Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Playful brevity

Norm says:

I can enjoy a good short story. As a rule, however, I don't find the form as satisfying as that of the novel. The novel's power and its enduring in the memory are the greater just because of what can be accommodated by the greater length.

I agree: a really good novel can pick you up and carry you away to a far greater extent than a really good short story. The latter may have as much power, but its size means that the best it can manage is to knock you off your feet or toss you up in the air briefly.

But there are distinctive pleaures to short stories. You can have a purity of focus, building without interruption from start to end – hard if not impossible to sustain something like that throughout a decent-sized novel.

By way of example, if you have five to ten minutes to spare, you could do a lot worse than to read Anton Chekhov’s ‘A Play’. Chekhov is renowned for the gloominess of his stories – and, excellent though they are, he does tend to the bleak.

Not this one. I first came across it being read on the radio. The build-up is at exactly the right pace, and the final line is perfect. I laughed out loud.


Hattie said...

Thanks for linking to me. I sat through a technically brilliant production of The Seagull which was so depressing that I would have happily left after ten minutes. But I will have a look at A Play, on your recommendation.

Tom Freeman said...

I actually don't know The Seagull at all, ashamed to say. But this one is entertaining, although - surprise, surprise - the humour is kind of on the black side.