by definition are supposed to be brief, and "Young Man on Sixth Avenue"
"really defines the 'short' in short story." We'll see in a few
weeks which famous short story writer vehemently agrees with this comment.
"Love in L.A." because of its "realism." I could relate
to Jake, the main character, and his wanting to better his life. A major
expectation of most readers is that literature create worlds which "seem
real" or have "verisimilitude." Even the wildest fantasies
and science fiction scenarios, if they don't seem at least plausible on some
level, usually lose their power and appeal (at least for most people).
"Girl" because it was "much different from any other short
story I've ever read." A lot of readers realize that the best stories
are those that are unpredictable in some way. They have a novelty, a sense
of freshness. They take your imagination where it hasn't been before; and,
like any trip to a newly discovered place, that untried territory can be more
exciting than the same old worn path.
of an Hour" lets readers "draw their own conclusions" from
the story. It gets readers to think. A lot of readers enjoy encountering
works that are challenging and provocative, rather than easy and predictable.
Great literature always has that ability to provoke us to deeper levels of
thought, providing us with a deeper experience of human nature than we might
have otherwise had. That "no pain, no gain" cliché works
here, because if it's too easy, if it doesn't make you "think,"
it's probably something you already know, and you don't really need to read
seemed like a worthwhile story, when I understood parts of it. I like mysteries;
but a lot of this story was a mystery to me because I did not understand what
was going on. Sometimes this is the fault of the story. It's a "bad"
or poorly written, poorly constructed story and the author is incompetent.
Sometimes, though, not "getting it" has to do with the reader not
reading attentively enough, or not reading between the lines (interpreting
ambiguities or connotative meanings), or not knowing how to read something
that's written in a new or different way. It also might have to do with the
reader's expectations. If I'm expecting a murder mystery with lots of intense
plot and action and I get a kind of quiet, psychological, subtle interior
mystery instead, I might be disappointed and kind of resistant to figuring
out what's going on. I just don't want to bother because it's not what I normally
like or what I expected. The solution to that problem probably seems obvious.
Give the work a second or third reading, adjusting your expectations. If you
still don't understand it, the writing may be pretty weak, or you may need
a little help.
with a Pet Dog" was worthwhile because it "showed how people change."
Change is so often at the heart of the short story, its raison d'être
(whole reason for being). A character (usually the main character, or "protagonist")
begins the story with one consciousness and ends with another. There's been
change, growth, and that's what the story dramatically renders.
Any story that
is enjoyed by its reader is worthwhile. Two students wrote this in practically
the same exact words, and many others wrote to the effect that a short story
should be "entertaining." I'll never disagree with that. It's a
simple point but true. Literature is meant to be entertaining. That enjoyment,
in some cases, is an end in itself. I don't read George Carlin, for instance,
to think more deeply about U.S. foreign policy, or whatever; I read him to
laugh. But I do think a bonus--and I think what makes him a great writer--is
that he makes me think deeply, too.
(1) "When I read a short story, I expect that it won't be in a lot of
detail. Short stories leave you wondering, leave you asking questions about
why things happened the way they did. You must always use your imagination
to give you the answer to the questions you have, and there's never just one
(2) "When I read a short story I expect good details [and descriptions].
Details keep my interest in the story."
Is one of these statements more "right" than the other? How can
we reconcile them?
I didn't appreciate
"Love in L.A." because the story was very open-ended. I felt as
if I did not understand the theme the author was trying to convey, or the
main character's motives. This happens a lot when we're reading something
challenging, and if it happens to you, you shouldn't immediately think there's
anything wrong with the story or wrong with you. It probably indicates that
the story is subtle rather than obvious, and you might have to read it two
or three times before you "get it." Good short stories deserve that
second and even third read-through. They can make all the difference-knowing
"what happens" allows you to pay attention to the finer details
that will reveal more meaning to you on a second and even third reading. The
reward is that click you'll hear as the light turns on in your mind, as you
suddenly make meaning in a deeper, more satisfying way than if it had been
obvious all along.
was worthwhile because I could relate to it. Although the author is writing
about growing up in [Antigua], it seemed so similar to all the rules my mom,
aunts, and grandmother used to tell me. Like the line, "but I don't sing
benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school" which sounds like
my mom telling me to "turn off that rap mess; it's Sunday." That
was weird and funny-that he was writing about another culture and it seemed
so similar to the United States. This person is really experiencing the
pleasure of being able to jump cultures and find that common human thread.
Isn't it great when you find you can relate to someone who you initially thought
was so different from you? Imagine being able to travel, not only across physical
distances to make that connection, but through time as well. To be able to
go back in history as far as the written word goes back, and discover that
common human thread. That long ago inside insight into human nature that's
still expresses your own nature. That's what literature offers.
I didn't appreciate
"Girl" because all the speaker did was give orders. The speaker
went on and on about how to do chores, went on and on bossing the girl around.
There wasn't any substance or story behind the reading. What's the point?
One person's treasure is another's junk, it seems! Is there a right and
wrong here? I don't think so. Anytime a writer goes out on a limb with an
experimental style, as Jamaica Kincaid does in "Girl," she's going
to encounter a range of opinion about the work. And I think it's true in general
that experimental forms of fiction-those attempts to create new forms-often
end up requiring more from the reader, who has no precedent for understanding
it. That's a tough position for the reader to be in. But some readers enjoy
being in that position, having to open up to the story in news ways to get
meaning out of it.
expresses the opposite of what many students maintain-namely, that there has
to be a "point" (message, moral, lesson) to a short story. Note
the frustration in the response just above. But this student says:
"I appreciated the fact that there seemed to be no 'point' to the story
["Soldier's Home"]. I don't think it had a plot that we could diagram.
It was up to the reader to deduce his or her own reaction to or thoughts about
the story." Most readers want meaning, but some are really uncomfortable
with stories that don't loudly announce their meaning, that leave it to readers
to figure out their own meanings, if they want to. I think this student isn't
saying that the story has no point, just that the point isn't forced on her,
or obvious in any way. She gets to decide what it means, when she's ready.
story should be entertaining. The characters should have depth. I want to
be able to picture them. I want to be able to picture the scenery. When I
read a short story, I expect to forget that I'm sitting and reading, and instead
picture the story in my head." My first impression here is that this
is someone who likes to read, someone invites an author to stretch her imagination,
likes to get absorbed in the world of the story. Of course, I might be wrong,
and just projecting my own thinking! But my impression is that this comment
is a fairly accurate representation of people who like reading generally feel.