Elizabeth Taylor said that one basic difference between the short story and the novel is that, whereas the novel is conscious scheming, short stories are inspired, “breathed in a couple of breaths.” For them to succeed, she argued, there must be an immediate impact resulting from suggestiveness and compression. Indeed, critics have suggested that what makes Taylor’s stories so fascinating is her ability to crystallize a particular “moment of being.”
Great short stories, said Taylor, are so charged with a sense of unity, they are like lyric poetry, thus giving a “lovely impression of perfection, of being lifted into another world, instead of sinking into it, as one does with longer fiction.” Many of Taylor’s stories are social comedies that satirize class distinctions and social expectations; however, the best of them begin as social comedies, only to become subtle evocations of characters caught in elusive psychological conflicts.
“The First Death of Her Life”
This popular anthology piece is so short and slight that many readers may feel it is not a story at all, but rather a simple emotional reaction to, as the title suggests, the first death the central character has experienced. Although the story starts with tears, it immediately moves to writing, in this case, the protagonist’s writing a letter in her mind telling her boss why she will not be in to work for the next four days.
(The entire section is 1289 words.)
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