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Up out of the lampshade: The novel and the short story

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Art Image courtesy of Isabel Da Silva Azevedo @123RF.com. Title/Font design created by B. L. Cassidy

Literature is considered a genre expressed conceptually, with joys immense and having great depth. The reading of literary fiction, such as novels and short stories, conveys to you the world of others and the lives they live.

For decades, the novel has been a part of our culture and fiber. Though it's form has changed with the times, it has remained woven into societies around the globe. A literary novel is about ideas. Also defined as long works of fiction. They contain such elements as characters, plot, conflict, and setting. In addition to it's main plot, a literary novel may contain one or more subplots, in independent yet related stories. Esteemed authors for creating intriguing characters and plots are Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, and E.M. Forster. Distinguished literary classics include the following, with excerpts:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. (A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens)

As he had been healed of his sickness of heart when he came from the southern city and comforted by the bitterness he had endured there, so now again Wang Lung was healed of his sickness of love by the good dark earth of his fields and he felt the moist soil on his feet and he smelled the earthy fragrance rising up out of the furrows he turned for the wheat. (The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck)

Then in my mind's eye I see the bronze statue of the college Founder, the cold Father symbol, his hands outstretched in the breathtaking gesture of lifting a veil that flutters in hard, metallic folds above the face of a kneeling slave; and I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding. (Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison)

According to Ronna Winegold, senior fiction editor of Bellevue Literary Review on writingworld.com, "If literary fiction doesn't have a plot or narrative movement (even just in the inner life of the character), it won't hold the attention of the reader, won't be effective. Beautiful writing needs some glue to hold it together."

A short story is brief in length, and consists of a few characters, and primarily one main theme. Still making use of the plot. Popular authors include Alice Munro, John O'Hara, and Mavis Gallant. Ernest Hemingway was revered for the imagery and vivid language in his short stories, such as this popular excerpt:

Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai 'Ngàje Naài', the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude. ("The Snows of Kilimanjaro", by Ernest Hemingway)

"The short story offers something else: a chance to pay close attention, and have that attention rewarded because, for once, every little plot twist, every sentence, counts", comments Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, in Publishers Weekly.

Reading such works as literary novels and short stories, may be for a light departure for a few moments in the day. To orient yourself to lives that are not available to you. To consider various aspects of the human condition. For its artistry. Whatever the emotion, great literature gives pleasure.

American poet, Ezra Pound's famous quote on literature declares, "Literature is language charged with meaning. Great literature is simply charged with meaning to the utmost degree."