The great American writers of the 19th century, whose novels are now staples of the syllabus, all excelled in the short form. Herman Melville’s “Piazza Tales” are as lively and strange as “Moby-Dick”; Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tales and sketches are pithier than “The Scarlet Letter”; Henry James’s stories, supernatural and otherwise, show a gift for concision along with the master’s expected psychological acuity. And the first great American fiction writer, Edgar Allan Poe, secured his immortality by packing more sensation into a few pages than most of his contemporaries could manage in a volume.Furthermore, the art is still alive and well :
The death of the novel is yesterday’s news. The death of print may be tomorrow’s headline. But the great American short story is still being written, and awaits its readers.James Lasdun also writes about the neglect of the short story :
Of the literary arts the short story has always been the least honoured, trailing into the House of Fame a humble fourth after novels, plays and poetry. Between Chekhov and Cheever there can't have been more than a dozen major reputations founded solely or even largely on this unassuming form. You might have thought that in our own attention-deficient age, a narrative art based on speed and brevity would have become the main attraction, but outside the creative writing workshop, where its small scale makes it convenient for study (a dismal basis for survival), that hasn't been the case. Lack of encouragement may be the cause, or it may be something inherently skittish about whichever muse presides over this delicate art: a reluctance to settle anywhere long enough to generate a heavy-duty literary industry. It may be the relative newness of the form (if you accept Turgenev's claim that "we all come out from under Gogol's Overcoat", you can date its birth precisely to 1842), or it may be that people regard it as somehow highbrow or artsy; an insider sport for practitioners and aficionados only.But he too sees things changing and highlights some of this Spring's exciting debuts from across the globe which he sees as indicative of a growing confidence in the form.