We fiction candidates have been thinking lately about the logic behind collections of stories: what makes a strong collection, how to pair stories, how to balance thematic threads without seeming repetitive. This last question is what I find most problematic, to be honest. And I really don’t have any answers, not that there ever would be answers. All I know is that my collection echoes, perhaps too much.
Some of us had a sit-down to discuss the issue. We focused on Charles Baxter and Denis Johnson. Baxter’s A Relative Stranger really depends on narrators randomly meeting strangers, who turn out not to be strangers, after all, at least not in any traditional sense. Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, as most probably know, comes together through Fuckhead, who narrates each story. Subplots drop and pick up in later stories. And so on.
What I really want to post here is something I found through Hobart. The quotation originally came from The New Yorker.
Anyway, from Sam Lipsyte:
“I’m finishing up a collection of short stories. They are all linked by the fact that I wrote them. That’s the gimmick, the hook.”
I really love that.
I’m hoping it’s that simple.
Thanks, Sam Lipsyte.