Thursday, June 3, 2010

My drug of choice...

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Which do you prefer? Short stories? Or full-length novels?

I enjoy a good short story, have been moved by them, interested by them, and admired them. They are a great way to study the art and craft of writing as the whole work can be taken in at a sitting and multiple readings can easily be compared side by side. Some of the best writing I have read has been in shorter works by Ethan Canin, Lorrie Moore, Anton Chekhov, Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky, Andre Dubus, and Alice Munro. I also feel I come at my critical appreciation of a short story differently than a novel because they are the fictional form I have tried my own hand at, but nothing sustains me like a good novel. Though I admire short fiction, it does not generally possess the scope of a novel because there is less room for development. Even with the most economical writing, the reader isn't spending as much time with the the characters, events, and ideas of a story. The greatest works I have read, the stuff that has convinced me that I knew the characters intimately, that has shattered me, that has comforted me, that seems to have changed my life, have been novels. Novels are my drug of choice.

5 comments:

aLmYbNeNr said...

I agree with your answer. And something that your answer reminded me of, that I didn't mention in my own answer, is that short stories are concise and I find it hard to be concise. I love description and detail and that feeds into my love for full-length novels (and probably my procrastination abilities, since I get lost in the details and never seem to get to what I need to do!).

nashvillebookworm said...

I can see what you're saying about scope, but I still think a well done short story can have just as much impact as a novel.

Part of it may be my genre bias--I love sci-fi and fantasy. But I've found that some writers in the field can produce a great short story but a full length novel just loses something. It doesn't help that a lot of times we have padded books or series in the field. (Robert Jordan, anyone?)

Melanie said...

I agree. There are some wonderful short stories that I really enjoy for their literary merits, but novels tend to be the works that I connect to intimately.

gautami tripathy said...

I have found a lot of good short stories online. I like to explore different genres. However, I like full length novels too.

It depends on my mood, what I want to read.

BTT: long and short of it

Criticlasm said...

I have a wierd relationship to them. Like you, I love Checkhov's short stories, but I do not choose to read them as a genre. In the New Yorker I almost never do, unless it's Sherman Alexie or some writer I love who I just can't skip (he's another short form person I admire and find very readable).

Then, I discovered the Selected Shorts podcast, and discovered I love short stories being read to me. That was revelatory. There's something wonderful about being told the whole story in voice, whereas books on tape leave me completely cold. In fact, Joanna Gleason reading St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is thrilling.

And I wrote a bit more and tagged you on my site