Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Short Story With a Happy Ever After

The Oxford Book of American Short Stories  Great Short Short Stories: Quick Reads by Great Writers (Thrift Edition)  The Best American Short Stories of the Century  American Short Story Masterpieces

This short salute to the short story--with references to fairy tales and oral tradition-- appeared in the Daily Express this week in the UK. From The Short Story With a Happy Ever After by Caroline Jowett:

Once upon a time there was the short story and it was very popular.

It was popular with little children who loved Listen With Mother, Aesop’s Fables and the Brothers Grimm.

And it was enjoyed by their mums and dads who read bedtime stories and knew themselves how wonderful it was to be read to. They remembered the cosy tucked-up feeling from childhood.

The instant gratification of a well-crafted story: a 10-minute, time-machine journey into another world. The delicious satisfaction of a tale well told. Its perfect completeness. They knew what it was like to be terrifi ed by WW Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, to laugh at PG Wodehouse or to be moved by what is perhaps the shortest: Ernest Hemingway’s “For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn”.

The short tale has its roots in the tradition of oral story- telling. Chaucer knew its power when he wrote The Canterbury Tales but it was in the mid-19th century that the short story really came into its own. People bought collections every week or month in journals and magazines. Writers became famous for specialising in short stories: HG Wells, Guy de Maupassant, Dickens, Chekov, Tolstoy.

The article goes on to discuss the re-emergence of the form thanks to the internet. It's short and sweet, but not too much so.  Just a nod to fairy tales, but a refreshing change from all my news searches resulting in sports stories.  Really, sports writers need some new metaphors...

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