The skilled storyteller is able to capture and share a moment in a way that lingers well beyond the reach of its pages. It’s winter now, and I’m reading my way through a very good collection of Hemingway’s stories [The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, The Finca Vigía Edition]. Each one comes into my life, luggage and all, packed for an extended stay. There are thoughts of bullfighters drifting into my breakfast, clips of phrases delivered deadpan remembered walking through the snow. There’s cruelty, and a lot of it, and redemption.
The short story form is distinct for the constrained space in which it operates – this is echoed in the name of the prose genre itself, the short story, as opposed to the spread breadth of a novel or an epic. It offers the cut of a slice of life, rather than attempting to depict collected trials of the characters over a marathon temporal setting. The concise literary encounter through the short story form illuminates some aspect of human experience, whether it inhabits accepted universals or burrows in and breathes life into a local phenomenon. New truths of old places, or the old truths of all places. Art can be crafted from uncomplicated language.
Reading doesn’t look like magic, yet the spell is binding.