Amazing fiction attracts a discerning audience. Each year a literary luminary participates in selecting the best short stories of the year for publication. This year’s guest editor of The Best American Short Stories 2011 features Geraldine Brooks, whom you may recognize as author of such chart toppers as “Caleb’s Crossing,” and Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague.
Each Christmas, my homeboy, Rich Norton, sticks this story collection under his tree with my name on it. And every winter I am reminded of how much I worship the precision, tone and complex symbolism crafted into these pages.
Short fiction maintains close ties with metered poetry, SEO content, and professional copy because these genres demand highly structured style and syntax, sparing no mercy for narrative largesse. Every single syllable counts! You must find the words, and polish them with meticulous fidelity, or you fail on so many levels.
Fortunately we endure little shame in generating sloppy copy since nobody bothers to read it. Even my 13-year old niece grew weary of the sticky adolescent angst gumming up Stephenie Meyer‘s confectionery play by play in the Twilight series. Kudos to my girl for a rapidly developing sense of literary sophistication.
Within each short story I can taste the words as a distinct flavor identifying a talented author’s literary palette on a real palpable level.
In honor of this proud tradition I hereby proclaim that I will continue, for as long as I possibly can, to devour acclaimed contemporary fiction in its old timey format, presented as stains under the covers. Stand tall, trees! Books will become obsolete soon enough.
Kurt Vonnegut will offer our benediction with prudent counsel on the issue of editorial precision:
“4. Have guts to cut
It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”