Wednesday, March 16, 2011

nine things i love about short stories

you guys, it's the year of the short story! this is cause for celebration! so in honour of the launch of the yoss website, i am NOT writing the short story i should be writing, and instead writing this list. uh, go... me?
  1. they're economical! just think: you're spending $20 bucks on a book, right? in these trying times, what's better bang for your buck, one story, or 10-15? it's not like you're going to get any less lost in any one of those 10-15 stories, but when you're done with one, HOLY CRAP, THERE'S ANOTHER! BEST DAY EVER!
  2. the endings! remember when no country for old men and everyone was like "the ending sucks, you're going to hate the ending." then i watched it and when the end came i was basically jumping up and down with excitement, yelling "it's a short story ending! it's a short story ending!" to my movie-watching companion (and, fine, everyone else in the theatre). let's face it, short stories are always going to end before you want them to. if you're a writer of short stories, people are always going to say "i wanted to know what happened next!" when talking about your work. also, you might be writing a new story and suddenly be like "whoa. there's the end!" way before you thought the end was going to be. it's always a bit of a shock to end a short story, as a reader or a writer, but then you carry that shock with you for the rest of the day. you feel restless, unquieted, maybe even a little angry. you're fucking confused! and you don't want to admit it, but that's kind of the best feeling in the world. and hey, didn't no country for old men win a bunch of oscars? yeah, i thought so.
  3. now that you mention it, the beginnings! i think of the beginning of a novel as slowly immersing yourself in a warm tub of water, whereas the beginning of a short story is like being thrown into a shark tank covered in fish guts. now that i read it over, it doesn't sound very appealing. but you have to admit, it's pretty damn exciting!
  4. and also, the middles! in short stories, you can get away with completely batshit crazy transitions that you can't so much get away with in novels. like, one second you're in 1950s antarctica surrounded by penguins and the next you're in 2011 in a penthouse in new york, thinking about that one penguin who changed your life. IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH. well, why not? IT'S A SHORT STORY! now if you'll excuse me, i have to go write a story about two penguin researchers in love RIGHT NOW.
  5. they're like the movie trailers of the literary world! it's no secret around listophelia that i love movie trailers. in fact, i usually like them better than the actual movie. there's even a show that we pvr every day called "nothing but trailers" which is basically my favourite show on television right now. so why do i love movie trailers so much? it's easy: cause they take all the best parts of the movie and condense them into three minutes of pure cinematic bliss set to a dramatic soundtrack. JUST LIKE A SHORT STORY. well, except for the dramatic soundtrack part, but i'm working on that. how many times have you heard someone say "the movie wasn't as good as i thought it was going to be. all the funny parts were in the trailer." EXACTLY.
  6. they're like the box of truffles of the literary world! because i just wouldn't be me if i didn't make a food analogy, consider this: i used to say, all the time, that short story collections were like a box of truffles, cause you wouldn't want to just sit down and eat them all at once, you would want to savour them, one at a time, and the best way to really enjoy them would be to spread them out over time. but really, fuck that. who doesn't secretly want to sit down and devour a whole box of chocolates in one sitting? you? whatever, liar.
  7. canadians are really, really good at them! let's take a look at my "to-read" list. the divinity gene by matthew "yoss-founder and man-about-toronto" trafford. the beggar's garden, by michael "screw you, vancouver, we're totally claiming him for thunder bay, just so you know" christie. got no secrets by danila "i can't believe i haven't read your book yet you halifax literary goddess" botha. better living through plastic explosives by zsuzsi "vancouver loves you even though googling your book title has put us all on the cia watch-list" gartner. not to mention my "just-read" list, too much happiness by alice "the godmother" munro. i made all those nicknames up, by the way. you're welcome!
  8. other people think they don't like them! i'm a notorious rooter-for-the-underdog. when i hear someone say something like "i don't like short stories. you can't really love the characters or get into the story" it makes me want to say LIKE HELL YOU CAN'T and run off and find armloads of books (SEE ABOVE) that TOTALLY MAKE YOU LOVE THE CHARACTERS AND GET INTO THE STORY. and, in this short story fantasy of mine, that someone reads all those books and says "holy crap amy, you were right!" and then all those books go on to be bestsellers and the world throws me a ticker tape parade for showing them the light and i get to ride in the back of a convertible driven by zac galifianakis with the muppets, a non-concussed sidney crosby and the entire cast of 30 rock in the back with me and we're all wearing ballgowns and eating ice cream while "club can't handle me" plays over the loudspeakers and the whole world breaks out into a spontaneous dp. you know. dance party.
  9. but other people want to like them! you guys, all of my staff picks at work have been short story collections--darwin's bastards, both ways is the only way i want it, no one belongs here more than you--and they have all SOLD OUT. my current pick, twilight of the superheroes, is on the verge of selling out. people WANT to love short stories, you guys! they just need a little push! year of the short story, FTW!

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