On Display: “For Brevity’s Sake” – The Short Story: Writers and their Craft

The Oxford English Dictionary defines brevity as “being short in speech or writing; contraction into few words, conciseness, terseness”.

That we encounter brevity on a daily basis should come as no surprise. Twitter, one of the most widely used social networking services, is designed to only allow users 140 characters to convey thoughts, news, or commentary in dispatches known as Tweets. Most academic journal articles feature an abstract that summarizes the salient points of the document in a very brief paragraph, comprised of no more than a few sentences. Even the act of texting imposes its own economy of language. We have become reliant on brevity to enable us to evaluate information quickly in a fast-paced society.

But we continue to read books, which is a good thing. Fiction, in particular, offers refuge from our busy lives and great stories serve to reflect and even affirm the human condition, reminding us that our struggles and victories, while uniquely our own, share a common thread in the great and shared human experience.

Short stories use this thread to weave such stories in impossibly succinct ways. To develop an entire character study or arc within the span of a few pages is remarkable. Consider what Andre Dubus, one of the great short fiction authors of our time, asserts about the craft and brevity of the short story:

“I love short stories because I believe they are the way we live. They are what our friends tell us, in their pain and joy, their passion and rage, their yearning and their cry against injustice.” 

Indeed, short stories are the way we live – particular moments of drama or inspiration whose meaning may (or may not) be immediately known. Whether it’s the emotional depth of Alice Munro (recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature), the Modernism of Jorge Luis Borges, or the everyman realism of Raymond Carver, everyone has a (short) story to tell.

Come by the library to check out the display or take a look at the Pinterest board. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, inquire at the Reference Desk.

Come find your favorite story today!