Monday, May 22, 2006

A Shot for the Shorts

Picador is about to do for books what Top Shop did for high-street fashion ...
announced one online fashion magazine talking about a new series of twelve tiny pocket books each containing a short story or two and priced just £1 each (RM6+), writes Rachel Cooke in the Observer.

In doing so, the publishers hope to promote short fiction, declared before now to be a dying breed in Britain and difficult to sell to the reading public. Picador will, of course, be also promoting their writers by giving readers a tasty snack that might whet their appetite for the main dish, in much the same way Penguin have done with 70's.

The books include short works by big names such as James Salter, Colm Toibin and Tim Winton. ... And I do so hope they find their way into the bookshops here soon. The selfish reason is that I am so totally consumed by bookgreed: I love short fiction and it's a thrill to discover more great writers of the form. I also think that little books like these would lure in a lot of Malaysian readers who might feel daunted by longer works of "quality" fiction and stick to the safer waters of more popular stuff. (But "Would Malaysians welcome such a price of admission for a half-hour or so read?" asks Ted on his blog. Valid point.)

Much has been said on this blog already about the peril short fiction is in in Britain (though not in America ... or even here in Malaysia.) Cooke reminds us:
... it is more difficult than at any time in the last 100 years to make money from short stories and this may eventually have serious consequences for the form. It is not just that collections don't sell; individual stories have nowhere to go, since there are no longer any literary magazines to publish them.
Perhaps the most effective form of rescue has for the short story is to throw wads of prize money at it.

The National Short Story competition, open only to already published writers in the UK a awards a whacking £15,000 (RM100,00-ish) to the winner. This year's prize went to James Lasdun for his story Anxious Man.

And then there's the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize award of 35,000 euros (the biggest prize for a collection of short fiction anywhere in the world!), won in 2005 by Yiyun Li for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. (Still sitting on my to-be-read shelf.)


Ted Mahsun said...

I really should make the direct link more visible huh? hehe... Would appreciate if you changed the link on your post to this link. Thanks, Sharon!

Would dollops of cash really help the short story though? It would certainly help the writers, for sure, but would it make more people read them?

The winning stories of such a prize would probably gain some attention from the reading public but I fear there will still be a lot of great short stories--the ones that haven't and probably won't win any prizes--that will go overlooked.

bibliobibuli said...

i think you're right ted, although the dosh will certainly raise the profile ...

britain's biggest problem is a lack of publications (like the New Yorker in the US) that takes stories ... if this could be addressed somehow, the short story would thrive ... in malaysia we have the outlets for good short fiction but not enough writers of quality

the link i will fix (same problem as last time) ... enjoying your blog and having someone else discussing similar issues

you weren't at silverfish saturday? i was grinning at everyone in case one was you - must have looked like an idiot (well a bigger one than usual)

Ted Mahsun said...

Doesn't Britain have Granta? But I suppose that's not really a New Yorker-type mag is it? Well, I think Shots will certainly elevate the status of short stories--it's not so hard to buy something that's only £1!

Didn't get to Silverfish that day... so sorry! Something came up at the last minute. Maybe we'll get a chance to meet up some other time, eh?

Greenbottle said...

"... in malaysia we have the outlets for good short fiction but not enough writers of quality .."

whoa...if i recall, only a few days ago you're talking about the ...gentle cycle...and all that "Hand wash them in soapy suds..."

but i think you may be right. I can't recall any memorable short story (or long ones for that matter) coming from my dear country malaysia.not yet anyway.

bibliobibuli said...

greenbottle - it's not a contradiction, honestly

i think writers need to go through these stages and build confidence gradually and i think the washing analogy works very well

but when you put out work for publication, you must be strong enough to cope with disappointment, with soul-destroying rejection, with criticism

and if you want to write quality stuff, you need to be able to take on board feedback with getting upset by it, provided that it is given fairly ... and then figure out whether to accept or reject it

Chet said...

Back in the early 80s (or even earlier), way before many of you were born, and Sharon had not found her way here yet, NST used to run a short story competition and the winners published in each year's collection. There was a repeat winner by the name of C Ean Teo (I think). Dunno what happened to the competition or this writer.

bibliobibuli said...

ted - granta is great but it isn't enough by itself ... and yes, if only we had something like the New Yorker

greenbottle - sorry, should have said, look at some of the silverfish stories they're pretty good esp.some of those in the best of collection - great? perhaps not but certainly very good

chet - c. ean is writing - was at the silverfish launch on saturday as her story was chosen as one of the best ... had a chat to her and she has also recently written a novel ... nice lady, tried to get her along for critiquing but she was tied up on sundays

bibliobibuli said...
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