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.