Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It's how you read em, I guess

Email today from Matthew Limpede, editor of Carve Magazine. The Fall issue is slightly delayed, but should appear on Wednesday or Thursday with the winning stories of the Raymond Carver competition, including my own, 'Used to Be'.

It's interesting to think about this story in the light of Dovegreyreader's comments about Balancing on the Edge of the World. It's something of a breathtaking whirl, deliberately eschewing or at least questioning all the traditional tropes of the short story - character, symbolism etc - and I would say it most definitely doesn't fit her description:
I envisage Elizabeth Baines hunched over a magnifying glass, the finest, most delicate of brushes in her hand, painting exquisite little miniatures, and there you have the essence of her short story collection... It is the microscopic quality of Elizabeth Baines’ eye that make each and every one of these stories so special.

Actually, while I'm thrilled that Dgr's review is so positive, I don't think of the stories in Balancing in this way, either, or maybe I'm just frightened stiff of the kind of reaction expressed today by Elaine of Random Jottings on Vulpes Libris:
...when I pick up a collection of short stories and find they are described as ‘exquisite vignettes’ (and yes this has happened), my main reaction is to run screaming from the room.

In fact, folks, I see my stories as punchy, ironic and huge in the themes they tackle - but then I guess it's up to others to decide...


Tania Hershman said...

That quote from Vulpes Libris scared me too. There is something in what you say about it being in the eye of the reader, it is a question of expectation. If you expect the same from a short story as from a novel or a poem, film or play, you will inevitably be disappointed. To me, it shouldn't matter what you call something, what you label it. Or rather: don't label it. Calling anything "exquisite" or "vignette" is the kiss of death. "Great writing," that's the only label I care about. I am really looking forward to reading Used to Be, with its total lack of traditional tropes!

Elizabeth Baines said...

I wouldn't say it totally lacks them, Tania, though it's an experiment in doing so and an attempt to question them!

adele said...

I think there are people who, while being avid readers, just don't like or get short stories. This is fine...no one has to like every sort of book. It's just a shame that those of us who DO like them aren't sufficient in number to make a collection of short stories a bestseller. Until that happens, the form will always get short shrift from the publishing houses, with a few brave exceptions like Salt! Well done for the Dove Grey Accolade! Richly deserved. I think the book bloggers should hand out rosettes!

Elizabeth Baines said...

Thanks, Adele!

I do wonder though if it's not simply a matter of taste. Over on Vulpes Libris this week they're addressing the fact that they have discovered that they DO have an unjustified prejudice against short stories, that, having been asked to think about short stories they initially groaned but then realized that they had read and loved lots of short stories (while all along thinking they didn't like short stories as a form).