route_offlineQ: Do short stories ever feature in the discussions? Recently there has been a lot of noise around the short story, how much of this do you think comes from readers? Also, do you think readers of fiction make a distinction between the long and short story?

A: We haven’t had too much discussion about short fiction on the site to date, but I do still come across the whole ‘I don’t really do short stories – I prefer to get into a big novel’ thing, from some surprisingly well-read people too. I’m still not quite sure why some people here seem to see novels as ‘proper’ reading and stories as something else, and I wish we could cultivate, and celebrate, our own Raymond Carver’s, Flannery O’Connor’s and Alice Munro’s – writers who choose to focus on short fiction rather than novels, and do it brilliantly.

Q: You started out by pointing to a particular story that was a catalyst for this Brief Lives collection. For someone so deeply involved with reading, if you were asked to celebrate the short story, which ones, or which authors, would you point to as cause for celebration?

A: Well, a lot of the usual suspects: Chekhov, Carver, Salinger, Flannery O’Connor. Also William Maxwell, Tobias Wolff, some Annie Proulx. Yes, I know, rather a white, male, American bias. I do read quite a lot of short stories but you can’t beat those old classics that can knock you over time after time with how good they are.

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