don’t kill the story!

A quote from E.L. Doctorow’s introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2000:

“…it is a fiction in which society is surmised as the darkness around the narrative circle of light. In other words, the scale of the short story predisposes it to the isolation of the self. And the author’s awareness of loneliness is a literary dignity he grants his characters in spite of their circumstances…”

Oh my god. I would yawn if I weren’t completely paralyzed from boredom.

YES, I am about to rant.

I LOVE books. I LOVE short stories. I LOVE stories. Reading, hearing, creating STORIES.

I even went to school for a frighteningly long time and got a DEGREE in stories.

Well, that’s what I wanted to get my degree in. I ended up getting my degree in literature.

Which is not the same thing. But it was the closest I could get.

Do I think that Doctorow knows what he’s talking about? Certainly! It can be useful to dissect and label the pieces of stories, as you would a frog.

But the appreciation of frogs or stories is not dependent on such dissection! There is a more holistic way to approach stories.

This is one of my major frustrations with formal education regarding literature. I understand the lure of charts and diagrams and answer books.

But they are doomed to being incomplete and therefore false.

For what the codification and dissection have to offer, I appreciate them. But for what they exclude, I loathe them.

Mr. Doctorow, and all literature professors, don’t kill the story to examine it. It lives in the reading. At least let the readers read it before you tell them what they have to see in it.

The Best American Non-Required Reading 2002

Sometimes, it’s hard to make it through a whole novel. But you really want the satisfaction of reading a good story.

Short stories really scratch that itch.

When I’m busy, and I really want to escape into a story, I often read compilations or anthologies.

I found this one, The Best American Non-Required Reading from 2002. David Eggers edited it, and I had been interested in reading more of his stuff. Although I’ve been attracted to him through articles and other things, I still haven’t read his main works, such as the magazine McSweeney’s. Well, at least I admit it.

It was a wicked little collection. David Sedaris was included, although I can’t say his story was the best one. I loved Rodney Rothman’s story of crashing the corporate world without actually working there. Supreme.

McKenzie’s “Stop That Girl” was engaging. It was a very female story, lots of interesting women in it.

But “Higher Education” by Gary Smith was my favorite. It will stay with me. So wholesome it could have done just as easily in a Reader’s Digest, it was needed in this young, hip, cynical compilation.

I’m young enough to be the same kind of cynical Eggers is aiming for. And I also get cynical of my own cynicism. I love that this story ends it, and shows that yes, one person can make a difference and be as real and true to himself as humanly possible.