October 19th, 2009 / 12:07 pm
Snippets

Are novels superior to short story collections, as a form? Should all fictionists aspire to the novel format, at some point?

170 Comments

  1. cmr

      i think jesus’ son is better than any novel dennis johnson has written, so maybe not.

      (already dead is damn fucking near as good though, so maybe?)

  2. cmr

      i think jesus’ son is better than any novel dennis johnson has written, so maybe not.

      (already dead is damn fucking near as good though, so maybe?)

  3. cmr

      denis*

  4. cmr

      denis*

  5. Lincoln

      other way around. maybe. maybe not.

  6. Lincoln

      other way around. maybe. maybe not.

  7. Blake Butler

      denis johnson’s gots problems i agree

  8. Blake Butler

      denis johnson’s gots problems i agree

  9. Blake Butler

      there is no one collection of short stories that is as important as the 25 most important novels.

  10. Blake Butler

      heehee

  11. Blake Butler

      there is no one collection of short stories that is as important as the 25 most important novels.

  12. Blake Butler

      heehee

  13. Lincoln

      The collected works of Kafka? Some Chekov book?

      You could make some arguments. Part of the problem is the form of short stories is really the short story, not the short story collection. A few exceptions like Jesus’ Son aside, most stories aren’t written to go together in a collection in any meaningful way.

      When a short story author gets really famous and respected, their stories are often just shuffled around in valorous collections and ways, so you don’t think of their work as individual collections as much. I’m thinking Borges, O’Connor, Kafka, etc.

  14. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Michael Martone says there’s no such form as the novel

  15. Lincoln

      The collected works of Kafka? Some Chekov book?

      You could make some arguments. Part of the problem is the form of short stories is really the short story, not the short story collection. A few exceptions like Jesus’ Son aside, most stories aren’t written to go together in a collection in any meaningful way.

      When a short story author gets really famous and respected, their stories are often just shuffled around in valorous collections and ways, so you don’t think of their work as individual collections as much. I’m thinking Borges, O’Connor, Kafka, etc.

  16. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Michael Martone says there’s no such form as the novel

  17. Lincoln

      uh… various not valorous.

  18. Blake Butler

      Michael Martone

  19. Lincoln

      uh… various not valorous.

  20. Blake Butler

      Michael Martone

  21. Blake Butler

      Kafka’s novels kill his stories.

      O’Connor is defeated

      Borges is almost an exception, but only because his stories could easily be sewn into a cohesive larger object

      Stories.

  22. Blake Butler

      Kafka’s novels kill his stories.

      O’Connor is defeated

      Borges is almost an exception, but only because his stories could easily be sewn into a cohesive larger object

      Stories.

  23. christian

      i really wish people would treat them as two different forms. i know that when you get into a certain realm of fiction writing (“experimental,” “indie,” etc, for lack of better, or even good terms) there’s kind of a tendency to resist labels or make up new ones (in the late 90s and early oughts it seemed like the fc2 crowd was making up new ones every week), but there really is a difference between them. a novel is something i can spend a whole afternoon or several days (sometimes weeks) with — i especially like the times when i look forward to going back and finishing a book while i’m away from it — while a short story should (obviously it’s not my job to prescribe) be read in one sitting. this sounds so intuitive that it shouldn’t need to be said, but it does because i think powell and hannah do their best work in short stories and they (and to some extent george saunders) are as good and important as anyone out there writing novels. also, as someone who has done both, it burns me when a successful short story writer says “now i have to write a novel” as thought they’re the same skill, as though there’s a hierarchy between the forms, and as though it’s as simple as just jumping back and forth (it isn’t, for me at least).

      if i had the choice, all my ideas would be short story ideas.

  24. christian

      i really wish people would treat them as two different forms. i know that when you get into a certain realm of fiction writing (“experimental,” “indie,” etc, for lack of better, or even good terms) there’s kind of a tendency to resist labels or make up new ones (in the late 90s and early oughts it seemed like the fc2 crowd was making up new ones every week), but there really is a difference between them. a novel is something i can spend a whole afternoon or several days (sometimes weeks) with — i especially like the times when i look forward to going back and finishing a book while i’m away from it — while a short story should (obviously it’s not my job to prescribe) be read in one sitting. this sounds so intuitive that it shouldn’t need to be said, but it does because i think powell and hannah do their best work in short stories and they (and to some extent george saunders) are as good and important as anyone out there writing novels. also, as someone who has done both, it burns me when a successful short story writer says “now i have to write a novel” as thought they’re the same skill, as though there’s a hierarchy between the forms, and as though it’s as simple as just jumping back and forth (it isn’t, for me at least).

      if i had the choice, all my ideas would be short story ideas.

