James Lasdun - The Art of the Short Story
A strident defence of the short story
This article is from 2009.
Over the years James Lasdun has turned his pen to novels, screenplays, travel writing, journalism and poetry, but short stories are his current medium of choice, having recently published his third collection, It’s Beginning to Hurt. Lasdun suggests that the short story should have great appeal ‘because it’s short, it’s quick and people have limited time and short attention spans. One would think it would fit right into the habits of mind that people have in this era.’ He offers a few hypotheses as to why it remains as the novel’s lesser-seen younger sibling. ‘I think there’s a feeling that this is an insider’s game, that it’s an artsy type of writing, and if you’re not part of that world then you might just be wasting your time and money and why not go out and get a novel by some novelist that you know and love?’
When asked what attracts him to a difficult genre, Lasdun cites his reasons as, ‘you get to articulate what’s in your head pretty quickly’ while the process is more like poetry ‘because it’s so much about economy and trying to do many different things all at the same time’. If all the elements work together, if the balancing act between brevity and fully-realised meaning is achieved, ‘they somehow make an alchemy between two elements – some action and some kind of character – and somehow those two things spark. They’ll stay in your mind.’
21 Aug (with Vincent Lam), 8.30pm, £9 (£7); The Art of the Short Story, 22 Aug, 5pm, £9 (£7).