Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterward (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed.
(Poe. How delightful. Who knew?)
I think I have discovered a new (to me) delight in this season of my life: the short story. OK, OK, I'll admit it: I've been a bit of a snob about the short story. It is useful for guiding writing classes, for draining the life from high school English Lit classes, perhaps for filling the gaps in an anthology. Too short to be a novel, too long to be an essay, the short story seemed to lack purpose. It never fed a portion of my reading heart in a way that merited remark, either good or bad.
Now, before you *tut-tut* and begin making disdainful clucking noises, hear me out. (I still remember the collective gasp when I admitted I was never a big fan of fiction. We all learn. I'm learning. Growing. Bear with me.) It's not that I hadn't read Poe, Conrad, or Chesterton (although, ok, Chesterton is new to me -- within the last few years -- and it is to him I owe my latest foray into short stories). I think it's that I hadn't quite understood how best to approach a short story. By it's very name, I suppose, I always expected it to be, well, shorter. And so, I hadn't the attention to last much beyond the first page or two. Yet, to gear up for the seminar-length of a novel seemed a bit of overkill, really. So I developed my pace for reading through a short story - I'd sprint. Sprint through it, suck it up, get it over, and try very hard not peek at the last paragraph becuse honestly, is is THAT difficult to show some self-composure? Truly, when you must grasp your reading moments in the quiet lulls between needs and demands, who wants to sprint? Not I!
Children get it. Children get the thrill of a short story. They understand, almost intuitively, that the master of a short story can make his readers wonder, follow, care... all of the things a well-written novel will do, but with far fewer words and far less time to accomplish those things. How did I forget that part? It's a pretty big part. However, due to my love affair with GK Chesterton (it's okay, Zorak knows - I'm only after his words), I picked up a book of *sigh* short stories. Because one of his stories was in there. And it's one I love. Enough to read it over and over again. Enough to buy a book I'm not otherwise interested in owning.
And I began to read the other stories. I read, for the first time in my life, The Pit and the Pendulum. With a bit of context thrown in. And... and... I may not stop making adolescent "quoth the raven" jokes because of it. But I did enjoy it. Not in an uplifting-let's-read-Poe-daily sort of way. But moreso than ever before.
Did you know he wrote of hope?
In so many ways, I am thankful that I can continue my own education. I cannot imagine being in ten years the same as I am today. I am not now what, ten years ago, I thought I'd be. Yet this isn't (really, it isn't) about the journey of self-discovery so much as it is about my utter joy that I've found something I can read, and savor, and enjoy. Before they find me. (I'm running out of hiding spots.)
So, aside from Joyce Carol Oates (who I refuse to subject my soul or mind to ever again, as long as I live - I simply cannot. take. her), who are some of your favorite short stories written by? What are some of your favorite short stories?
And which do you look forward most to sharing with your children?
Kiss those babies!