Are You Sitting Comfortably? Good, But Don’t Get Too Comfortable!
In our so-called ‘modern, progressive’ society, the vast majority of us are up to our arses with things to do. My mum would often tell me – in my formative years – that I race around like a blue arse fly, which is a rather amusing analogy for being incessantly on the go. Like the flies, I could rarely sit my ‘blue arse’ still for more than 5 minutes!
We all like a good story, especially if we’re snuggled up with a warm cup of cocoa, listening to a skilful narrator. Many people like to read a good novel, but the problem is that in many cases, they don’t half drag on! It is neither conducive to nor agreeable with our million miles an hour, hi-tech existence, to cosy up with a good bestseller that is going to take an age to read. Who can be arsed to do that these days? Blue, or otherwise. Although slowing right down would do us the world of good, many people simply don’t have the time to fart in peace, let alone read a masterpiece from cover to cover.
Enter the era of the short story book. Given the enormous demands of life in the fast lane, I’m wildly passionate about the concept of both reading – and writing – short stories. What could be a better solution than to have an entire plot conveniently wrapped up from start to finish, in not much more time than it takes to retrieve the Uncle Ben’s Boil in the Bag from the microwave, and right before EastEnders starts? I am, of course, being ever so slightly facetious, but my point, I believe, stands.
According to Simon Prosser, Publishing Director of Hamish Hamilton, “The short story form is better suited to the demands of modern life than the novel.” I believe Mr Prosser deserves an enthusiastic applause with all of my appendages, for that erudite comment. Bite size, easily digestible pieces of literary greatness seem to be just what the doctor ordered, I concur. And if they contain a juicy moral, offering something upon which to ponder – whilst on the go, of course – then all the better.
The idea of short stories is not actually a modern phenomenon. Though, as Simon Prosser asserts, they are very timely and fitting for today’s ‘blue arses’. Annie Proulx’s, ‘Brokeback Mountain’, and Ernest Hemingway’s, ‘Hills Like White Elephants’, are just two randomly chosen books, out of a whole plethora of contemporary examples of short story books. There is an ancient and fascinating lineage of the contemporary short story form. In ancient Greece, for example, a well-known slave by the name of Aesop was said to have invented concise, to-the-point tales, which today are known as ‘Aesop’s Fables’. These typically contained specific morals, narrated skilfully by the man himself; the same idea is likewise brilliant for today’s microwave generation. Another example is the anecdote – a form of short story – which was commonplace during the reign of the Roman Empire. Many of these went on to be compiled around the 13th century, under the title of Gesta Romanorum.
In closing, all I can say is all hail to short stories. They’ve existed since the times of sitting round the communal fire, and they’re excellently suited for the age of the curry-in-a-hurry culture. No doubt, they’ll also continue to make their mark on the collective psyche of all those who just can’t resist a bloody good story, well into the distant future, too.