Publishers and agents love to say that people don’t read short stories anymore; I don’t believe that. What they’re really saying is that short stories do not make enough economic sense for them. It’s true that a successful novel may sell 50,000 or 100,000 copies, and a successful collection of short stories may sell a few thousand. But, readers should not concern themselves with economics, just good, well wrought stories. With less and less time in our busy lives, short stories are the perfect antidote to the workaday world — an expansive, human experience compressed into a package that can be consumed in its entirety in a half an hour, and sometimes in as little as five minutes. Short stories allow us to walk in the shoes of a characters and understand her hopes and fears and dreams intimately without having to make a three or 400 page commitment that may never be met. What better way is there for a reader to understand a young Jewish girl’s sexual dilemma with her crucifix-wearing suitor than to spend four pages in her mind as she works through the complexities not only of her tradition but also of her expectations as a modern young woman, without the reader actually going through the experience herself? How else can we enter the mind of a religious extremist, or an Iraq war vet, or a girl struggling with her weight, or a drug addict or… the list goes on and on. The fact is, we are better people for reading stories, more understanding, humanistic people, able to empathize with those who are not us. This world needs greater understanding, and a well-written short story can pierce the heart like a bullet and stay with a reader for the rest of her life.
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