My Difficulty With Short Stories

Sure, I’ve had a few short stories published, but in reality I’m not an adept short-story writer. In fact, I find them curiously difficult to pin down. Limit me to a few characters and a moment in time, and my brain freezes.

A few weeks back, I came upon a quote by Man Booker Prize winner Anne Enright:

I like living in a novel — there is great company in it for the few years it is in your head, and I feel a real sense of loss when I come to the end. Short stories are, for me, a more instinctive form. They come or they don’t come, and I don’t spend lots of time figuring them out.

Instinctive? By Jove, there’s my difficulty: I don’t have a short-story instinct. Which is to say that I don’t read enough of them. Some years ago I subscribed to The New Yorker magazine so that I’d at least read its short stories, but now I’m thinking the stories the magazine likes to print aren’t the kind I like to read (and therefore to write). So, that hasn’t been helpful. These days, I browse the magazine for its articles. (Wait, where have I heard that one before?)

Now I’m staring at five short-story collections that have been sitting on my nightstand for awhile.

I ought to read them.

Unfortunately, I seem to remember that in this post, I vowed to lower my nightstand piles by reading only nonfiction until further notice…The piles, alas, remain.