Thursday, May 4, 2017

Short Story Month 2017—Part 2: Writers on the Short Story

Form Rather than Content is Focus for the Short Story:

Herbert Gold: The short story must “tend to control and formalize experience and strike hot like the lyric poem.”
Charles D’Ambrosio:  “It’s the musical nature of sentences, where you actually hear the sound in a meaningful way, and those sounds have meaning and nuances as important as any of the content.  I can feel the whole thing in any one of the sentences.  I love that aspect of the short story; it’s almost like reading a poem.”
Amy Hempel:  “Often I’ve started a story knowing the beat, the rhythm of the first line or first paragraph, but without knowing what the words are. I’ll be doing the equivalent of humming a tune over and over again and then this tune will be translated into a sentence. I trust that. There’s something visceral about the musical quality of a sentence.”
Lee K. Abbott:  “One of the things I like to do with the sentence is somehow make it prosodic, make it a music, take advantage of those techniques and forms that were heretofore the province of the poet, assonance and consonance and various kinds of ellipses and alliteration and, you know, all the rhetorical strategies that poets had used in their verse over time.”
Deborah Eisenberg:  “Sometimes there’s a kind of tonality that I want, almost as if I was writing a piece of music…sometimes in the back of my mind there’s a musical model.”
Hugh Hood:  “Story is very close to liturgy, which is why one's children like to have the story repeated exactly as they heard it the night before. The script ought not to deviate from the prescribed form."
James Lasdun: “One of the reasons short stories do not sell well is that the genre demands an interest in form as well as content more than a novel does and people do not seem so interested in form these days.”
Donald Barthelme: “The change of emphasis from the what to the how seems to me to be the major impulse in art since Flaubert, and it’s not merely formalism, it’s not at all superficial, it’s an attempt to reach truth, and a very rigorous one.
Gustave Flaubert: (Goncourt Journals): “I don’t give a damn about the story, the plot.  When I am writing, my idea is to render a colour, a tonality.”
Adam Haslett, 2004: “I think of each story as having a rhythm, an intensity, and I am always trying to find the rhythm that fits a particular story.”
Andrea Lee:  Novels are fun, but I think I’ll always love short fiction best, because I am obsessed with structure and symmetry, and somehow it is more satisfying for me to work with these on a small canvas.  The word is intensity.  I love the way a short story can offer a sharp concentrated insight like a stiletto thrust.  I love the way you can experience a whole life time in a few pages, as you do in the lines of a poem.”
Alberto Moravia:  “The novel has a bone structure of ideas holding it together, whereas the short story is, so to speak, boneless…made up of intuitions of feelings.”
David Means:  “Short stories demand a kind of intense poetic eye, and you can’t flinch.  I relate stories to songs; you listen to a song and get a bit of narrative along with beat and tone and sound and images, then the song fades out, or hits that final beat, and you’re left with something that’s tangible and also deeply mysterious.”
Truman Capote:  “By control, I mean maintaining a stylistic and emotional upper hand over your material. Call it precious and go to hell, but I believe a story can be wrecked by a faulty rhythm in a sentence— especially if it occurs toward the end—or a mistake in paragraphing, even punctuation.”
Harold Brodkey:  “Words have a strangely changeable, contingent kind of meaning, and as T. S. Eliot said in one of his famous essays, the music of language carries more of the real meaning than the literal meaning of words does. A shift in the mind, in the mood, and you lose control of that music.”
Katherine Mansfield:  “It’s a queer thing how craft comes into writing.  For example in ‘Miss Brill’ I choose not only the length of every sentence but even the sound of every sentence.  I choose the rise and fall of every paragraph to fit her, and to fit her on that day at that very moment.  After I’d written it I read it aloud—numbers of times—just as one would play over a musical composition—trying to get it nearer and nearer to the expression of Miss Brill—until it fitted her.”

Julio Cortazar:  “The mysterious significance does not lie only in the subject of the story… The idea of significance is worthless if we do not relate it to the ideas of intensity and tension, which refer to the technique used to develop the subject.  And this is where the sharp distinction is made between the good and the bad short-story writer.”

No comments: