Ars Brevis, Vita Longa

Dan Jacobson

  • The Oxford Book of Short Stories by V.S. Pritchett
    Oxford, 547 pp, £9.50, June 1981, ISBN 0 19 214116 3
  • The Short Story in English by Walter Allen
    Oxford, 413 pp, £9.50, February 1981, ISBN 0 19 812666 2

Poetic intensity, concentration upon a single incident or event – these seem to be the defining characteristics of the short story for both V.S. Pritchett, in his introduction to The Oxford Book of Short Stories, and Walter Allen, in his critical survey, The Short Story in English. ‘The short story,’ writes Allen, is ‘rooted in a single incident or perception’; its effect ‘is nearer to that of lyric poetry than the novel’. And Pritchett: ‘The novel tends to tell us everything whereas the short story tells us only one thing, and that, intensely … the short story springs from a spontaneously poetic as distinct from a prosaic impulse.’

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[*] Penguin Australia.