Serena J. Cavanaugh :: Blog

September 4, 2009

Literary Flings and Affairs, Episode 3

The Short Story



There was a time in my life when all of the sudden, short stories were all I read. Granted, they always had their place: say in school for Literature study purposes and in the doctor’s office, just to kill time. But this particular period of my life, I actually purchased volumes of collections and read one after the other.


My husband, in his younger years, suffered something similar. We call them compulsive one night stands.


That’s the glamour and attraction of the short story. They fulfill a deep seeded need, without demanding too much commitment. In fact, you can be done in less than an hour! Then, you just move on to the next one with a live-in-the-moment sort of anticipation. Everything in a short story is more intense. The descriptions, the word choice, the clipped dialogue. Every single word has to make a point because there isn’t a lot of time.


Meanwhile, as a reader, you have to be careful to capture every last nuance. There is no room to misread a subtle clue. A particularly good short story warrants a second read, often times much slower. Consider this the morning-after-one-more-shot because, why not? It was a good read and you know instinctively that you might get just a tad bit more out of it.


Often, however, short stories can be disappointing. Either the story is flawed or your read is flawed. In that case, you leave the story with a feeling that you wasted your time. And sometimes, this is much worse, you feel like the story itself cut you off. You want to know more about this particular character. There’s a little something that has left a part of you feeling empty and unfinished. What happened next? What happened before? What actually happened? You reread it a couple times, but it still isn’t enough. It’s over, but you didn’t want it to be over.


That’s when you know. Your stint with short stories is passé. You need more, want more, and will soon settle down with a long, epic novel where you get to know every last multi-generation, psyhcoanalytical detail. Hopefully that novel is so good that you reread it a million time and never tire of it! Some call this a committed relationship.





What I’m Reading Now

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer


The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner


  1. I don’t know - I’m rediscovering my love of short stories these days, since I’m being handed copies of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine. It’s… it’s like a buffet. I can try little sips of different authors, without going through the trouble of getting an entire meal. So if I don’t like it, it’s no great loss.
    Maybe it’s a genre thing? The last collection by Shirley Jackson left me distinctly cold, as did an anthology from the “new” shelf at the library. I couldn’t finish either of them, short little sips or no. But the Sword and Sorceress anthologies, or the collections by Stephen King - those resonate. Maybe I’m in my second childhood! A midlife crisis! I’m taking time away from novels with fast, easy stories. At least I’m not sneaking around, since they’re all on the same bookshelves…
    Before I forget, have you read anything by Marian Keyes?

    Comment by Rachel — September 5, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  2. I have not read Marion Keyes — at least I don’t think so. Although to be honest, I am a more title oriented reader, rather than an author. However, since I’ve been trying to be an author, I have been more inclined to pay attention. What does she write?

    Comment by serena — September 5, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

© 2009 by Serena Cavanaugh - All Rights Reserved - Powered by WordPress