Saturday, January 1, 2011
Short Stories: Best way for great writers to die broke
And no, I'm not talking about myself here. I'm talking about my favorite short story writer, Raymond Carver, considered by some to be among the greatest of this craft in the later half of the 20th century.
What, you've never heard of him?
That's because no one cares about short stories. Think about it - how many writers you know have best-selling short story books? How many have you seen on Oprah, or heard are "must-read" books by friends or media reviews?
Probably none. That's because the real money is in novels - one story, one narrative, one group of characters that you get to know over time. Which is kind of odd if you think about it, given how ADD most people are nowadays.
Raymond Carver wrote stories that were so amazing that, when I first encountered him in college, I couldn't even describe what I was reading. Now that I'm older, and reading a exhaustive 600 page biography of him, I can understand why.
Carver moved America back towards straight fiction (as opposed to experimental fiction) and wrote blunt, minimalist stories about gritty American life and relationships. They are awe-inspiring and heartbreaking, seemingly simple but incredibly moving. His writing was so concise, he's able to reveal an incredible amount of information in a just a few words. This story of his is a good example - it's powerful stuff.
But you probably never heard of him because he sold all his short stories to magazines, which don't create much buzz. Even when he put his stories into book form, they still didn't bring in in the big bucks or fame, outside of tight-knit literary circles, anyway.
My advice to new writers is to go where the big money is: poetry.