Why Short Stories Matter

Writer Lucy Caldwell talks to Faber & Faber about the importance of the short story form, and picks some of her favourite examples
Lucy Caldwell

A short story is a shot of vodka (Chekhov), a love affair to the novel’s marriage (Lorrie Moore), a high wire act (Kevin Barry). It’s a hand grenade, a sprint, a shock, a shiver. There’s something taut, essential, elusive about it. There’s a magic to it, an alchemy. A good short story has to infer the entire and immersive world of a novel, create the same depth of consciousness in its characters, and yet with a mere fraction of the words. It requires the concision of poetry, and maybe the comparison with poetry goes even further: it needs to work on a symbolic plane as well as on the level of the literal narrative.

A good short story needs to be far greater than the sum of its parts, something that unfurls in you after you’ve read it, echoes within you long after you’ve finished it. My favourite definition, perhaps, is William Carlos Williams’: “Short stories are the flare of a match struck in the dark, the only real form for describing the briefness, the brokenness and the simultaneous wholeness of people’s lives.” [Read More]

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Rhys,
    Although I love Borges and sometimes enjoy Munro, I find it difficult to enjoy short stories in general. I don’t think it is the briefness of it but rather how the form is usually used. I always want more of the stories presented. I do really like what William Trevor said in his Paris Review interview though, that short stories are “the art of the glimpse”.
    Best/Mattias

    Liked by 1 person

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