by Bridget Richard
Media, as a whole, is condensing. Vine, the newest large social media platform, plays looping videos that only last six and a half seconds. Most of the syntax and niche humor on the site is based on the facts that jokes on Vine do not require a set-up, as seen in sketch comedy, simply because the platform does not allot for it. Vines have to be bold, fast, and jarring in order for users to watch another loop.
This phenomenon has already been noted on Twitter as well. With an allotment of 140 characters, users are required to make their thoughts and ideas brief. There is simply no place on these popular social media sites for users to create content in ways that are extensive and dynamic.
So why are millennials, the crazy sons-of-a-gun we are, still latching on to the idea that they can only read full-length novels and book series?
If social media is going to continue on the trend of making content short and concise, then let us bring back the idea that our books can do the same.
Short stories and short story collections have been published since the late eighteenth century, with many authors of short stories being household names even today. Have you ever heard of The Brothers Grimm, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., or Jack London? While you may have read some of their novels either recreationally or in school for English class, they have all published short stories as well. Edgar Allen Poe wrote the famous classification of a short story in his 1846 essay “Thomas Le Moineau (Le Moile)” as, “One should be able to read it in one sitting.”
Most scholars and novelists now set the maximum amount of words at 20,000. In a Staples-sponsored reading test from 2012, the average for American adults was to read 300 words a minute. This, since I was so courteous to do the math, means that a short story with these variables would take just about one hour and ten minutes to read.
For busy students who are used to media that caters to a short attention span, this could mean more books read, more ideas learned, and a more enjoyable reading experiences.
Which does not mean, however, that short stories exchange quality for quantity. I’ve made a list below of my top five favorite short stories, that maybe you’d like to check out, to dip you toes in the short story water. These five, along with other short stories, can be purchased in store, on mobile reading devices, or found for free online:
1.) “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: This early piece of feminist literature is an autobiographical story of Gilman’s descending mental stability, all fixated around the yellow wallpaper of the vacation home that she’s staying in. I loved the haunting syntax and the way that the reader experienced so much, when in reality, not much had happened at all.
2.) “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe: I can understand how Poe’s style and subject matter can be an acquired taste, but this is a haunting classic that everyone should read at least once.
3.) “The Metamorphosis” by Francis Kafka: Okay, I realize that this story has roughly 21,800 words, which is breaking the rules that I mentioned above. And this would discredit this as a great short story if it weren’t for the spectacular and bizarre premise: A man wakes up one day to realize that he has inexplicably become a bug.
4.) “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving: The famous story of Ichabod Crane has been turned into several Halloween movies over the years. But reading the original story will take less time than a trip to the movie theater.
5.) “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson: Written in 1946, this short story has become a controversial classic, with themes relating to social deviance and hypocrisy.