Today, November 16, 2009, marks the one-year anniversary of Charles May’s blog “Reading the Short Story.” It was one year ago today that, calling myself a “cheerleader for the short story,” I announced my intention to write a blog in which, on a regular basis, I would post comments about reading and studying the short story, a form that I taught and wrote about for forty years before I retired four years ago from California State University, Long Beach.
In the past year, I have written sixty blog posts for this site, most of them fairly substantial discussions of new short story collections, individual short stories, and other matters of note to those interested in the short story as a form. Although I have not always succeeded, I have tried to focus on significant theoretical and generic issues, using individual collections and stories as examples of those issues.
I do not have a counter for this blog, but noticed this morning that the counter that ticks off those who have visited my user profile turned over to 1,000. I don’t know what this means. I really do not know how many people have visited the blog occasionally or how many read it regularly, although I do have twenty-eight “followers,” whatever that means.
One writes to be read, so I am grateful to those who read this blog regularly and who stumble on it while doing a Google search. I am especially grateful to those who take the time to write comments. I have tried to respond to every comment I have received, and I will continue to do so. I started the blog as a means by which I could engage in dialogue with other short story fans about the form that we love. The one thing I miss most since my retirement is the opportunity to talk “with,” not “to,” others about short fiction. However, as it was in the classroom, if my love of the short story became more a monologue than a dialogue, so be it. If no one responds to my remarks, I will still continue writing them.
I started the blog as a stimulus to myself—something to keep me reading, not aimlessly, but with a purpose—something to keep me writing, not carelessly, but with care. That seems to have worked for me. I feel compelled to write at least one blog entry a week, which means that I must continue reading new short stories, continue keeping up with what others are saying about the short story, and continue thinking about the unique characteristics of the form that make it, in my opinion, more aesthetically and psychologically complex and interesting than the novel.
Because there has been some publicity recently about bloggers receiving rewards for publicizing certain products—so-called “Mom” bloggers who get junkets and goodies—I thought I should state here quite emphatically that I receive no rewards from publishers for my comments about new collections of short stories. I do write occasional reviews for reference works and newspapers, for which I receive a copy of the book—either from the publisher or the publication where the review appears. And yes, I do receive a modest check for the published review. And yes, I do also comment on the book on this blog if it is of theoretical or critical interest. But I always read the stories I write about carefully, and at least twice, and I always try to provide a fair and well-considered evaluation. The only thing I wish to "promote" is getting more people to read and appreciate short stories. Wryly, I might add, no one should worry that anyone will try to "buy" my favor. The short story is just not a commercial commodity worth the seller's trouble.
On a personal note, I have commented occasionally that although I do not often read novels, I do “listen” to them on my daily morning walks with our dog Shannon. Today, the first birthday of this blog, is also the 15th birthday of Shannon. I just finished listening to, of all things, Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” a book I had not read in fifty years, a book that came out when I was sixteen and which I thought was the true document of my generation.
When I was in undergraduate school, I wrote a column for my college newspaper in which I paraded as a “Beatnik” kind of guy; it was accompanied by a drawing a friend of mine did of me in a beret, with a pointy goatee, and a set of bongo drums between my knees. There are probably some books we read in our youth that we should never read again. Instead of nodding sagely this time as I listened to Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity pontificate about being beat and hip, I chuckled. Instead of longing to hit the road with my gang, picking up cool chicks and drinking lots of beer, I tsk tsked at the juvenile antics and irresponsibility of Kerouac and Cassidy and the rest.
I grow old . . .I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
In three months, I will be sixty-nine. I trust that in a year from now, as I near seventy, I will still be writing this blog, still reading short stories, still urging others to read them, still writing about them, still listening to novels on my walks with Shannon. It is less a walk than an amble now, taking twice as long to cover half the distance we used to cover. But Shannon still explores the world around her, sniffing for scents that she has somehow missed on her many journeys. I do not get impatient. I understand. I do the same.