& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Experiment in reading

Geoff Pevere, the book columnist for Toronto Star, has written about an amazing experiment that I'd like to share with everyone I know. 

Writing in Saturday Star's entertainment section Short stories reveal that less really can be more, he says, "In the best short fiction, style and vision commingle in a way that is unique to the form. This is also one of its most acute pleasures. A couple of years ago, I went on a trip accompanied by three volumes: The Complete Short Stories on Ernest Hemingway, Selected Stories by Alice Munro and The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. I kept them in rotation, reading one story by each author before picking up the next book. The effect, as a reader, was remarkable. Not only was I able to appreciate the quality of the stories on their own -- and you couldn't ask for three more variously amazing writers -- I was stunned by the consistency of tone I encountered when the rotation would bring me back to the world of a particular writer. And that's the point: it was a world. Or three, really: Munro's a place of quiet, localized desperation; Hemingway's a stark frontier for the testing of existential mettle; Nabokov's a glided hall of distorted delusion and stained grandeur.

"This is the very thing: While each tale lived and breathed and haunted as a distinct entity on its own, it also took on an altogether richer life when considered in the context of other stories by the same author. This was the vitality provided by the overriding authority of the author's voice."

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