I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that even a rather mediocre dental hygienist makes more money in a given year than most writers make in a decade. Generally it is only the best of the best, the luckiest of the luckiest, or the most connected of the most connected who can do so well as to make a living off of their craft. And that’s the novelists. In a modern world where the screen (phone, TV or computer) is so ubiquitous that your local barbershop is likely to have 40 or more flat inches on their wall to help you pass the time, it seems fair to say that most writers would struggle to pay their cell phone bills if they tried to earn a living by exclusively writing short stories.
The temptation then is to leap to the conclusion that the short story is dead. And yet the New Yorker as I’ve heard it, continues to pay short story legends like Alice Munro and William Trevor a special fee to have first access to any story those writers send out – that’s how valuable these works are. And when the magazine does select a work for publication, even a dental hygienist would envy the purchase price. Then you get Francis Ford Coppola, who in 1997 started a magazine devoted to short stories and design. Zoetrope: All Story is based on the great director’s love of fiction and his belief that so many great movies come on the backs of great short stories. This would seem to bode well for the form’s future. So too does the inclusion below of two writers who came to the English world’s attention over the last decade not from their novels, but on the back of their debut story collections.
Perhaps you are only familiar with one, two or all three of the world-class writers listed below as novelists. If so, you might want to also consider their masterful work in the short form, where narrative and poetry so often collide, and where a twist ending shocks the heck out of you in the best way possible – that “Usual Suspects” like turn that you never saw coming but when it comes you say, Of course!
The rest of this article, like most all the others I'm writing these days, can be found at Indigo's Fiction Blog.