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Original Essays | April 29, 2013 2 comments
Chefs don't have time to write. While I was working on Smoke and Pickles, I was running a restaurant — a daily regimen of testing recipes,... Continue »
Elliot PerlmanDescribe your latest project.
What makes people write short stories, as distinct from novels?
The short story writer can experiment with style and subject matter without having to gamble with a number of years of writing life. A failed short story, one that either needs more work or, worse, is irredeemable, hurts a lot less than a failed novel.
As Edgar Allan Poe points out, the short story cannot accommodate dense detail. There isn't enough time in a short story for a writer to demonstrate tremendous knowledge of esoteric subject matter. This is probably no bad thing for the writer or the reader.
If you ask different writers what it is that sustains them as a writer, you will get many different answers but a common answer might be the sense of satisfaction the writer gets from simply having finished their story. Short stories are finished more quickly and therefore more often than novels. (If you can get one good short story out of a long hot summer, it will not have been a wasted summer. Summer seems a good time to write short stories. Winter and autumn sidle up to you and ask how the novel is going. I don't know why that is. It just seems that way to me.)
Despite the way short stories are often dismissed as the little brothers and sisters of the novel, it is nevertheless possible for a writer to focus on short stories in their career and still be regarded as an important writer. Raymond Carver, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham, Anton Chekhov, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Frank O'Connor, and Lorrie Moore are examples of literary heavyweights who have embraced the short story without suffering any loss in literary reputation. I certainly have found inspiration in the work of these short story writers.
Another reason for writing short stories is that you get to tell many more stories than if you only write novels. There are many stories that merit survival but they neither fit into a novel nor merit the length of a novel by themselves. Raymond Carver described them as glimpses given life. In the hands of a craftsman (like Carver) those glimpses can tell us everything we need to know about a character or a situation.
The Reasons I Won't Be Coming represents my attempts to give life to those
moments, to the glimpses that have stayed with me and refused to be blinked
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good place to start.
Sadly, he is perhaps best known for taking over thirty years to complete his ambitious and much maligned autobiographical novel, The Runaway Soul. At its best, however, there is a vigor to his writing akin to that found in the work of Bellow, Roth, or DeLillo, and Brodkey is at his best in his short stories. When his collection First Love and Other Sorrows was published, Brodkey, still only in his twenties, was immediately recognized as a rare talent. Touching on childhood, adolescence, family, education, filial love, intense romantic love both requited and the other kind it is an astonishingly heartrending account of a young man's life. The haunting and painfully honest short stories in First Love and Other Sorrows deserve to be remembered by serious readers and writers alike.
What is your favorite literary first line?
What fictional character would you like to date and why?
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
What is your astrological star sign and to what do you wish you could change it?
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.