Isaac Bashevis Singer on the State of the Short Story (circa 1980)

Although the short story is not in vogue nowadays, I still believe that it constitutes the utmost challenge to the creative writer. Unlike the novel, which can absorb and even forgive lengthy digressions, flashbacks, and loose construction, the short story must aim directly at its climax. It must possess uninterrupted tension and suspense. Also, brevity is its very essence. The short story must have a definite plan; it cannot be what in literary jargon is called ‘a slice of life.’ The masters of the short story, Chekhov, Maupassant, as well as the sublime scribe of the Joseph story, in the Book of Genesis, knew exactly where they were going.

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