the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes: on formal requirements (batuman)

Posted by rigorousm on December 28, 2010

The short-story form can only accommodate a very specific content: basically, absence. Missing persons, missed opportunities, very brief encounters, occurring in the margins of “Life Itself”: when the content is minimalist, then it makes sense to follow the short-fiction dictates: condense, delete, omit.

Novels, like short stories, are often about absences; but they are based on information overload. A short story says, “I looked for x, and didn’t find it,” or, “I was not looking anymore, and then I found x.” A novel says, “I looked for x, and found a, b, c, g, q, r, and w.” The novel consists of all the irrelevant garbage, the effort to redeem that garbage, to integrate it into Life Itself, to redraw the boundaries of Life Itself. The novel is a fundamentally ironic form; hence its power of self-regeneration. The short story is a fundamentally unironic form, and for this reason I think it is doomed.

Elif Batuman “Short Story & Novel,” n + 1 (online: http://nplusonemag.com/short-story)

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