Magazine article The Spectator

Not a Single Dud

Magazine article The Spectator

Not a Single Dud

Article excerpt


selected by Jane Rye

London Magazine Editions, 12.50, pp. 328

Short stories are the impressionism of fiction, glimpses that imply whole panoramas. `The short story,' according to V. S. Pritchett, a master of the form, `is perfectly fitted to the glancing, allusive, nervously decisive and summary moods of contemporary life.' William Sansom wrote, `The process is nearer to the poem than the novel.' `One slip,' in Francis King's opinion, `pardonable in the novel, and the story or poem is ruined.' Ambrose Bierce scornfully defined the novel as only 'a short story padded'. It is generally agreed that good short stories are superior works of art, yet it is difficult to get them published.

Alan Ross, that esteemed literary benefactor, does his best to help short-story writers. But in an average year about 1,500 stories are submitted to his London Magazine, which has space for only 15 to 20. `All the stories in this volume would have appeared in London Magazine during the next two or three years', he writes, introducing the collection. `That they are appearing in this form is due to our reluctance to ask writers to wait that long.' He reduces the backlog slightly as it exponentially grows.

These 30 favoured stories by authors of many countries and wide-ranging ages are interestingly heterogeneous, defying any comprehensive definition beyond the truism that short stories are stories that are short. Characteristically, they depict characters and places in epiphanic moments rather than in the developments of changing seasons, passing years. …

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