Can I recommend Jonathan Gibbs’ fine A Personal Anthology? So many writers, so many fictions. It’s a resource. My contribution was fun to do, but it suprises me now as quite a determined summing-up of what & how I prefer to read.
Davis begins this forty-six word story, “You see how circumstances are to blame”, and ends it with, “when I lived alone I had all the silence I needed.” Anyone else would have placed a novel between the two and still dealt with less along the way.
Counting the compound “forty-six” as one word, this two-sentence assessment of Lydia Davis’ “Odd Behaviour” was itself tailored to 46 words. It sums up what I think about the relations of long & short fiction: which is that, clearly, they imply a grain thing, & a focus thing, a thing managed by tone & register. But whatever length it is, I like fiction to be short. Also, to the point without seeming too densely compresssed & with a deftness & obliquity of surface that belies the power of the content.
It’s naive to dismiss a story because it’s 46 rather than 4,600 or 460,000 words long. & there’s always been something dull about the industry’s insistence that writing is a form of weight training, the novel is the only serious form, & that even a short story should bulk up.