Many thanks to Mark Athitakis (@mathitak) of American Fiction Notes for bringing to my attention an excellent commentary on the contemporary American short story by John Barry at City Pages. In his commentary “Dead End: Has a single James Joyce short story unduly influenced contemporary American short fiction?,” Barry complains that American short story writers focus too much on the, admittedly awesome, ending of “The Dead”* — the lovely, longish short story (almost novella) that concludes Joyce’s pitch perfect story collection Dubliners:
And I haven’t been to a class on the American short story that hasn’t involved a paen on the merits of “The Dead.” It’s the greased flagpole we’re all trying to climb, just because we know we can’t.
I know, because I’ve been in a few of those classes, and I’ve taught a few. And while I’m not going to say that it’s Joyce’s fault, I will say that our nation is full of aspiring writers, some better than others, swinging and often whiffing for that gentle melody that comes with the perfectly tuned final graph. Continue reading “Stop trying to ape the final paragraph of The Dead!”