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I don’t know why I almost always find short stories less interesting than full-length novels, but I do.

I read somewhere that the short story is the perfect form in which to tell a story.  The writer must make every word count and, I suppose, can’t drift off-subject or bring in totally extraneous things that have nothing to do with the plot.

Now maybe I’m wrong, but I believe that bringing in things that (apparently) don’t have anything to do with the main plot is part of the joy of reading. It’s like talking to a friend, where one thing leads to another, and it’s more interesting that way.

It’s kind of like reading a map, although anyone who knows me knows that’s not one of my strengths.  My husband and I just returned from a wonderful vacation in Spain.  We were going from Barcelona to the Costa Brava; he was driving and I was reading the map.  Now even I knew that the town we were looking for, S’Agaro, being on the Costa Brava, would be on or very close to the coast.  You’d know that, right?  But in my anxiety about my lack of skill in reading the map of Spain, I never unfolded it all the way, and I kept telling my husband to follow the signs for Girona because that was the biggest town in the direction we were going and because we had plans to go there the day after our arrival on the coast.

Well, in fact Girona is miles inland from the coast, and because the Costa Brava didn’t appear on the portion of the map I had in front of me, of course I couldn’t find S’Agaro.  It took a couple of stops at gas stations and talks with one very sweet taxi driver to find S’Agaro and the hotel where we were staying.  Here let me say that the people in Spain are truly friendly and helpful and very patient with someone who was determined to practice her Spanish, even in conversations with people who obviously spoke English.

Now you’re probably wondering what my misadventure in Spain has to do with short stories. Well, if you’re honest you found that little detour (metaphorically and logistically speaking) interesting; at least I hope you did.  And it’s because the story didn’t take a straight route from Barcelona to S’Agaro–it was the stopping at gas stations and talking to a taxi driver that hopefully made our trip a bit real to you.  And that’s why I find mystery novels more enjoyable than mystery short stories.  It’s more interesting, if more time-consuming, to go from here-to-there-to-there-to-final destination than simply to go directly from here to final destination.  And a short story, by definition, can’t spend much time wandering about; it has to get to the conclusion within a given number of words or pages.

The only exception that comes to mind is Sherlock Holmes. While we were in Spain I read all of the Holmes stories on my Kindle.  The stories are superior to the four full-length novels, in my opinion.  They give me a clearer insight into Holmes than the novels do, and the stories never seem rushed or squeezed into a box.  But other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I can’t think of an author whose stories are better than his/her novels. Can you?


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