Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In Edson’s surreal world, not only is the seemingly impossible possible—it literally Is. The matter-of-fact, casual tone that he employs to convey a wildly outrageous reality underscores this notion. His stories are brief snapshots of moments that are absurd, perverse, capricious, horribly grotesque, and frequently hilarious. His tightly packed stories are nutshell commentaries on the human condition, which he treats in a detached, oblique, and austere manner. His syntax is dry and elegant, and rhythmically his work has the poetic effects of fine verse. By combining quaint rhythms and subjects with grotesque images and horrible madness, he creates an imaginary world that is almost silly.

The impetuses in Edson’s stories are narrative and dramatic, rather than descriptive. Description is too static as a technique to hold up against the constantly changing realities that his tales convey. His stories bleed energy, and all things are alive. Images jump off the page, changing and intertwining in a fictive realm where a character need merely entertain a possibility, and his head becomes that of a horse. Edson engages the reader, relying on the reader’s ability and willingness to suspend disbelief and allow for all possibilities, no matter how great the absurdity.

Edson writes short prose pieces that blur the borders of a grossly general reality. He says his work is “always in search of itself, in a form that is always building itself from the inside out,” as though the author is consumed by the story as an entity larger than himself. His is a form that discovers itself and constantly re-creates itself through the act of writing.

Edson’s style is experimental; his imagination revolutionary. He combines all the fantasy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland (1864) with the ribald psychedelic meanderings of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972). The resulting brew is a new genre of zany fiction that explores fundamental human anxieties.