  25. Ken Baumann

      I prefer novels. That’s all. The mechanisms unlocked inside.

  26. Ken Baumann

      I prefer novels. That’s all. The mechanisms unlocked inside.

  27. darby

      I was just thinking something along this recently and was honing a brain essay about same, or specifically there seems to be a lack of novels in the 800+ page range, especially in the independent market. I don’t think the internet is helping.

  28. Shya

      I agree, Lincoln. It’s a strange question, because I don’t think of “short story collections” as a proper form. It’s like an album: basically, a category created by the music industry, not artists. Not that artists haven’t appropriated the category in some cases, making “concept albums”, but “concept album” wouldn’t be a meaningful term if most albums were actually cohesive. Same basic thing goes for story collections.

  29. darby

      I was just thinking something along this recently and was honing a brain essay about same, or specifically there seems to be a lack of novels in the 800+ page range, especially in the independent market. I don’t think the internet is helping.

  30. Shya

      I agree, Lincoln. It’s a strange question, because I don’t think of “short story collections” as a proper form. It’s like an album: basically, a category created by the music industry, not artists. Not that artists haven’t appropriated the category in some cases, making “concept albums”, but “concept album” wouldn’t be a meaningful term if most albums were actually cohesive. Same basic thing goes for story collections.

  31. Shya

      I want to write an 800 page short story.

  32. Shya

      I want to write an 800 page short story.

  33. darby

      i want to write an 800 pixel poem

  34. darby

      i want to write an 800 pixel poem

  35. Matt

      Define ‘important’ and ‘superior’?

      I’m not sure I would say that Moby Dick is more important than Bartleby the Scrivener because I’m not sure what I’m comparing. Certainly Moby Dick is an important novel, but Bartleby’s also an important short story (ok, it’s pretty long) but I think trying to compare the two in terms of which is a more important form is tough because they do different things. If we’re just talking about some vague notion of awesomeness, then we’re just talking about taste.

      But, if we’re talking about book length stuff – the short story collection is (like others have said) not as often used as a form in the way a novel is – yeah, there’s Jesus’ Son, Invisible Cities, some Borges collections, etc that do use the story collection as a form, but more often the collection is like a ‘best of’ of a writer.

      The scope of the novel is almost always wider and larger than the story by virtue of having the space to address bigger issues, so yeah, a novel’s going to be able to do bigger things. You can’t go down as many garden paths in a short story. But they do different things.

  36. Matt

      Define ‘important’ and ‘superior’?

      I’m not sure I would say that Moby Dick is more important than Bartleby the Scrivener because I’m not sure what I’m comparing. Certainly Moby Dick is an important novel, but Bartleby’s also an important short story (ok, it’s pretty long) but I think trying to compare the two in terms of which is a more important form is tough because they do different things. If we’re just talking about some vague notion of awesomeness, then we’re just talking about taste.

      But, if we’re talking about book length stuff – the short story collection is (like others have said) not as often used as a form in the way a novel is – yeah, there’s Jesus’ Son, Invisible Cities, some Borges collections, etc that do use the story collection as a form, but more often the collection is like a ‘best of’ of a writer.

      The scope of the novel is almost always wider and larger than the story by virtue of having the space to address bigger issues, so yeah, a novel’s going to be able to do bigger things. You can’t go down as many garden paths in a short story. But they do different things.

  37. Amelia

      A novel is a collection of short stories

  38. Amelia

      A novel is a collection of short stories

  39. Matt

      OK, maybe Invisible Cities isn’t a great example. Maybe Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (as far as using the story collection as a form.) I know people are probably over that book, but I dig it.

  40. Matt

      OK, maybe Invisible Cities isn’t a great example. Maybe Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (as far as using the story collection as a form.) I know people are probably over that book, but I dig it.

  41. davidpeak

      This is kind of what I was thinking: I’m less interested in which is better, more interested in how they merge. Think Vollmann’s Rainbow Stories, or Street of Crocodiles by Schulz. Those are both novels and short story collections. To me, the self-contained yet connected pieces of a novel-in-short-stories let’s call it is one of the pinnacles of book writing.

