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At some point or other, you are going to be faced with a choice between short and long fiction. Short stories versus the novel. Many readers find that they place themselves on one side or the other. Shall we look at the pros and cons of both?
Short stories are perfect for the kind of life we lead nowadays: most will take less than half an hour to read for most people. In that short read, they get a whole story, from beginning to end, complete with climax and resolution. Short fiction can easily be read on a digital device, and is perfect for commutes, standing in line at the supermarket, or that half hour in a dentist's waiting room. With less to memorise about situations, characters and plots, they make instant entertainment real in reading. Collections of short stories are easily available: famous authors such as Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Nora Roberts, Rose Tremain and Joyce Carol Oates all have collected stories of theirs into collection volumes. There are even some excellent anthologies of different authors, all gathered in one book: what a smorgasbord this can be.
Novels, on the other hand, go into greater depth, and sketch out the finer details of character, demonstrating the talent of authors to show nuances and subtle personality traits. Situations, plots, locations: they all come to life in the hands of a capable author of fiction. The joy of delving into a novel that transports the reader to another time and place is not replaceable by any other kind of entertainment. It all takes place in your head, without intervention of another person's interpretation, as you would get in a movie. A novel is an object of wonder and delight. A reader can dedicate whole evenings to a story, since the average novel takes about 6 hours to read, in all. No one can deny that the novel has been a great art form, that includes such great exponents as Victor Hugo, Virginia Woolfe, Ernest Hemingway, down to today's famous authors such as Richard North Patterson, Anita Shreve, and Jeffrey Archer.
So is there a real choice to be made? Yes - it is important to choose reading material appropriate for the time, place and state of mind. It might make a great deal of sense to read a discrete story that starts and finishes in one sitting, while snatching a peaceful interval on a hectic day. And it is very clever to choose a long novel to fill more than just a stolen half-hour: a long, long story that captures you with its detail and depth of revelation for a week.
Both short and long fiction have a place in a reader's life. And it is possible to choose. The real choice lies in which goes for which time and place. When it is better to read something on one sitting, and when there is time to savour something longer.
For one week only, a short story of mine, called The Day of the Bird, is being featured at Charissa Weaks's blog. You are very welcome to start the story there, and then finish it on its own page at my site: read Day of the Bird.