Saturday, January 2, 2010

Short Story, Anyone?

Tags: John Grisham, Ford County, short stories.

There are many websites on the Internet where you can read short stories for free, and a lot of us take advantage of the opportunity. Some of these sites have a comment section where the readers can give their opinion. For any given story, the comments will run from snarky to the sublime—some of the comments are actually better than the stories. The comments that heap ridicule on the author’s head aren’t necessarily bad, because all of them reflect the opinion of the individual readers. One often stated opinion is the ending of the stories. One recent comment was, “. . . too long a buildup for a one-liner ending.” Another writer said, “Your last sentence would have been appropriate for a joke, but not for a serious story.”

I have started reading John Grisham’s collection of short stories called Ford County. From the very first story, it became obvious to me that Mr. Grisham did not make this mistake, and it should cause some of us to rethink the way we have been taught to end a short story. Most essays end with some sentence that is like double punctuation, intended to nail down and give meaning to everything that went before. When Grisham gets to the end he just stops. He has already said everything on the subject clearly and concisely and there is no need to put a backstop to the story. If you are tired of reading stories about Presidents, earth shattering events, and a world gone wild, you might like the change of pace Ford County offers. The stories are earthy, and they make us remember that over thirty million people in this country live a hardscrabble existence. Grisham shows us a better way to end a good story without too much burble or slush.

1 comment:

Conda V. Douglas said...

Interesting post. I agree about the one-liners. I like a cap or a twist to a story, if it fits.

I'm not fond of John Grisham, but it sounds like I need to check out his shorts.