Monday, April 19, 2010

The Ethereal Short Story

As great writing migrates to electronic devices, the short attention span of contemporary audiences seems to be the last hurdle for a beautifully crafted book. Suddenly, for the first time in a century, the oft forgotten short story is primed for a come-back. Ether Books saw the need and released an app for the iPhone this week.

The short story emerged with the arrival of the magazines and periodicals created to quench the new literary thirst of a larger literate middle class in the nineteenth century. Hawthorne, Balzac, and Turgenev’s fictitious wordplay won the readership of the public. Poe and Chekhov followed, as did others, yet as the twentieth century matured, so did the length of the popular story.

While in the 1920s, F. Scott Fitzgerald was paid $4,000 for a single short story in the Saturday Evening Post, today, few publishers will acknowledge the writer and his short story collection, no matter how pleasant the prose. Literary journals have their readership, but this is a miniscule fraction of the reading public.

Yet in this age of immediate gratification and sound-byte attention spans, the short story may newly have rekindled audiences. Ether Books may be starting a new electronic reading trend. Short stories may be on the brink of revival. Starting with an exhibition at the London Book Fair today, the lusciousness of letters may have a new life. I’m hoping so.

Check it out for yourself:

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