What a difference a decade makes
Ten years ago the American short story was in decline. Now it is once again a vital genre
The short story is an amuse-bouche: luscious, glittering, to be consumed in a single bite. It should be artfully conceived, but not so dainty that you can’t sink your teeth into it. It should restrain itself to the confines of its setup rather than spilling out messily over the edge of the page. Most important, it should satisfy the reader’s immediate appetites while making him or her hope for more. What it is not, in other words, is a shrunken novel. The story seizes a moment of emotion and captures it under a bell jar. The novel takes the long view, working extended magic through patterning and repetition, more like a multi-course meal: formal or informal, paced leisurely or at a rapid clip, but always exhaustive.
Best American Short Stories 2011
edited by Geraldine Brooks and Heidi Pitlor (Mariner, £9.35)
Ladies and Gentlemen
by Adam Ross (Jonathan Cape, £12.99)