Typicality Quotes

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Categories: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Let's press ahead a little further by sketching out a few variations among short shorts: ONE THRUST OF INCIDENT. (Examples: Paz, Mishima, Shalamov, Babel, W. C. Williams.) In these short shorts the time span is extremely brief, a few hours, maybe even a few minutes: Life is grasped in symbolic compression. One might say that these short shorts constitute epiphanies (climactic moments of high grace or realization) that have been tom out of their contexts. You have to supply the contexts yourself, since if the contexts were there, they'd no longer be short shorts. LIFE ROLLED UP. (Examples: Tolstoy's 'Alyosha the Pot, ' Verga's 'The Wolf, ' D. H. Lawrence's 'A Sick Collier.') In these you get the illusion of sustained narrative, since they deal with lives over an extended period of time; but actually these lives are so compressed into typicality and paradigm, the result seems very much like a single incident. Verga's 'Wolf' cannot but repeat her passions, Tolstoy's Alyosha his passivity. Themes of obsession work especially well in this kind of short short. SNAP-SHOT OR SINGLE FRAME. (Examples: Garda Marquez, Boll, Katherine Anne Porter.) In these we have no depicted event or incident, only an interior monologue or flow of memory. A voice speaks, as it were, into the air. A mind is revealed in cross-section - and the cut is rapid. One would guess that this is the hardest kind of short short to write: There are many pitfalls such as tiresome repetition, being locked into a single voice, etc. LIKE A FABLE. (Examples: Kafka, Keller, von Kleist, Tolstoy's 'Three Hermits.') Through its very concision, this kind of short short moves past realism. We are prodded into the fabulous, the strange, the spooky. To write this kind of fable-like short short, the writer needs a supreme self-confidence: The net of illusion can be cast only once. When we read such fable-like miniatures, we are prompted to speculate about significance, teased into shadowy parallels or semi allegories. There are also, however, some fables so beautifully complete (for instance Kafka's 'First Sorrow') that we find ourselves entirely content with the portrayed surface and may even take a certain pleasure in refusing interpretation. ("Introduction")

Irving Howe
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