  42. davidpeak

      This is kind of what I was thinking: I’m less interested in which is better, more interested in how they merge. Think Vollmann’s Rainbow Stories, or Street of Crocodiles by Schulz. Those are both novels and short story collections. To me, the self-contained yet connected pieces of a novel-in-short-stories let’s call it is one of the pinnacles of book writing.

  43. Matt

      How so?

      I think *sometimes* you could make this argument, but not all story collections are novels, and I think with some novels you could certainly make this argument, but I’m not sure you could pull a piece out of every novel and call it a short story – that novels work because of their novelness, that pulling out the constituent parts doesn’t always result in successful short stories.

  44. davidpeak

      go down, moses

  45. Matt

      How so?

      I think *sometimes* you could make this argument, but not all story collections are novels, and I think with some novels you could certainly make this argument, but I’m not sure you could pull a piece out of every novel and call it a short story – that novels work because of their novelness, that pulling out the constituent parts doesn’t always result in successful short stories.

  46. davidpeak

      go down, moses

  47. darby

      yeah. but not really.

  48. Matt

      yes! to go down, moses

  49. darby

      yeah. but not really.

  50. Matt

      yes! to go down, moses

  51. Blake Butler

      let’s not pretend we can’t define important

      winking

  52. Blake Butler

      let’s not pretend we can’t define important

      winking

  53. Amelia

      A successful novel is a short story collection at the page/paragraph/sentence level. In a successful short story collection, each sentence is a novel. Each form contains multitudes.

      DeLillo writes keeping one paragraph per page since 1982. He considers paragraphs as individuals. “This enabled me to see a given set of sentences more clearly. It made rewriting easier and more effective. The white space on the page helped me concentrate more deeply on what I’d written.”

      Short stories

  54. Lincoln

      I’m not sure i’d agree about Kafka, but you said important and his stories are definitely more important (as in influential) to the literary world.

  55. Matt

      Ha, yeah, but what I’m getting at is I’m not sure how to get to a reasonable definition of ‘importance’ across the two forms – like is a sestina more important than a villanelle – like Joyce’s short stories are as important to the short story as his novels are to the novel.

      In answer to the other part of your question – yeah, I think fiction writers should aspire to write novels, but only because I think it’s another form and one of the interesting things about the novel to me is that I don’t think the form of the novel has ever really been solidified in that the scope of a novel allows for a lot more space. But, not sure I can say novels are more important than a short story. Maybe more important than a collection, but you know, apples and oranges.

  56. Amelia

      A successful novel is a short story collection at the page/paragraph/sentence level. In a successful short story collection, each sentence is a novel. Each form contains multitudes.

      DeLillo writes keeping one paragraph per page since 1982. He considers paragraphs as individuals. “This enabled me to see a given set of sentences more clearly. It made rewriting easier and more effective. The white space on the page helped me concentrate more deeply on what I’d written.”

      Short stories

  57. Lincoln

      I’m not sure i’d agree about Kafka, but you said important and his stories are definitely more important (as in influential) to the literary world.

  58. Matt

      Ha, yeah, but what I’m getting at is I’m not sure how to get to a reasonable definition of ‘importance’ across the two forms – like is a sestina more important than a villanelle – like Joyce’s short stories are as important to the short story as his novels are to the novel.

      In answer to the other part of your question – yeah, I think fiction writers should aspire to write novels, but only because I think it’s another form and one of the interesting things about the novel to me is that I don’t think the form of the novel has ever really been solidified in that the scope of a novel allows for a lot more space. But, not sure I can say novels are more important than a short story. Maybe more important than a collection, but you know, apples and oranges.

  59. Lincoln

      I think albums are a fair amount more organic than story collections, because music can be written pretty quickly (I think most bands have sessions to crank out new songs) and artists will likely play the new songs together, tinkering with them, making them fit together in some way. Stories are written individually and placed separately in magazines long before they are ever collected together.

  60. Lincoln

      I think albums are a fair amount more organic than story collections, because music can be written pretty quickly (I think most bands have sessions to crank out new songs) and artists will likely play the new songs together, tinkering with them, making them fit together in some way. Stories are written individually and placed separately in magazines long before they are ever collected together.

  61. Matt

      I don’t follow. It sounds like what you’re arguing is that both short stories and novels are the same in that their success is judged by the page/paragraph/sentence. And maybe that’s true – that there’s really no difference between poems/stories/novels – they’re all just words on the page, but I do think there’s differences between the forms. So yeah, I agree with that. But, I’m not sure how that makes every novel a short story collection because taken as a whole, there are differences between the forms.

