FOR those of you who don’t know me well I have two pastimes I adore – football and fiction.
If I’m not watching football on the TV (usually shouting at Man City) I can be found with my head in a book.
My favourite type of fiction is usually rare editions of novels translated into English. I tend to avoid anything mainstream (I hate bestsellers) not because I feel above reading them, but because I seem to be able to connect more with foreign literature (more often than not Latin American) and I prefer to read about other people from places I’m not familiar with.
One of these days I’ll write a novel myself (it’s been on my to do list for about 15 years) but in the meantime I shall continue to read as much as I can.
In moments of intense procrastination (of which I have many) I like nothing more than logging on to fiction-related websites and such like and recently a favourite of mine had an article entitled ‘15 short stories you can read in under 15 minutes.’
Now this is exactly the type of thing fiction buffs like myself love, but it also got me thinking -what happened to the short story.
Every newspaper and magazine used to run a short piece of fiction but they have long since disappeared.
Even the amount of published collections of short stories seems to have dried up.
The great JG Ballard once said there are no perfect novels but there is such a thing as a perfect short story and he was right.
We still teach our children in schools to pen short stories, yet the older we get they more they are disregarded as nothing more than a pithy distraction.
Yet, ask any writer and their love for the short-story will still glow undimmed.
Even here at the Observer, journalists write non-fictional (stop laughing please) articles every day and yet these are still the benchmark in all platforms of media.
Poe’s definition of the short story remains as true today as when he wrote it: ‘a story is a thing that can be read in one sitting.’ If he were writing today he might rephrase it: ‘…in one hour on the tread mill.’ Perhaps the continued rise of self-publication and e-books we will see a resurgence in the short story, but for now it strikes me as a sad loss to a rich and once celebrated genre.
Anyway whenever you’re on your dinner break why not look up a short story online and print it out or download it to your Kindle and read one over lunch. It’ll make you feel better, will possibly enrich your life and if nothing else it will at least
I recommend you start with ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish’ by JD Salinger - it was first published as a short story in The New Yorker in 1948.