Short Stories – Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

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There is no doubt that people these days have less time or inclination to read. What with online gaming, Netflix, Facebook and Twitter, and the never-ending supply of online entertainment (not to mention the ever addictive Tinder), it is no wonder reading seems so boring in comparison. How can print keep up with a fast paced screen, right?

Of course you’ll always have your hard core readers who will get word-nerdy in bed at night and on the train and anywhere they damn well can (reading under someone’s sweaty armpit on the 49 bus anyone?) But, if you’re like me, you’ll end up on Twitter until 1am every night, and fall asleep with a book, that you managed to read 3 lines of, stuck to your forehead. You’ll have a whole heap of ‘probably awesome’ books on your bookshelf you haven’t read, and a litany on your bedside table that you’ve got 39 or 102 pages into with their dog eared corners turned down, like an array of bodies scattered up the summit of Everest.

Writers will understand this modern day time-poor dilemma more acutely than anyone. No longer do people have the luxury of living in a garret, perusing the streets of Paris, and occasionally scribbling a few lines of their novel down a la Hemingway. The Catch 22 is, if you are a writer, reading is almost as essential to the process as the spiriting out of those thoughts onto paper. If life supplies the ingredients, reading gives us the utensils and some of the flavour. To quote the oft overused platitude: Art can’t be created in a vacuum. So unless you enjoy the creative equivalent of over-scrambled eggs for dinner, minus the salt, you might want to get reading…

This is not to say that the inevitable doesn’t regularly happen. You are given an hour or two here or there and you have to choose between reading and writing. To my detriment, I always choose writing and my writing inevitably suffers as a result.

Then there is the pyramid of essential and choice activities. For example:

Washing – Essential
Eating – Essential
Working – Essential
Talking to friends – Essential
Seeing and talking to family – Essential
Writing – Essential

Then there are the other stuff:

Reading: A joy and a luxury
Plucking eyebrows: Optional until exceedingly bushy
Shaving legs: Optional until people notice
Painting nails: Optional unless special occasion
Dating: Optional – but kind of a good idea unless you want to die alone

I could go on.

Short stories are different, however. You don’t have to worry about investing in a whole book. You don’t have to feel guilty at abandoning the book at page 15. You can read one on the train home or on your lunch hour. They give you a short sharp truth about life. They reflect our world as it is now, or human nature as it has always been.
Hence why, in the last year or two, I have become an even more avid reader of short stories.
Raymond Carver, Claire Keegan, Junot Diaz, Anton Chekov, Alison MacLeod, Arthur Conan Doyle, Kate Chopin, Dafne DuMorrier, Kafka, Augusto Monteroso… the list goes on. There are big names, small names, and unknown names. There are literary journals in many countries and cities full of great stories. Everyone, of course, knows The New Yorker and the likes of the Paris Review. But there are smaller ones (some free online), that print the kind of fiction and truth that can change your view on reality.

Stories are everywhere – overheard in bars, and written in books. There is varying quality of course. The story that goes nowhere. The badly written story. The story that annoys you no end. The overwritten story that makes you want to give the author a bit of a slap about the face. Trust me, you will find your humdingers and your disappointments. However, unlike with a book, you won’t have wasted 8 quid and a week or a month of your life. You might have wasted half an hour, but more likely, you will be enriched and have something new to ponder in the back of your mind for the rest of the day.

Don’t forget to read stories that aren’t news. The only place you can experience life from someone else’s mind is through fiction. The only way you’ll learn more about why we are here is through the stories from the minds of others. It’s the only way you can dream while being awake. There are so many things to spend your money on these days, sure. But what could be better than stories?

For some fiction, you can read Issue 4 of The Incubator Journal (March 2015) including one of my short stories ‘The Emperor Penguins’ at this link: http://theincubatorjournal.com/journal/

You can purchase a book of my short stories at this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Like-Evian-Florenze-Collection-ebook/dp/B00TQ70UDK

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