  62. darby

      i don’t like this thinking. you can break it down to anything being a collection of anything. a sentence is a collection of words. the difference between a novel and a short story collection for me is how they sit in your head a month after you read it. its the connectedness between those entities that get more synapses firing to eventually exist as one thing in your head. Those are the experiences I crave, not things broken up so much I can’t put them together. Short story as novel serves the process more than the product I think.

  63. Matt

      I don’t follow. It sounds like what you’re arguing is that both short stories and novels are the same in that their success is judged by the page/paragraph/sentence. And maybe that’s true – that there’s really no difference between poems/stories/novels – they’re all just words on the page, but I do think there’s differences between the forms. So yeah, I agree with that. But, I’m not sure how that makes every novel a short story collection because taken as a whole, there are differences between the forms.

  64. darby

      i don’t like this thinking. you can break it down to anything being a collection of anything. a sentence is a collection of words. the difference between a novel and a short story collection for me is how they sit in your head a month after you read it. its the connectedness between those entities that get more synapses firing to eventually exist as one thing in your head. Those are the experiences I crave, not things broken up so much I can’t put them together. Short story as novel serves the process more than the product I think.

  65. Nathan Tyree

      Moby Dick is the Moby Dick of literature

  66. Nathan Tyree

      Moby Dick is the Moby Dick of literature

  67. BAC

      Who defeated O’Connor? What was the method? What were the stakes? Was a belt awarded? If so, who now holds the belt? Who else has held the belt? What is the history of O’Connor’s short story championship belt?

      But O’Connor isn’t really a good case, as Wise Blood is probably her strongest bit of writing and that’s a novella.

  68. Gian

      Winesburg

      khehhhhh

  69. Lincoln

      So I guess a personal essay is just a collection of haikus?

  70. BAC

      Who defeated O’Connor? What was the method? What were the stakes? Was a belt awarded? If so, who now holds the belt? Who else has held the belt? What is the history of O’Connor’s short story championship belt?

      But O’Connor isn’t really a good case, as Wise Blood is probably her strongest bit of writing and that’s a novella.

  71. Gian

      Winesburg

      khehhhhh

  72. Lincoln

      So I guess a personal essay is just a collection of haikus?

  73. Alex

      Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Leonard Michaels, and Denis Johnson are all authors whose short story work surpasses their novels (if they even wrote one in the first place). In my mind, the best short story collections by these authors hold court among the best works of American fiction. Whether the novel or the short story is better is a subjective question and not an objective one. It’s like saying epic poetry is better than lyric poetry.

  74. Alex

      Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Leonard Michaels, and Denis Johnson are all authors whose short story work surpasses their novels (if they even wrote one in the first place). In my mind, the best short story collections by these authors hold court among the best works of American fiction. Whether the novel or the short story is better is a subjective question and not an objective one. It’s like saying epic poetry is better than lyric poetry.

  75. Nathan Tyree

      I’d add Hempel to that list

  76. Thomas Moore

      I don’t see either as being superior to the other. There are some novels I like more than other novels and more than some short story collections. There are some short story collections than I like more than other short story collections and some novels (like as someone above mentioned – Vollman’s excellent Rainbow Stories). I don’t think that a writer should aspire to a particular form over others, rather, they should just do what they enjoy or get the most from. For example, someone like Gary Lutz produces amazing work with the short story format; and I don’t think that he should aspire towards writing a novel if that isn’t what appeals to his particular sensibility.

  77. Nathan Tyree

      I’d add Hempel to that list

  78. Thomas Moore

      I don’t see either as being superior to the other. There are some novels I like more than other novels and more than some short story collections. There are some short story collections than I like more than other short story collections and some novels (like as someone above mentioned – Vollman’s excellent Rainbow Stories). I don’t think that a writer should aspire to a particular form over others, rather, they should just do what they enjoy or get the most from. For example, someone like Gary Lutz produces amazing work with the short story format; and I don’t think that he should aspire towards writing a novel if that isn’t what appeals to his particular sensibility.

  79. Lincoln

      I’m counting 2 of your 15 literary towers as basically pure story writers, and two others as being better known for their short fiction (though perhaps I will get some argument there)

  80. Lincoln

      I’m counting 2 of your 15 literary towers as basically pure story writers, and two others as being better known for their short fiction (though perhaps I will get some argument there)

  81. alan

      Trick question. Everyone knows the novella is the highest fictionistic form.

