Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Looking for Meaning in Fiction Today

Dear readers and writers,

This week, I read an essay in an old magazine about short stories today.  It came to the conclusion that writers are constructing their stories with intellectual dimensions that make it fascinating to read them, but without the heart and deep meaning that used to be found in stories. The author thought it a loss, and said that probably the stories won't prove as memorable to the readers.

 I thought about the novels and short stories that we read in my Theories of Fiction class last semester, and what I remembered best was--Tobias Wolfe.  Not exactly contemporary.  Somewhat minimalist but with loads of feeling buried just beneath the surface.  Two of the class members twisted the professor's arm to get permission to use stories by Wolfe.  He had wanted only very contemporary work at first, but he couldn't turn down these stories.  I'm glad.  Each of them made an indelible impression on me.  I chose to present a story by Amy Hempel called "The Afterlife."  It was highly minimalist, but there was a ton of feeling, buried a bit deeper than in the Wolfe stories but there, I thought.  Some agreed with me about the Hempel story, some did not.  But probably most of the class would view the two Wolfe stories as highlights of the course.  So meaning still means something important to the rising writers of the next generation, I'm pleased to find. What do you think?


Thanks to Mark Coggins and Creative Commons/Wikipedia for the photograph of Tobias Wolfe.


Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,
You know I love the deep meanings over the cutesy postmodern crap. I am a little surprised to hear that the people in your MFA program feel the same way, faced with a choice of stories. Hubba hubba!

Linda R

Lorelei said...

Hi Linda,
I admit I was a little surprised too, but pleased. We enjoy discussing all of the ploys, the ways to call deep reading into question, the outspoken authors, the questioning of even the meaning inherent in words. But what we take away when we leave the room is different. That selects the stories that have meaning to us as humans.