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The Joy of the Short Story

A recent conversation about favorite books we owned as a kid led me to purchase copies of Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful and Ghostly Gallery short story collections. (Anyone else remember "Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons"?) I also started reading The Best American Series: 14 Short Stories & Essays that's been sitting in my to-read Kindle queue for a couple years. 

And I have been enjoying these books immensely.

I'm not quite sure when or why I stopped being a regular reader of short works of fiction. If memory serves, I enjoyed the assigned stories in my English classes as a student and I loved teaching the short story as an English teacher. I still have a copy of the anthology I used in my early teaching days, found in a used book store. Back in the 80s I was a member of a short story discussion club - sort of like a book club but we talked about two or three short stories each month.

Now and then I pick up collections of shorter works. David Sedaris's books are a favorite. I recently read Asimov's I Robot collection. No Middle Name - a collection of Jack Reacher short stories was fun as was Faceoff, a collection of stories in which two popular detectives share a single case. But short works, overall comprise about 1% of what books I read.

A primary advantage of the short form lies, of course, in that you aren't stuck with work you don't like much for very long. You get a faster climax, a quicker resolution to the protagonist's problems. You can take a long time getting through the collection without needing to remember what you've read.

Authors tend to be more careful when writing in the shorter form. Each word needs to count. Characters are concisely developed, scenery is selective, plots tend to stay on course. The work feels more crafted.

If you haven't picked up a collection of short stories lately, give it a shot. You might be surprised to find out that your old high school English teacher knew a thing or two about not just good writing, but enjoyable writing as well.

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Reader Comments (2)

I LOVED GHostly Gallery. Got it for Christmas when I was in Fourth grade. Now 64 years old, but still have my copy.

November 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoy Wisa

Thanks, Joy. I have no idea what happened to my copy, but remember it fondly. I guess we are of a generation!


November 14, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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