Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Long and Short of It

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This week's Booking Through Thursday question asks:

Which do you prefer? Short stories? Or full-length novels?

I much prefer novels to short stories. I know the old truism about stories being harder to write than novels, and that is probably true, but that doesn't make them easier to read.

It is usually the pace and rhythm of short stories that puts me off. I prefer the longer, steadier pace of a novel.  Too often, short stories either build to a big payoff that feels manipulated, forced, or just unsatisfactory -- like the story arc was truncated.  Or the story arc is too flat and just peters out in a way that is supposed to signify something important but just leaves me bored.

I'm afraid I had this reaction even to several of Earnest Hemingway's stories (see here) and John Cheevers's (see here), although both are revered for their short stories and I am a fan of their novels.

There are exceptions, of course. Roald Dahl is a master of short stories (see here for one review). I have read almost all of them and some are all-time favorites, such as "Taste" about a wine bet gone wrong and "The Great Automatic Grammatizator" about a machine that writes novels.

And I am just starting with Somerset Maugham's short stories, but they are very, very good.

As a rule, I will read short stories by an author who's novels I enjoy. But I won't start with a collection of short stories by an unknown (to me) author.


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