Friday, February 03, 2006

Credit where its due

Mes Amis

Someone asked me the other day (someone who has been paying too much attention to those interviews you can access on the side panel there) just where it was I read about Philip K Dick's attitude to short stories. I have, on occasion, talked about Dick's assertion being something like short stories are about a climax in a character's life and novels are more about the style of the author.

At the back of PKD's last collection of stories*, there is reprinted a piece from THE BEST OF PHILIP K DICK in which the introduction was written by the man himself. In it he states:

The advantage of the story over the novel is that in the story you catch the protagonist at the climax of his life, but in the novel you've got to follow him from the day he was born to the day he dies (or nearly so). Open any novel at random and what is usually happening is either dull or unimportant.

So what keeps our interest in the novel? The only way to redeem this is through style.

I admit it all seems a little simplistic but it is essentially true. Of course the novel allows you to delve deeper into lives and subplots and themes, but I think the short story's power lies in its brevity and its emotional punch. I think in essence Dick was right.

So there you go, folks, I've not just been blowing smoke out my ass all this time.

Au revoir


*In case you're interested, its in volume 5 of the collected stories of PKD: We Can Remember it For You Wholesale (HarperCollins, 1994)

1 comment:

Stuart MacBride said...

Nah, I was in Dundee this weekend and it still looked like smoke to me.