Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Two Kinds of Short Stories

I have a post up at one of my other blogs that questions a literary magazine editor's "Ten Best" short stories list. His list is made up of, not so curiously, all literary stories. See


Michael Nye's list exemplifies the narrow MFA mentality.

There are two kinds of short stories: pop stories and literary stories. The objectives of the two types are vastly different. For the first type, the objective is to entertain and move a general audience. For the other, to impress a hypothetical or real college professor.

For too long, literary stories have had things all their own way, lauded by critics and academia, while the pop short story has been scorned, ignored, denied. It's no accident that during this period, the position of the short story in American culture has steadily declined.

With the rise of indie ebooks, the situation between the two kinds of stories may be changing.

Are all the many college professors and MFA grads-- numbering in the hundreds of thousands-- capable of defending their style of writing? Any of them? That remains to be seen. I sent an email "heads-up" to Missouri Review about my post, inviting comments, receiving to date none. Perhaps others invested in System Lit might weigh in. I invite them to. What literature needs more than anything else is real discussion and debate about its modes, standards, and intellectual monopolies.

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