The Mechanics of Falling (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Ever since the 1920’s, commentators on the short-story form have claimed that it, more than the novel, is suited to represent the fractured nature and frantic pace of modern life. In this view, the novel offers a coherent vision, a structured worldreal, imagined, or fantasticinto which a reader can settle and wander with some sense of familiarity and comfort. The short story, by contrast, offers fragments, glimpses, snapshotsoften, as Frank O’Connor claimed, of those “lonely voices” on the fringes of society. Furthermore, practitioners of the short story frequently note that a reader’s involvement in a short story must be active and contributory. Unlike novels, in which much can be spelled out, short stories suggest, hint, and sometimes even feint, rather than explicitly telling. To put it another way, readers must fill in the blanks, make connections, and draw inferences in order to supply or perhaps even guess at “the meaning” of the text.
These qualities are especially evident in many contemporary short stories, particularly those collected in Catherine Brady’s The Mechanics of Falling, and Other Stories. Plot has long since disappeared from the literary short story, replaced by structures based on repeated images or motifs, verbal echoes or reflecting incidents, or subtle repetitions of ideas or gestures. In Brady’s collection, details are often presented with apparent randomness, as though they were scattered pieces of a...
(The entire section is 2142 words.)
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