You might think that the short story would be making a spectacular comeback about now. Pop-cultural analysts keep telling us – rightly or wrongly – that attention spans are getting shorter. And digital technologies like e-mail and text messaging have accustomed us to briefer forms of self-expression.
Yet short stories seem to have slumped in popularity since the deaths of masters like John Cheever and Raymond Carver in the 1980s, and fewer traditional magazines than ever are publishing them. People may talk about how little time they have for reading. But at the bookstore or library, they’ll pick up a novel instead of a collection of stories. Why? Here’s one of the simplest explanations I’ve read for why people prefer longer books:
“The natural inclination to put off the endings of good things makes them suspicious of a form that insists on wrapping things up rather quickly.”
Marisa Silver in “It’s All Relative,” a review of Helen Simpson’s In the Driver’s Seat: Stories, in the Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2007, a collection reviewed on this site on June 21, 2007 http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/06/21/.
Comment by Janice Harayda:
Critics and scholars have offered many other explanations for why novels outsell short stories. If you prefer longer books, why do you like them?
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.