  82. alan

      Trick question. Everyone knows the novella is the highest fictionistic form.

  83. Clapper

      No.

  84. Clapper

      No.

  85. Nate

      short stories please. but that’s no knock on novels.

  86. Nate

      short stories please. but that’s no knock on novels.

  87. mike young

      novelists should shoot themselves

      sex is a short story

  88. mike young

      novelists should shoot themselves

      sex is a short story

  89. thomas p levy

      my first introduction to denis johnson was in some class — his name was written on the board

      it looked like penis johnson

      i liked that better

  90. thomas p levy

      my first introduction to denis johnson was in some class — his name was written on the board

      it looked like penis johnson

      i liked that better

  91. mike young

      already dead is a masterwork

      i know blake has issues with jesus’ son, which is a stance that reminds me of a master whack, like a ping pong paddle maker hitting himself over and over again in the cheek—but hey, we’re all off here and there

      and lots of people like JS so i know it’s fun and stuff to open your own water slide

      the vietnam novel didn’t convince me, though this new one, nobody move, seems hot

      but already dead is one of the best weirdo epics of recent effort

      i don’t know, maybe it’s a california thing

  92. mike young

      already dead is a masterwork

      i know blake has issues with jesus’ son, which is a stance that reminds me of a master whack, like a ping pong paddle maker hitting himself over and over again in the cheek—but hey, we’re all off here and there

      and lots of people like JS so i know it’s fun and stuff to open your own water slide

      the vietnam novel didn’t convince me, though this new one, nobody move, seems hot

      but already dead is one of the best weirdo epics of recent effort

      i don’t know, maybe it’s a california thing

  93. Ken Baumann

      Funny how that happens.

  94. Ken Baumann

      Funny how that happens.

  95. darby

      length (or effort) is the only objective measure of superiority I can think of. The longer it takes to read something the more it becomes part of a readers brain. all writers should not necessarily aspire to write a novel (because subjective superiority is what ought to drive us), but should atleast try to write one at some point to see if its what they do.

  96. darby

      length (or effort) is the only objective measure of superiority I can think of. The longer it takes to read something the more it becomes part of a readers brain. all writers should not necessarily aspire to write a novel (because subjective superiority is what ought to drive us), but should atleast try to write one at some point to see if its what they do.

  97. Ken Baumann

      One sentence from something can stick with you in an equally as powerful way, sometimes even without context.

  98. Ken Baumann

      Why most sex = boring

      winking

  99. Ken Baumann

      One sentence from something can stick with you in an equally as powerful way, sometimes even without context.

  100. Ken Baumann

      Why most sex = boring

      winking

  101. Mike Meginnis

      Wise Blood sucks so bad I literally threw it across the room when I was finished with it.

  102. Amelia

      Matt–saying “differences between the forms” perhaps suggests that the novel has a determined or successful form. But the lack of form is the only leg the novel has up on a short story, which is defined formally, by name, as a story which is short. Meanwhile the novel by definition is novel.

      darby–I’ve never gotten this “more words = better than” argument. For me it’s a singular image or idea that sits in the head, not the full weight itself. I get the buildup and payoff of a novel, but that sticking image doesn’t have a word count attached. A bad short story is broken up, truncated, fragmented. A good one holds worlds. Same with poems.

      Lincoln–every art should aspire to haiku. Personal essay should be so lucky

  103. Mike Meginnis

      Wise Blood sucks so bad I literally threw it across the room when I was finished with it.

  104. Amelia

      Matt–saying “differences between the forms” perhaps suggests that the novel has a determined or successful form. But the lack of form is the only leg the novel has up on a short story, which is defined formally, by name, as a story which is short. Meanwhile the novel by definition is novel.

      darby–I’ve never gotten this “more words = better than” argument. For me it’s a singular image or idea that sits in the head, not the full weight itself. I get the buildup and payoff of a novel, but that sticking image doesn’t have a word count attached. A bad short story is broken up, truncated, fragmented. A good one holds worlds. Same with poems.

      Lincoln–every art should aspire to haiku. Personal essay should be so lucky

  105. Lincoln

      “length (or effort) is the only objective measure of superiority I can think of. The longer it takes to read something the more it becomes part of a readers brain. ”

      Can you expand this? Superiority is a subjective measurement and even if it wasn’t, your declaration that length correlates with superiority is subjective.

