Since beginning my new Reading Matters group at the Palace Theatre, my attitude to fiction has changed - that's it, five weeks, and a new world has opened up. In the group we read short stories and poetry. It's down to me, as the group 'lector' to choose the stories. And here's a confession; short stories and I have never got on. I have always found them unsatisfactory - a bit like eating a canape rather than a three course dinner. Just when you're all settled down into the story, it ends.
Now I see that short stories are actually a wholly different genre, and that they have huge potential for a different type of writing, and learning, by a writer. I'm learning all the time from the group's response to what we read. As someone pointed out on Thursday, a short story can dwell simply on atmosphere, it can tempt or amuse or distract or educate or just immerse the reader in a moment. A novel, being a much longer journey, is a different kettle of fish altogether. It's a settling down, between reader and writer, for a long-distance ride. A short story, being one stop along the way, can be much bolder or brasher or funnier or dreamier. The reader won't get worn out because there's no time. What freedom!