For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

Roxane Gay: The Short Form Interview

I love the power of the form, how so much can be expressed in so small a space. 

Author of Ayiti, and co-editor at PANK Magazine.

The Interview

What draws you to short stories?

I love the power of the form, how so much can be expressed in so small a space. 

Are there any misconceptions about the form?

A lot of people seem to believe short stories lack the weight and substance of longer forms, such as the novel. That always leads me to believe they simply haven't found the right short stories yet.

What role does it play in a writer’s development, and in the field of literature as a whole?

The short story is a nice place for a writer to get started because it is mentally manageable. The novel is so intimidating when you consider the breadth and length required. When you're a new writer, it is easier to wrap your mind around 5,000 words rather than 50,000 words and it's also easier, I think, to distill a story or idea down to its most essential parts.

A lot of people seem to believe short stories lack the weight and substance of longer forms... That always leads me to believe they simply haven't found the right short stories yet.

How do a writer’s goals differ between writing short fiction vs. long? Does the short form allow more freedom to experiment?

The short story tends more toward distillation, toward the intense examination of a part or parts of something bigger than the story while the novel allows that something bigger to be revealed in its entirety or most of its entirety. I find that both short stories and novels are forms open to experimentation. 

What is the perception of writers who predominantly write short stories?

Is there a perception of writers who work primarily with the short form?  

Recommended by Roxane Gay

Otravida, Otravez
Excerpt

We fall asleep without kissing. Later I wake up and so does he. I ask him if he's going back to his place and he says no. The next time I wake up, he doesn't. In the cold and darkness of this room he could be almost anybody. I lift his meaty hand. It is heavy and has flour under each nail. Sometimes at night I kiss his knuckles, crinkled as prunes. His hands have tasted of crackers and bread the whole three years we've been together.

Rondine Al Nido
Excerpt

The young men outnumber the girls by two. Our girl likes the way the four of them form a slowly closing semicircle around her and her friend. She likes, too, how they all look the same, in their baggy jeans and pastel collared shirts.

We read it in Battleborn.

Bewildered Decisions in Times of Mercantile Terror
Excerpt

The pub was in the Richmond. It was nice and warm inside, and the walls were decorated with portraits of poets and rebels. He had been here a few times before with Nora, who described it as “a proper pub.” Now that she had money, Nora spent all of her vacations in Ireland. It was her bizarro way of establishing legitimacy, like some derelict countess tracing her bloodline to an ancient king. 

We read it in The Paris Review 202.

Betty and Veronica
Excerpt

Veronica, foot resting on the edge of the bathtub, drawing a razor along her calf, although her legs are as bare and smooth as the porcelain tub. Silently she repeats Betty's name as she slides the blade up her leg and lets it sink slowly into her thigh.

We read it in I Am a Magical Teenage Princess.

Originally published in Gargoyle 56.

The Mill Pond
Excerpt

Even in my cords my thighs rub together. My pants don't wear out in the knees first. Ever. And, if I ever ran—which I never do—smoke would wisp from the hot friction, especially in cords. Something about the raised stripes mixed with the valleys between them. Air flow mixed with fusion energy or something. I think we learned about it in science class but I sit in the back, in the corner, away from everything, not paying attention, so I could be wrong.

We read it in Story Glossia 42.