      Not sure about the second part either. There are short poems or stories burned into my brain after one read while whole novels have fallen away. But doesn’t address the question of a story collection (same length of material) .

  106. Lincoln

      “length (or effort) is the only objective measure of superiority I can think of. The longer it takes to read something the more it becomes part of a readers brain. ”

      Can you expand this? Superiority is a subjective measurement and even if it wasn’t, your declaration that length correlates with superiority is subjective.

      Not sure about the second part either. There are short poems or stories burned into my brain after one read while whole novels have fallen away. But doesn’t address the question of a story collection (same length of material) .

  107. Lincoln

      But the lack of form is the only leg the novel has up on a short story, which is defined formally, by name, as a story which is short. Meanwhile the novel by definition is novel.

      A novel is defined by length as well, as anything short is called a novella or short story.

      Anyway, all our posts are just a collection of twitters anyway…

  108. Lincoln

      But the lack of form is the only leg the novel has up on a short story, which is defined formally, by name, as a story which is short. Meanwhile the novel by definition is novel.

      A novel is defined by length as well, as anything short is called a novella or short story.

      Anyway, all our posts are just a collection of twitters anyway…

  109. Amelia

      Validating a novel by its length is silly. Don’t you know it’s the motion of the ocean?

  110. Amelia

      Validating a novel by its length is silly. Don’t you know it’s the motion of the ocean?

  111. Matt

      Amelia – No, I don’t think that suggests that at all – earlier up there I said just that, that I don’t think the novel has ever hardened into a form in the way that a sonnet, or even a short story has. That’s not saying those forms are rigid either, but that the length of a novel allows for a lot that can’t go on in a short story. I think what you’re saying has merit, but at the same time I think it’s useful to talk about how novels and short stories are different. Yeah, we can reduce them to page/sentence/paragraph, but I think there’s more to it than that.

  112. Matt

      Amelia – No, I don’t think that suggests that at all – earlier up there I said just that, that I don’t think the novel has ever hardened into a form in the way that a sonnet, or even a short story has. That’s not saying those forms are rigid either, but that the length of a novel allows for a lot that can’t go on in a short story. I think what you’re saying has merit, but at the same time I think it’s useful to talk about how novels and short stories are different. Yeah, we can reduce them to page/sentence/paragraph, but I think there’s more to it than that.

  113. mike young

      what is this “blah blah winking” bullshit? don’t fucking wink at me

      what, have you read “most” short stories?

  114. Matt

      I’m also not arguing that one is better than the other, only that they are different.

  115. mike young

      what is this “blah blah winking” bullshit? don’t fucking wink at me

      what, have you read “most” short stories?

  116. Matt

      I’m also not arguing that one is better than the other, only that they are different.

  117. BAC

      meginnis, I’d say the same thing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .except, you know, about your mom.

      nah just kidding.

  118. BAC

      meginnis, I’d say the same thing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .except, you know, about your mom.

      nah just kidding.

  119. mark

      wrong. josephine, investigations of a dog and the burrow all pat the novels on the head and send them on their way.

  120. mark

      wrong. josephine, investigations of a dog and the burrow all pat the novels on the head and send them on their way.

  121. RR

      Airships smokes most novels written in the past quarter century. I’d say 25 years but ‘quarter century’ sounds longer.

  122. RR

      Airships smokes most novels written in the past quarter century. I’d say 25 years but ‘quarter century’ sounds longer.

  123. darby

      if superiority is completely subjective, then the question has no answer. I’m trying to actually answer the question as honestly as I can. The question seems to want an objective answer: yes or no. 1 or 0. In order to answer that way, there needs to be an objective definition of ‘superior.’ Throw away any notion of subjective sensibility, of liking or disliking for content, all content is subjective, it all has to be thrown out.

      So is there a universal process of what goes through our brains as we read that we can break down as being more ‘more’ or more ‘less’ than something else? What I tend to think about here is the way synapses connect to create an atmosphere of a fiction. I believe that the more synapses that connect, the more that atmosphere is likely to become a part of me, it simply takes up more single ram space in my head. I’m pushing more stuff out of the way to make room for it. I’m sacrificing for it, I’m changing myself more for it.

      short story collections are not like novels in this way, they don’t come together to create singular atmospheres the way novels can. Connections are happening in chunks, not all together. You can sort of read a story and forget it and read the next. A novel forces you to keep all its memory.

