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.


  1. This is the second post I've read about the short story this weekend. I used to write them but haven't for years, now however...these posts have me thinking... Plus with ebooks there can now be a market for them again. It's no longer the bookstores calling all the shots, it's the marketplace of readers who are buying ebooks.

  2. Yes, of course, I agree with you. I do think the potential of short stories is underestimated, but I suspect there's going to be a boom of them in the near future...

  3. A well-written short story always leaves me satisfied. I don't read a lot of short stories these days, but I always enjoy good writing. I don't think this form of storytelling will die - not was long as there are writers of this form who continue to do what they do best.

  4. Thanks for your comment. They do leave me satisfied too when I like them!

  5. Hi Julia,I love a good short stories and I don't think they will die off. Thanks for the post.

  6. Liz, thanks for reading my post and commenting. I agree with you.


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