Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Interpreting the Story

Catherine Gander in today's Guardian ponders the short story and its connection to film and praises Ang Lee's adaptation of Brokeback Mountain as an excellent piece of storytelling. She finds it depressing yet surprising that the story had gone unnoticed until the film came out.

(But hey - I loved it long before and passed it on to others who did too ...)

I've linked to articles about the depressing state of the short story in Britain before. Gander reckons:

Part of the reason the short story is nearly dead in this country is because it is mismarketed, if at all. By pitching the short story as bite-size literature, ideal for busy lives, publishers are missing the point. Good short fiction requires the reader's time and attention. It relies not on explanation but asks for interpretation. It conveys the narrative qualities of our existence by embracing the past, present and future. You can't leave and come back to a short story the way you can an episodic, multi-narrative novel, or episode of Eastenders. The short story demands commitment.

The US has always given it. From Washington Irving onwards, the short story has been a robust art form, regularly studied and taught in a country where the desire to tell one's story is still overwhelmingly strong. America publishes several journals devoted solely to the craft and study of short fiction.

The link between the short story and film in America is unique in that it has led to a mutually sustaining relationship. Recent movies such as Minority Report, and classics such as Rear Window and 2001: A Space Odyssey, owe their existence to short stories, while such attention and respect paid to the genre encourages new writing.

Previous posts about the endangered short story in Britain:

Save Our Short Story Campaign (10/7/05)
The Goddess of the Literary Bordello(24/8/05)
Small Gems (25/8/05)

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