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REVIEW - RECENT AMERICAN SHORT FICTION RECENT AMERICAN SHORT FICTION / Allen Wier Alan Cheuse, Candace & Other Stories. Apple-wood Press, 1980. 100 pages. $9.50, $4.50 pb; Stuart Dybek, Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. Viking, 1980. 202 pages. $9.95; Alvin Greenberg, The Discovery of America and Other Tales of Terror and Self-Exploration. Louisiana State University Press, 1980. 118 pages. $8.95; Mary Hedin, Fly Away Home. University ofIowa Press, 1980. 249 pages. $9.95, $5.95 pb; Peter LaSaIIe, The Graves of Famous Writers and other stories. University of Missouri Press, 1980. 96 pages. $8.95; Ian MacMillan, Light and Power. University of Missouri Press, 1980. viii + 120 pages. $9.95; Gladys Swan, On the Edge of the Desert. University of Illinois Press, 1979. 126 pages. $10.00, $3.95 pb; Barry largan, Surviving Adverse Seasons. University of Illinois Press, 1979. 154 pages. $10.00, $3.95 pb; Jean Thompson, The Gasoline Wars. University of Illinois Press, 1979. 144 pages. $10.00, $3.95 pb; Gordon Weaver, Getting Serious. Louisiana State University Press, 1980. 118 pages. $12.95, $7.95 pb. The typing went on and I stepped lightly onto the planked porch. I didn't want to interrupt him. I only wanted to read what he was writing .... I was convinced it would tell me something I needed to know. Peter LaSaIIe, "The Graves of Famous Writers" FOR YEARS I'VE been hearing about the short story's difficulties: a lack of markets and, more important, a lack of readers. According to these reports, the short story, the novella may be in as much, or more, trouble as poetry. As far as I know, no one can adequately define the short story. Story causes problems with its emphasis on verisimilitude, its requirement ofplot; I tryshortfiction, have problems with short. When does a short story become a novella? When does a sketch, a vignettebecome a story? How longis a short, short? I remember how Flannery O'Connor responded when asked to define the short story: This is a hellish question inspired by the devil who tempts textbook publishers. I have been writing stories for fifteen years without a definition of one. The best I can do is tell you what a story is not. It is not a joke. It is not an anecdote. It is not a lyric rhapsody in prose. It is not a case history. It is not a reported incident. It is none of these things because it has an extra dimension and I think this extra dimension comes about when the writer puts us in the middle of some human action and shows it as it is illuminated and outlined by mystery. In every The Missouri Review ยท 81 story there is some minor revelation, no matter how funny the story may be, that gives a hint of the unknown, of death. The difficulty in defining, and thus limiting, the form is one reason for the vitality of the form, the various shapes the short story takes. Ted Solotaroff, in the introduction to The Best American Short Stories 1978, points out that during his ten-year editorship oiNew American Review he published fiction in the form of non-fiction, stories presented as narrative monologues, essays, recipes, meditations, memoirs, real and imaginary chronicles, interviews, letters, and "the liner notes to an album ofsongs by a countryblues singer." And Joyce Carol Oates, in the introduction for the 1979 volume of that same series, says that self-consciously experimental work has become so widely accepted that "much of it has degenerated into a new sort of formulaic fiction." The ten collections of stories gathered here represent a range of technical approaches; the stories vary in length from five toforty-three pages. George Garrettbegins a chronicle review of recent American short stories in the Summer, 1980 issue of The Sewanee Review by pointing out the largely accidental nature of the gathering of the books he reviews. "And thatbasic point, simple as it is, may well be the first point that (always) should be made . . ." he says. And I agree. Of the books to be considered here one is published by a commercial house, one by a small press, the remaining...


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