Until fairly recently I’d never fully appreciated how wonderful a short story can be. I hadn’t appreciated, more specifically, that there’s a kind of genius in condensing a whole story into such a small number of words or throwing a reader straight into the lives of fully formed characters without preamble.
I remember, quite vividly, reading short stories as a child. Which makes sense as children have a much lower concentration span. Logically, older people should be reading longer and longer novels, I thought. War and Peace or nothing, I told myself.
I think the first time I really started to appreciate short stories as an adult was reading Kurt Vonnegut collections and finding joy in the midst of essays and letters. Next, PG Wodehouse’s stories about the escapades of young crumpets and eggs from the men’s clubs. They’re two of my favourite authors, so of course they were the gateway drug.
At the beginning of the year I read The Greatest Gift by Phillip Van Doren Stern a story that would later become It’s A Wonderful Life (and therefore one of the greatest stories ever told in my opinion). That, in turn, told me to pick up Ghostly, the collection I won late last year on Twitter, and Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams and delve into the short ghost and horror stories there. If there’s a more perfect form for horror and scares than the short story, again in my opinion, I have yet to find it.
Short stories, I think, open up a whole new world of storytelling and story appreciation. I still like the occasional longer novel (as well as novellas, short and long novels- basically I’m not fussy) but there’s something incredibly satisfying about picking up a book and knowing that you’re going to get a complete tale in the time it takes to have a semi-indulgent bath.
I like the quickness, to little hit of another world before you go about your day. In his introduction to his collection of Jeeves and Wooster shorts, PG Wodehouse urges the reader not to consume too much in one sitting, rather to read one at breakfast and perhaps one before bed. I like the design in that.