“Why do you write short stories?”
It is the first question posed by Stephen Colbert to acclaimed short-fiction writer George Saunders in this interview. While Colbert frames the question comically and uses America’s stereotypical love for “big” things as a counterpoint, it is an interesting question to consider. Why do people write short stories? Is it because writers are too lazy to write more? Is it because readers do not have enough time to sit down and finish a novel? Is it because human beings have short attention spans? Saunders uses an analogy of someone faced with the task of telling someone that they love them. A novel, he says, is a trip that the two take together to express their love. A short story, in contrast, is the three minutes before the other person gets on a train. In those three minutes everything must be said. Saunders argues that a short story is a “special kind of beauty” because of the short length that a writer has to convey everything they wish to. Sometimes, the story is not even complete and the reader is simply left with a question that they will never know the answer to. That is the beauty of a short story.
This interview is short, but provides some great insight into Saunders’ views on short fiction. It is simultaneously funny and informative, and it is definitely worth the six minutes of your time.