In How to Read & Why, Bloom doesn’t dwell long on defining the short story in his introduction to the genre. However, he does introduce some ideas of what a short story may be and asks generally how one should read a short story. He bases his comments on other’s definitions. Some of these he agrees with and others he disagrees with; many of them are contradictory.People have claimed that a short story:
- Dwells on isolated individuals on society’s fringes
- Wounds once (one major emotion)
- Gives multiple sensations (many emotions)
- Is not a parable or saying and so is not a “fragment”
- Gives us the pleasure of closure
- Can be read in one sitting (Edgar Allan Poe’s definition)
Bloom includes a list of the short story authors he considers great (note that Edgar Allan Poe is, in his opinion, horrible both as a writer in general and as a short story writer more specifically). Many of these favorite authors have works on the HTR&W list and I’ll be reading them in the next few days and weeks. I may or may not agree with his opinions and may or may not agree with me; these things are subjective.
Personally, I think a short story can be full of many emotions, but I love short stories that capture one emotion well. (I really enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies because of the common themes and emotions in each story.) I believe short stories can be about any individual(s), not any particular type. To be a good short story, I do look for some degree of closure, although some artfully written short stories can leave me wondering about the resolution.
To you, what is a short story? What makes a short story “good”?