to be my most recent). Maybe I'll get to this eventually, but I'm not promising anything this time.
I do promise to let you know about any especially good short fiction I read as the year goes on. And I'd love to get your short story recommendations.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Alan Levinovitz looks at the challenges of making books into movies: "And so, if we accept that books aren't formally superior to movies and adaptations aren't necessarily ruinous, a new question arises: what is it about the process of adapting a book that so often leads to disappointment?"