Monday, 27 April 2009
There's an interview with Ishiguro in today's Guardian, during which the interviewer, Decca Aitkenhead, says: "I wonder if some of his (Ishiguro's) semantic unease stems from a worry about the popular perception of short stories as not quite "proper" literature." And it struck me that one of the problems of the general reluctance to read short stories - according to Ishiguro, in the same interview, the UK market market for short fiction is a fourth that of novels, though I would have put it lower - isn't that it's perceived as not quite proper, but the opposite; that short stories are seen as "literary" in a possibly off-putting way. The popular perception of short stories is that they may be short but they aren't stories - they're would-be poems or exercises in style of some kind. When short stories really were popular - in the days of Somerset Maugham and Daphne Du Maurier - their status as literature wasn't an issue. People read them to see what would happen next. I can't help wondering, as well, if the fairly high figure for short story sales in the UK that Ishiguro quotes isn't skewed by the presence of, among other things, Stephen King's short fiction, which is often, incidentally, far more highly regarded than his longer work.