Monday, July 5, 2010

The short-winded modern mind

Sound familiar?

"It was the American critic Brander Matthews who coined the term
'short-story' in 1884; in theorizing about such texts, he borrowed
much from Edgar Allan Poe, the first great theorist of the short story
and also its first great practitioner. Poe's idea that the story aimed
at unity of effect achieved through concision became central to the
understanding of the form. Compression brought greater impact.

When Brander Matthews published a book on the subject, he entitled it
The Philosophy of the Short-Story (1901). That 'philosophy' looked to
many to be a matter of fragmentation, as though the story, through
'unity of effect', expressed the multiplicity, the contradictions of
life. This interest in the broken was supposed by many to echo the
disruptions of modern existence. Critics remarked that the very
brevity of the form suited the short-winded modern mind, which could
not attend to things for long, and was perpetually hurried from event
to event."

Michael Newton, The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, Kindle edition,
2010, 3% into the book.