Re-reading the Short Story by Clare Hanson (eds.)

By Clare Hanson (eds.)

This number of essays protecting hyperlinks with conception and perform applies a severe method of the fast tale shape. a few are theoretical in orientation, overlaying such concerns as gender and marginality, whereas others supply readings of works via writers similar to Alice Munro and John McGahern.

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Indeed a writer who questions 20th-century Western concepts of time and of cause and effect may on that account alone have to reject the novel altogether. U H. E. Bates's observations on the art of Stephen Crane, which admirably describe the principle of coherence in the short story in general, emphasise the way in which its structure typically ignores causality: 'The method by which the story is told is not by the carefully engineered plot but by the implication of certain isolated incidents, by the capture and arrangement of casual episodic movements.

I would argue that we cannot seek for the meaning of that image outside the context of the originating text. In James's story 'The Jolly Corner', however, the repeated 'dose encounters' of the central figure invite an interpretation which almost by definition must come from outside the immediate context of the text. This 'open' quality of the short story is not simply a condition of the literal brevity of the form. It does not occur, that is, because in a short story there is no space for cross-reference or repetition of the kind we are familiar with in the novel.

I am concerned with the question for reasons of my own. I am in the process of writing two 'long' stories which have nothing to do with each other, come from different parts of me, are in a different prose, and I realise that I may not be able to publish them because each will be thought too short for a book, which each ought to be, and it would be nonsense to publish them together, which would amount to the right number of pages. I have also recently had a volume refused by several publishers in France on the grounds largely that it was odd.

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