Tuesday, May 07, 2002

A Good Short Story is Hard to Find: Part I

I have a morbid fascination with short stories. If I'm looking at the offerings on a library's 'New Book' shelf, I recoil in horror when I stumble upon a volume of short fiction. Once a year I skim through a "Best Short Stories" collection of some sort or another because, gosh, I don't want to read any bad ones. As my cousin, Bobby, once observed, it takes as much commitment to get involved with a short story as it does with a novel but by the time you're committed, it's over. Bobby and I are only interested in long relationships. On the other hand, because I write short stories, I have to think about them a lot, even if I don't read as many as I should.

Don't panic. I'm not going to give you the benefit of my random thoughts on short story writing. Instead, I'd like to point out that though I don't read them often, myself, I think the young should read them just as they should learn advanced math and how to conjugate foreign verbs--two other things I don't do. Now, I have a good reason for this. It's all very nice that children in the upper elementary grades and middle school read novels in class, but when was the last time they were asked to write one? Kids that age are asked to write short stories. And it's been my experience that they have little knowledge of this literary form that they're asked to write. So what do they have to model their work on? If they were in an art class and told to draw a pear, their instructor would make sure they knew what a pear looked like. Shouldn't they read and discuss short stories so they know what they "look" like?

This is all a lead-in to a discussion of a book of teen short stories I'm reading. But I haven't finished it yet, so I'll have to save the review for another day. You've been warned.

In the meantime, Amazon lists over 300 books as being collections of short stories for children.

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