As so often, where I groped towards something in a foggy, inarticulate manner, someone else - well, someone infinitely cleverer, actually - had already said it with a great deal more clarity. In this case, the person who said it better was Alice Munro, and what she was talking about was what she thinks makes a short story resonate for a reader - something I tried to address at the end of Battered Penguins XVII.
Here is my burbling:
"Until I read this book, I'd had a vague idea that the short story was supposed to be sealed somehow, to contain a description of a significant moment that encapsulates the existence of a character, that provides them with an epiphany that sheds light on everything that has gone before. Few of these stories function in that way and, for me, the ones that are least bubble-like are the most successful. That is to say, the stories, like Pritchett's, where readers arrive at the end but, instead of having the impression that something has finished, have the sensation of having been plunged briefly into the river of these characters' lives and pulled out again, (the lives continuing to flow on, regardless), work best for me."
Here is what Munro said, succinctly:
“I want the story to exist somewhere so that in a way it’s still happening, or happening over and over again. I don’t want it to be shut up in the book and put away – oh well, that’s what happened.”
Masters of Atlantis - I recently wrote a piece on Charles Portis's Masters of Atlantis for a literary magazine with a line in forgotten/neglected classics. In the event, it wasn...
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