Yeah, I’m a Short Story Writer. You Have a Problem with That?
The short story is the Rodney Dangerfield of the literary world. The form gets no respect. It didn’t use to be this way. We had a subscription to the New Yorker when I was a kid and at a certain age, say fourteen, I began reading its weekly batch of stories out of curiosity.
John Updike. Alice Munro. Larry Woiwode. Raymond Carver. Lydia Davis. Week in, week out, it was like a murderer’s row of legendary practitioners of the short form. I couldn’t say my young self fully appreciated the nuance of the work, but on a regular basis my tiny adolescent mind was blown.
Of course, I was a reader by then. I loved novels, but what I treasured more about short stories was that due to brevity you have the reader uninterrupted. A completely pure experience.
In this day and age, novels are a better gambit. Bigger advances. I was once under contract to write one, but I returned the money when I realized I’d rather be writing shorter pieces. Probably a bad business decision.
Who cares? There’s always the chance that maybe the next story I write will be the one that mesmerizes readers for the whole half hour they’re in the chair. A small thing, but it’s everything to me. Fiction is a business about making up stuff, but you still have to be true to yourself. I’m perfectly fine with being a tall short story writer.