Quick! Who knew that July is Rickey Month?! And who knows what a Rickey is? I’m waiting…
So I showed up at the new Litquake offices in the Mechanics Institute building in the financial district of San Francisco for a short story class taught by Tom Barbash. At the end of class, those lovely Litquake folks broke out the gin, lime, and selzer (and a little agave nectar) and celebrated a fine Saturday afternoon, as only writers can, with Gin Rickeys. Cheers!
Barbash made an interesting statement (one of several hundred) during class (paraphrasing here):
Short stories are terrible until they’re perfect. And short stories need to be perfect. But novels needn’t be. They’re more interesting with their imperfections.
I’m wondering how other people feel about this, especially my book reviewing friends. Do you agree with this statement? Have any thoughts? I’m all ears!
And while you’re pondering that question, have a Gin Rickey, or whatever flips your switch. Then pick up Tom’s new short story collection: Stay Up With Me
I read the book last week during my stay at Squaw Valley. A NY Times book review called them, “addicting, like potato chips.” I’d have to agree. Reviewers have mentioned how they’re all about people with money. I’d say they’re similar to Cheever’s milieu in that respect. And by the time we get to the last story, we don’t care. At least I didn’t. I also detected more than a nod to one of Barbash’s friends, Dan Chaon. But I forgot to ask whether Chaon had taken Barbash’s title since Chaon’s story collection, Stay Awake, had come out a year earlier.
At an evening reading at Squaw Valley, Barbash read “Birthday Girl,” a particularly haunting story from the collection. The main character makes a mistake and accidentally takes the life of another young person. It is a painful story with an ending that took my breath away.
Now, before you head out to the bookstore, I’m dying to know what you think about perfection and the short story vs. the novel.