Saturday, March 5, 2011

The survival of the short story.

   We all know that there is a world economic crisis unfolding, hitting every place to some degree. Many people are losing their jobs. There is a struggle of classes in which the ones who have more power try to make the ones who have less work for less. As a result of this, more people are now struggling to make ends meet... and there is less time to read.
   The world of literature is not untouched by the economic crisis. Borders is going bankrupt, some small presses closed, others are struggling to survive, and many people in the publishing industry are losing their jobs. It is also common to hear that the short story is dying, and that nobody is interested in reading short stories these days. I disagree.
   During these times of darkness, when we all feel somewhat dejected, frustrated and powerless, the short story may not fix our financial situation, but it can be an outlet, an uplifting way of searching for hope and focusing on the future from new perspectives. When time is a commodity, diving into a short story can become a source of solace, an opportunity to live in somebody else's shoes, albeit for a litte while, and  find the strength and insight that we need in our own lives to reframe our own reality.
  Socio-economic crises impose an emotional challenge on everyone, either directly or indirectly. We all need reassurance from knowing that we are not alone in the turmoil, and that we can still build up a shelter for our dreams.
   Another common myth is that the short story does not go deep into the characters. Again, I disagree. They may just delve into one or two characters, but length is not something that jeopardizes the complexity of a character.
   I admit that my favorite genre is the literary one. I love to lose myself in a story without knowing where it will take me, a story without labels, without preconceived ideas, one that will carry me away to a situation I can empathize with, digging deep into the characters and allowing me to live through them. Their conflict may even mirror my own conflicts... or not.
   My hope for the short story is not lost.There are lots of literary journals out there that give emerging writers the opportunity to start reaching an audience. For those who, like me,  enjoy reading the literary genre, there are anthologies that are worth checking,  like the annual O. Heny short stories, The Best American Short stories, the Pushcart Prize stories carefully selected from small presses. All these are annual collections that I devour.Through them I have discovered many interesting writers. (I don't end up liking every single story from these anthologies, but the read is worthwhile, and, as a writer, I learn a lot from them).
    Amidst these dark times, short stories are windows looking out to landscapes of light. Far from escaping from reality, we seek to reframe it, to open an array of possibilities, insights and perspectives. We all need to fly away through them to take a break.
   It is true that after reading a short story we are sometimes left with the desire to learn more about the characters and the plot, but those blank spots that intrigue me are the ones I can fill with my own imagination. I relish the challenge.