Briefer Stories for Our Times

Take a look at A.O. Scott’s lovely and appropriately brief survey and prediction of the American short story in Brevity’s Pull: In Praise of the American Short Story. It’s especially relevant to so many creative writers who often focus at least initially on the short story form.

Short stories have only very rarely brought any writer the attention of the reading world. Even finding a home for these carefully crafted vignettes can be frustrating and is almost never lucrative. The short story’s true reward must be in savoring the satisfaction that comes from the realization of refinement and excellence.

Yet A.O. Scott predicts that, like so many other forms of media, literature too is undergoing a monumental transformation in our ever more scattered and digitized world. As with music and movies, perhaps the future writer’s goal will no longer be the “Great American Novel” but something more compact, more succinct, more digestible, more suited to shortened time and attention spans. To distill the total essence of the “now” in a single story of 20 or 30 pages is an almost inconceivable challenge. But perhaps that is precisely the correct way to attempt to capture this American moment. It’s certainly something for all writers to strive to achieve.

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