The soul of contention

“Hawthorne added soul to the short story and made it a form that could be taken seriously even by those who had contended that it was inferior to the longer forms of fiction. He centred his effort about a single situation and gave to the whole tale unity of impression. Instead of elaboration of detail, suggestion; instead of picturings of external effects, subjective analysis and psychologic delineation of character.” — Fred Lewis Pattee (from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVI, Book III, Part VI, Sec. 4)

3 thoughts on “The soul of contention”

  1. Yes! This exactly. The grace of the short story comes from an author who understands how to trust his reader, how to say just enough and no more, so that the story stands alone like a black and white photograph, delivering the message in one incisive shot.

    I’d write nothing but short stories, personally, if I didn’t feel so guilty about spending my time on material that will never sell.

    1. The necessary economy of a well-made short story can make for a powerfully beautiful piece of work. Given that we post-modern people are supposedly so busy and distracted and short of attention, I do not know why major publishers don’t push short story collections the same way they push novels and memoirs. The short story seems to be the ideal literary form for our times.

  2. Amazon Kindle started a push last year for just that reason: short stories are perfect for our generation, and with e-readers, purchasing them is easy and inexpensive. However, like poetry, I think the short story is a victim of its own beauty, and most readers of genre fiction consider it too highbrow to enjoy.

    I’m reading one of Stephen King’s short story collections, actually. He edited a collection recently and it inspired him to champion the form and return to it himself.

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