Friday, September 23, 2011


Years ago, the brilliant and insightful reviewer, Michael Dirda wrote the following pean to short fiction in his Washington Post book review column as a forward to a very short novel.
"Short stories contrive to use a single incident to illuminate a whole life: They aim for a short, sharp shock. Novels, those fabulously loose and baggy monsters, frequently transcribe entire biographies, reveal cross sections of society or show us the interaction of several generations.  They contain multitudes.  In between lies that most beautiful of fiction's forms, the novella or nouvelle.  Here, the writer aims for the compression that produces both intensity and resonance.  By focusing on just two or three characters, the short novel can achieve a kind of artistic perfection, elegant in form yet wide in implication. .."
Those words have remained pasted above my computer ever since I first read them and, whenever I doubt what I am doing, I reread them and take heart that I need not pump up my stories to some arbitrary length, that I need not introduce unnecessary complexity and complications to torture the protagonist, that I need not expound endlessly of some fact or circumstance that could be encapsulated in a few words.  No, I can write what needs to be written for that story, neither more nor less and when the final word, be it the five thousandth or the thirty-two thousandth, is written it is the end.  Reading those words tells me there is no need to be embarrassed about whatever length I write so long as I do it with honesty and integrity.

But it sure is nice to make a sale.

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