This is one of the covers of my second book of short stories, poetry and ephemera, called “Some Strands of Thread, Some Knotted Coils.“
I was asked a short while ago by a close friend why I wasn’t writing a novel. “Your short stories are great,” he says, “I mean, I’ve never gotten through one and been like ‘I didn’t like that.’ I’ll either be like ‘All right,’ and move on or I’ll be like ‘Man, I really have to think about that one some more.’”
Which, I realize, isn’t so much a critique of the experience of reading a book of short stories versus a novel as it is a critique of the feeling that one thing isn’t connected to the next thing. “I read one, I read another one. I want a whole.”
But a whole is problematic: if I want you to read some of my writing, which are you more likely to actually get through - a novel, or a few short stories? I choose the short stories (I’m sorry, but if you ask me to read your book, I probably never will. That time is precious and I spend it on sure things - and I expect the same of any audience I’ll ever have) every time. And so should you. First, you don’t have to set aside time to read a bunch of short stories. Second, if you don’t like one you might get another one that you do like.
So this time it’s not a novel. It’s short stories. It’s an EP in lieu of an album, and I’ll keep putting out mixtapes until I’m album-worthy. Then I can start the next thing, and the next.
That’s what I told my friend.
But still: It’ll feel like I’ve really done something when it’s a novel.
The feeling surrounds the issue of the substantial. Many little bits are insubstantial, while one large bit is substantial in the way that a novel is. It’s a one thing. A single unit of thought. So much harder to hold in the brain at once, so much of an accomplishment when it’s sitting there and you know how good it is, and you’re proud, before anyone even reads it.
Maybe next time.