  124. darby

      if superiority is completely subjective, then the question has no answer. I’m trying to actually answer the question as honestly as I can. The question seems to want an objective answer: yes or no. 1 or 0. In order to answer that way, there needs to be an objective definition of ‘superior.’ Throw away any notion of subjective sensibility, of liking or disliking for content, all content is subjective, it all has to be thrown out.

      So is there a universal process of what goes through our brains as we read that we can break down as being more ‘more’ or more ‘less’ than something else? What I tend to think about here is the way synapses connect to create an atmosphere of a fiction. I believe that the more synapses that connect, the more that atmosphere is likely to become a part of me, it simply takes up more single ram space in my head. I’m pushing more stuff out of the way to make room for it. I’m sacrificing for it, I’m changing myself more for it.

      short story collections are not like novels in this way, they don’t come together to create singular atmospheres the way novels can. Connections are happening in chunks, not all together. You can sort of read a story and forget it and read the next. A novel forces you to keep all its memory.

  125. Mike Meginnis

      We all did that with my mom.

  126. Mike Meginnis

      We all did that with my mom.

  127. alec niedenthal

      the novel is dead. long live mathematics!

  128. alec niedenthal

      the novel is dead. long live mathematics!

  129. Lincoln

      I guess what I would say is the question seems to imply a question of quality. Your measurement here is quantity and there is no reason to believe those things are the same. I think we’d have to come up with a measurement for quality first, or else we are forced to conclude that random scribblings that go on for 2,000 pages are superior to Pale Fire, or whatever.

  130. darby

      i agree.

      what needs to be proved though is that a novel as a form lacks some ability that a short story or poem or collection has. What is a novel not capable of doing?

  131. Lincoln

      I guess what I would say is the question seems to imply a question of quality. Your measurement here is quantity and there is no reason to believe those things are the same. I think we’d have to come up with a measurement for quality first, or else we are forced to conclude that random scribblings that go on for 2,000 pages are superior to Pale Fire, or whatever.

  132. darby

      i agree.

      what needs to be proved though is that a novel as a form lacks some ability that a short story or poem or collection has. What is a novel not capable of doing?

  133. Lincoln

      I would argue there are many effects, to use a general term, that are powerful in the short term but not sustainable in the long term. Thus, the novel can’t do those things without crushing under its own weight.

      (of course, it can do other things that shorter works can’t by a similar token)

  134. darby

      I’m basing this on quality being completely subjective. The only thing left is quantity.

  135. Lincoln

      I would argue there are many effects, to use a general term, that are powerful in the short term but not sustainable in the long term. Thus, the novel can’t do those things without crushing under its own weight.

      (of course, it can do other things that shorter works can’t by a similar token)

  136. darby

      I’m basing this on quality being completely subjective. The only thing left is quantity.

  137. Lincoln

      even following that, why is more superior to less? Telling something in a more concise form is almost always more powerful than telling it in a long form.

  138. Lincoln

      even following that, why is more superior to less? Telling something in a more concise form is almost always more powerful than telling it in a long form.

  139. darby

      I would argue there are many effects, to use a general term, that are powerful in the short term but not sustainable in the long term.

      I don’t think I agree with that. I don’t know how it could be proven if the only point of view its being considered from is the short term.

      I feel that way sometimes though, what you are saying, but I don’t think anyone ever considers a potentially greater context. Take even the greatest short story ever written you can think of. Imagine how that could exist in a context that would allow the context to be greater than the short story. It’s difficult, but I have to imagine it’s always possible, even if it’s not something I’m capable of imagining.

  140. darby

      I would argue there are many effects, to use a general term, that are powerful in the short term but not sustainable in the long term.

      I don’t think I agree with that. I don’t know how it could be proven if the only point of view its being considered from is the short term.

      I feel that way sometimes though, what you are saying, but I don’t think anyone ever considers a potentially greater context. Take even the greatest short story ever written you can think of. Imagine how that could exist in a context that would allow the context to be greater than the short story. It’s difficult, but I have to imagine it’s always possible, even if it’s not something I’m capable of imagining.

  141. darby

      multiply that conciseness.

  142. darby

      multiply that conciseness.

  143. darby

      i don’t think I’m saying more words = better than. I think I am saying more words = more potential.

  144. darby

      i don’t think I’m saying more words = better than. I think I am saying more words = more potential.

  145. Nathan Tyree

      I know. It’s weird.

  146. Nathan Tyree

      I know. It’s weird.

