Short stories by nature are daring little instruments and almost always represent commensurate daring in their makers. For one thing, short stories want to give us something big but want to do it in precious little time and space. For another, they succeed by wilfully falsifying many of the observable qualities of the lived life they draw upon. They also leave out a lot of life and try to make us not worry about it. They often do funny things with time - things we know can't be done, really - but then make us go along with that. They persuade us that the human-being-like characters they show us can be significantly known on the strength of rather slight exposure; and they make us believe that entire lives can change on account of one little manufactured moment of clear-sightedness. You could say, based on this evidence, that the most fundamental character trait of short stories, other than their shortness, would seem to be audacity. More than even the sestina, short stories are the high-wire act of literature, the man keeping all those pretty plates up and spinning on skinny sticks.An excellent piece by novelist Richard Ford on the art of the short story in the Guardian today, taken from The New Granta Book of the American Short Story which is due to be launched in the UK on Monday.
This I must have!