Sunday, March 23, 2008

Short stories

Short story collections forthcoming:

1. Tobias Wolff Our Story Begins
2. Jhumpa Lahiri Unaccustomed Earth,

in anticipation of which, whoopee! There is something qualitatively enhancing about each author and the ability each has to compress so much detail and energy into such a relatively small container.

The short story does not allow for summary or settling of accounts; it lurches to a stop just before those controlling words THE END, leaving us with a sense of awareness just barely manifest. The ending of a short story is the RENT DUE NOW note slipped under the author's door by an impatient landlord; it is the index card or note pad found on the table at a coffee shop: THINGS I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL ARTHUR, and you wonder if it is a real note and there is a real Arthur who may at this very moment be getting told things that will change his life or maybe the previous occupant at the table was a writer, thinking things through for a story and if I got a double latte and stayed up all night, maybe I could get a draft on the story done before this author.

I adore novels, run off with them for illicit weekends, thinking at times that I have in my hands a work so splendid that its dialog will work with real persons in real life, all to my advantage. I learn from novels, spend endless hours thinking of new ones, almost happy to have nothing of interest to read so that I can write a novel that will interest me because that's what novels are for, aren't they, to keep writers interested.

But short stories are like love affairs, like being witness to moments that crackle in the night air, that deserve to be pressed between the pages of favored books, that remind you of old dreams, new dreams, and impossible plans that you somehow put to good effect. They are events shamans whisper over tangy cedar logs, drawings etched on cave walls, hearts inscribed on deserted beaches with forbidden initials inside. Short stories are mantras to be repeated, photos taken when the world was young and no one was ever suspicious, elaborate wide-angle shots of gatherings of dozens of people, so special that if you look closely, you can tell who is in a relationship with whom. Short stories are French kisses, huge scoops of gelato, ficelles fresh from the oven, news from the cosmos that today you matter, maps to the homes of the happy, gift cards to as yet uninvented rides at unimaginable theme parks.


x said...

Gosh, Shelly, this is so sensual. I'm blushing. Makes me want to read a short story or two by you. Any recommendations?

Lori Witzel said...

And this post is a poem in prose.

I have the Wolff book on order, but since it's on order through a local slack-prone non-chain store, I may receive it after I complete my Masters.


R.L. Bourges said...

I'll have the gelato limone, please.