  147. Nathan Tyree

      word

  148. Nathan Tyree

      word

  149. Nathan Tyree

      Is it maybe off point to ask ‘Are novels superior to short story collections’? Wouldn’t a better question be” are novels superior to short stories?

  150. Nathan Tyree

      Is it maybe off point to ask ‘Are novels superior to short story collections’? Wouldn’t a better question be” are novels superior to short stories?

  151. cmr

      I fucking LOVE Kafka, and obviously opinion is opinion, but i think what he accomplishes in 300 pages, he also completely accomplishes in 20, so “kills” might be a bit overboard…

      I think In The Penal Colony destroys all of his other work, novels included, but that’s just me…

  152. cmr

      I fucking LOVE Kafka, and obviously opinion is opinion, but i think what he accomplishes in 300 pages, he also completely accomplishes in 20, so “kills” might be a bit overboard…

      I think In The Penal Colony destroys all of his other work, novels included, but that’s just me…

  153. mike

      borges’ labyrinths

  154. mike

      borges’ labyrinths

  155. Ken Baumann

      i’m sorry, is “blah blah blah winking” bothering you? bothered by provocation for provocation’s sake? hmm:

      “novelists should shoot themselves”

      real talk with mike young.

      what do you prefer? novels, short stories, poetry? what do you enjoy reading the most, if you had to say? as i said above, i prefer reading novel length books. my preference.

  156. Ken Baumann

      i’m sorry, is “blah blah blah winking” bothering you? bothered by provocation for provocation’s sake? hmm:

      “novelists should shoot themselves”

      real talk with mike young.

      what do you prefer? novels, short stories, poetry? what do you enjoy reading the most, if you had to say? as i said above, i prefer reading novel length books. my preference.

  157. Ogawa

      Agreed.

  158. Ogawa

      Agreed.

  159. Clapper

      Sounds a bit like Kinsella’s story, “Books by the Pound.”

  160. Clapper

      Sounds a bit like Kinsella’s story, “Books by the Pound.”

  161. Blake Butler

      you used to love when i winked at you

      you used to get so wet

  162. Blake Butler

      you used to love when i winked at you

      you used to get so wet

  163. mike young

      i enjoy all three

      usually i like stories and novels at night

      and poetry in the morning

      i’m not at all bothered by provocation jazz, but the winking thing comes across as thickly dick-ish, especially with y’allz Brothers Of Winkly shtick

      and if you pull it on me

      i’m gonna tell you what i think of it

      =)

      also i was in a bad mood

      peace love and understanding

  164. mike young

      i enjoy all three

      usually i like stories and novels at night

      and poetry in the morning

      i’m not at all bothered by provocation jazz, but the winking thing comes across as thickly dick-ish, especially with y’allz Brothers Of Winkly shtick

      and if you pull it on me

      i’m gonna tell you what i think of it

      =)

      also i was in a bad mood

      peace love and understanding

  165. Ken Baumann

      ‘thickly dick-ish’ & ‘Brothers Of Winkly’ made me lol

      yes, only <3s!

  166. Ken Baumann

      ‘thickly dick-ish’ & ‘Brothers Of Winkly’ made me lol

      yes, only <3s!

  167. Corey

      The short story needs to articulate a more pronounced place outside of the short story collection. It’s what so many of us do for pleasure, out of love, for formal reasons, and yet the literary field is often asking, “well what is this contributing towards?” But I too love short story collections, especially Schulzesque collections that blur the line between consecutive short stories and what amounts to a novel or novella-sized entity. Pressing related problems: why are publishers so afraid of long novels these days? Why has the long novella become the privileged form today? Why are there so few non-writers reading short stories? The brevity of a short story is infinitely perplexing for me to write. Novels, thankfully, can be as long as they like. You can even Proust up the shit and write one long novel in parts.

  168. Corey

      The short story needs to articulate a more pronounced place outside of the short story collection. It’s what so many of us do for pleasure, out of love, for formal reasons, and yet the literary field is often asking, “well what is this contributing towards?” But I too love short story collections, especially Schulzesque collections that blur the line between consecutive short stories and what amounts to a novel or novella-sized entity. Pressing related problems: why are publishers so afraid of long novels these days? Why has the long novella become the privileged form today? Why are there so few non-writers reading short stories? The brevity of a short story is infinitely perplexing for me to write. Novels, thankfully, can be as long as they like. You can even Proust up the shit and write one long novel in parts.

  169. Craig Snyder

      The Golden Apples.

  170. Craig Snyder

      The Golden Apples.