Sunday, May 28, 2017

Short Story Month-2017 part 12: The Unified Writing and Reading Experience

Writing the Story in One Sitting

Lorrie Moore:  To write a short story, you have to be able to stay up all night. To read it all in one sitting and at some point see the whole thing through in a rush is part of the process. There’s urgency and wholeness in stories.

Hemingway said he wrote “the Killers” in one day.  Katherine Anne Porter said she always writes a story in one sitting, “one single burst of energy.”  Kafka wrote “The Judgment in one night.

         V. S. Pritchett says a good short story writer knows he is putting on a personal individual act, catching a piece of life as it flies and making “his personal performance out of it.”  Katherine Mansfield said that what is essential for the short story writer is to “penetrate one’s subject ..feelings, and objects as well, must be contemplated—or rather-submitted to—until one is truly lost in them.”

 Reading One Story at a Time

George Saunders: When I get the stories together, I wish I could put a disclaimer at the front: Please read no more than one or two a day.  Otherwise it feels to me like the contours that I put in there when I was working on just that story get lost in the reading process.

Short-story readers are a special kind of reader, like readers of poetry. Many novel readers don’t like collections of stories—I think that they dislike the frequent change of time, place and people. Of course, stories should not be read one after the other.

Lorrie Moore:  There’s a lot of yak about how short stories are perfect for the declining public attention span. But we know that’s not true. Stories require concentration and seriousness. The busier people get, the less time they have to read a story. (Though they may have a narcotizing paperback novel in their purse. This is not their fault.) Shockingly, people often don’t have a straight half hour of time to read at all. But they have fifteen minutes. And that is often how novels are read, fifteen minutes at a time. You can’t read stories that way.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Really interesting that the attention span required for a shorter piece of fiction, a story, is longer than we think needed for a longer work, a novel, which can be read ad hoc as time is available. I have also been thinking that something culturally is encouraging a sense of impatience that is antithetical to the interests of reading anything longer than very short texts. One might think that poets have profiled from the change but I'm not sure that's true, either. The few minutes many have to read aren't easily given to anything that requires reflection or concentration.