More Time is an extended essay on the contemporary short story focused on four recent collections: Alice Munro’s Dear Life (2012); Andre Dubus’s Dancing After Hours (1996); Joy Williams’s The Visiting Privilege (2015); and Lydia Davis’s Can’t and Won’t (2014). Each publication has appeared near the conclusion of a career devoted all but exclusively to short stories, with each defining a “late style” honed over a lifetime. As well, each diverges from others in ways that have profoundly shaped our generic conceptions, and collectively they represent the four most innovative practitioners of the past half-century (with the arguable exception of Raymond Carver). Yet in an era when writing programs, The New Yorker, and distinguished journals all promulgate the short story, it remains relatively under-examined as a major literary form. We continue to argue about what a story inherently is, ignoring how differences among practitioners enliven the field. Dubus, Munro, Williams, and Davis each defy critical efforts to identify the story form’s presumed constitution, marked by a supposedly special shape or requisite length or distinct narrative trajectory. And the very contrast among their efforts reveals the expansiveness of the genre, though few have taken such a cross-glancing interpretive approach. My effort is to open up discussion, shifting from close analysis into larger speculation about possibilities established by the most innovative writers in their later work.
More Time: Contemporary Short Stories and Late Style
January 04, 2019