Writers on Writing: The Art of the Short Story

By Maurice A. Lee | Go to book overview

Short Story and Poetry

Amiri Baraka

The short story should be a sacred form—since it's the most common way we tell our lives and everybody else's. That's why, in my opinion, the most effective kind of story is short indeed, very short and pointed. Short enough and pointed enough to make your teeth curl.

Sembene Ousman, Isaac Babel, Franz Kafka, Maupassant, Henry Dumas, Richard Wright's first book Uncle Tom's Children.

Check Ousman's Tribal Scars. The flat, acrid mystery of them. A world appears, it turns a few times, these turns are called revolutions, and then it disappears.

It does not cease to exist. It goes somewhere else. Another dimension is a good explanation. Someone borrowed my book, but even disappeared the mysterious unwinding remains.

In fact you hear me passing some of this on to you. So it reappears inside your head, making revolutions.

One short story I wrote insisted itself into review years after a friend laid it on me. And when it returned, it was as some kind of self-defining legitimization of my self for my most constant audience. That group behind the eyes.

It was like this, and dig the dimensions of this whole retelling as another reappearance.

I was riding in an airplane going somewhere—logically enough. But in that enforced reverie, perhaps to read poetry or speak—somehow I began to formulate an idea that I could do something different. I guess that was it. Something like that.

I was telling myself, “If I wanted to make money writing I could do it.” My (nonexistent) God what a sad idea to be stuck with. “If” is very Dantesque.

-3-

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