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“The Flexibility, Durability, and Portability of the Short Story”

In our second installment of the ALA Conversations series, Society for the Study of the American Short Story president James Nagel speaks with Kasia Boddy (University of Cambridge) and Oliver Scheiding (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) about the almost alchemical ability of the short story to adapt to new narrative platforms. The unique tenacity of the genre has allowed it to remain vibrant and relevant while competing prose forms like the novel struggle to accommodate evolving patterns of literary consumption. Ranging from the short story’s roots in oral tradition to its contemporary compatibility with delivery technologies, whether Kindle, Twitter, or podcasts, our roundtable examines the manifold ways that a type of fiction often stereotyped by its most basic feature—its “shortness”—helps satisfy the human need to explain experience through stories. Along the way, the panel discusses everything from beast fables to tales of initiation to story cycles to the New York Times’s recent Decameron Project, highlighting writers as eclectic as Lucia Berlin, Tommy Orange, George Saunders, and Jennifer Egan. A must for short story historians and fans!

Access the complete series of American Literature Association Conversations here.

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