What kinds of narratives fit comfortably into the short-story form? An impossible question: at no time has there been any general consensus about how to answer it, and anyone who tries to formulate such an answer usually becomes the victim of critical potshots. But the issue is worth raising, because even a partial explanation might tell us what short stories actually do, what part they play in our culture, and why writers go on stubbornly committing them to print.
edited with a foreword and notes by Leslie S. Klinger, and with an introduction by Alan Moore
The effectiveness of Lovecraft’s fiction has little to do with its purely literary qualities, which are minimal, but with another feature that’s harder to pinpoint: the ways it casts a spell. Fiction like Lovecraft’s can be brutally hypnotic; the young reader, intellectually undefended and easily shaken, enters the writer’s fear-drenched universe and can’t easily get out of it. The mood of unappeasable, apocalyptic menace gradually overcomes those who are unprepared for it.
In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s praise for the work of other writers is almost undetectable, especially those from whom he had learned some elements of style—Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson in particular. Early in his memoir, however, Hemingway singles out a novelist whose books provide what he calls “after-work” pleasures …
As a thought experiment, imagine a novel by an author you never heard of whose story comprises a coming-of-age tale in which the main character is educated in a Vermont prep school. Although his father may still be alive somewhere, the boy lives in the shadow of his handsome stepfather and his remote, disapproving mother. Various colorful relatives and townspeople circle in orbit around him. Fascinated by members of the school’s wrestling team, he later becomes a wrestler himself. In his adolescence the young man develops an interest in theater. He also discovers in himself a talent for writing.
Don DeLillo’s new book of nine stories, The Angel Esmeralda, has at its core a series of situations that lead to trance states experienced by the insulted, the injured, and the vulnerable… Written over the span of the past thirty-three years, the stories specialize in elaborate narrative chronologies in which some key element is missing. These strategic omissions give the stories their distinctive, nagging inscrutability, along with plots that present a mystery that hasn’t been announced, much less solved.
by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel.
Haruki Murakami’s novels, stories, and nonfiction display, often very bravely and beautifully, the pull of the unreal and the fantastical on ordinary citizens who, unable to bear the world they have been given, desperately wish to go somewhere else. The resulting narratives conform to what I have called Unrealism. In Unrealism, characters join cults. They believe in the apocalypse and Armageddon, or they go down various rabbit holes and arrive in what Murakami himself, in a bow to Lewis Carroll, calls Wonderland. They long for the end times.
What is the secret of literature? Is there one? According to Tom McCarthy, whose new novel C hoards one secret after another, “the text creates the secret, and the secret underpins the text, making it readable through its own unreadability.”1 What does this mean? Just this: every work of …