Short Story: Not a Single Genre, but as Varied as Its Practitioners

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The short story is not a single genre but is as varied as its practitioners.

The short story, whist difficult to define, has a number of common traits which can be attributed to each story. John Bowland admits: “In truth there have been hundreds of efforts to define this most elusive and tantalising of fictional forms.” Whilst it can be claimed the short story genre is impossible to classify, attempts include that of Pritchett, who believes: “The novel tells us everything, whereas the short story tells us only one thing, and that intensely.” According to Heather Ingman “certain themes recur through different historical periods – exile, dislocation, dreams, memory, time, spirituality, death, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, childhood, the family.” These themes, and many others, are prevalent in many short stories, and being such a wide and varies genre allows for individual writers to place their own stamp on their respective stories. William Trevor claims that the short story is “the art of the glimpse.” This intensity and the ability of the writer to plunge the reader headfirst into the timeline of a unique and acute microworld is one shared characteristic of the short story. This Janice- like ability for the writer to allow the reader to speculate and imagine both the background and past for the characters, and to attempt to envisage the future in a snapshot view. O’Connor talks about this search for a telling moment as a “struggle with time’s majestic rhythms.” Typical of the choice of time is Edna O’Brien’s ‘Chords’, where Claire’s mother’s visit shows the past in her rural Irish traditional values clashes with the more bohemian, contemporary young London friends at her dinner party. Clare Boylan in the introduction to her collection of short stories says the short story “I have always loved the economy and deftness of the short story. .is an incident crystallized in time yet it is also a pathfinder.” (5) The economy which Boylan mentions...
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