Reading Old Short Stories
Paperback Collections of Short Stories
Recently, at my place to stay, I came across a old much used paperback edition of short stories edited by the English writer, V.S. Pritchett. More formally known as Sir Victor Sawdon Pritchett, the British author was born in 1900 and lived until 1997, making th man an excellent chronicler of the twentieth century. Much to the credit of V.S. Pritchett, the editor, he only included one story by himself. It is called ‘Many Will Be Disappointed’. Even though this English writer, who preferred the title VSP, was much heralded for his short story writing, I found some other of the literary tales more enjoyable.
A Good Historical Survey
This collection begins in early 19th century America with works by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. Every writer should read ‘The Fall of the Housen of Usher’ just to understand how the English language has changed over the centuries. Not only does the story present an archetypal image of the ultimate haunted house, but Poe paints a verbal picture with a flowery style of prose seldom used today.
Other stories that caught my attention were ‘Charity’ by Eudora Welty and ‘Hills Like Elephants’ by Ernest Hemingway. Charity is a charming little tale about a visit to a nursing home by a young girl. The story’s simple low key humor is quite remarkable. Hemingway is often seen as a turning point in modern literature. That is to say his use of dialogue to drive a story forward, breaks from past techniques that did not place so much emphasis on the dialogue. As a contrast, visit Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, which relies primarily on description to relay the tale. On a final note, there is Ambrose Bierce’s Coup de Grace, a chilling tale set on a Civil War battlefield. Here setting is paramount to the grisley story.
Flash Fiction Comparison
It would be an interesting side note to compare these classics of modern literature to the Flash Fiction and other forms of very short fiction that seemed to have come in vogue since the development of the internet. These short story writers often go for the very short tale and first impression to communicate their thoughts and experiences about modern life. These contemporary “slices-of-life” are a far cry from the tales from the old masters that are often put into anthologies.