Take a (Lunchtime) Bite Out of Short Fiction
— by Joanne Beckerich
The short story is a literary form that precedes written language. Tales have been passed through generations, sometimes to perpetuate a moral or ethical belief, but often merely to entertain. It is through its entertainment value that the short story has won the devotion of millions.
A short story is always a work of fiction, and should be readable in one sitting. It has between 1,000 and 7,500 words and revolves around only a few characters.
Central to a story’s success is the mood it conveys, which takes precedence over plot. The mood can range from dark to comical (to darkly comical); from lighthearted to thought-provoking to downright unnerving, which many short story fans see as a delicious plus. Short stories have been written in almost every genre you can think of, and their styles are as varied as their authors.
A short story can be very personal, and favorites are often chosen based on the experiences, world view, and (sometimes secret) desires of the reader. In a good story, the writer’s twist of words and mechanics can leave readers feeling as though they just peeked through a door into someone else’s situation, or as though they’ve discovered a new way of thinking about life.
A popular and enjoyable way of experiencing short stories is listening to them read aloud. Selected Shorts has been a public radio favorite for good reason: a heartfelt rendition of a superbly constructed story leaves listeners with a shared sense of humanity; a feeling that a good story is greater than the sum of its words; a sense, simply, of satisfaction. The type of satisfaction that makes newcomers with a desire to dive deeper into the boundless short story waters.
Of course you can check out a volume and get acquainted — we have collections ranging from those of single authors to themed anthologies showcasing a range of talnets, but this summer Maplewood Library is upping the appeal with our new Short Story Time for Adults. Bring a brown-bag lunch or just a cup of coffee if you like. Librarian Amanda Eigen has selected some time-tested classic and some intriguing modern short stories to read aloud, live in our Durand Room.. She launched the series with T.C. Boyle’s brilliant and fierce “Balto”, and the lineup just keeps getting better. It’s air conditioned, you get to eat in the library, and you get to relax while being read to. Grab a friend and come by. Find out for yourself why short stories have such a dedicated following, or, if you already know why, come and get your short story fix.
The next Short Story Time for Adults is Thursday, August 2. The series will continue on August 16 and 30. The readings start at 12:15.