Student Review: The Short Story: An Introduction

September 17, 2009

Author: Paul March-Russell

Edition: First

Publisher: Edinburgh University Press

Pages: 304

Price: £65.00 and £16.99

ISBN: 97807486738 and 7745

This textbook offers an interesting and detailed insight into a literary form that is often overlooked. There is a myth that short stories are harder to read than novels and that they are therefore, in some way, inferior. Paul March-Russell explores this myth and the short story is revealed as a complex yet diverse form, and also an important one.

The Short Story is organised into 20 well-defined chapters. Each aspect of the short story discussed is supported by an array of textual and historical references, and the development of the form is detailed from its earliest incarnation in folk tales to the current mini-renaissance it is enjoying thanks to the internet. The ideas examined, although often complicated, are always discussed in an accessible way. It is refreshing to find a textbook that puts forward challenging ideas in a manner that will appeal to students rather than alienate them. It would be logical to assume that since the short story is such a concise form, it would be ideally suited to study on an undergraduate course, where many literary texts need to be covered in a limited time. Unfortunately, as this textbook explains in detail, the brevity of short stories often means they offer few answers to the questions they pose. As literature students are trained to interpret a text and seek its meaning, short stories - which can resist this interpretation and remain ambiguous - can often be ignored.

This book clearly benefits from the author's passion for the short story as a literary form; although he acknowledges the restrictions of the form and the challenges it faces, he succeeds in conveying its potential, and the rewards it offers to those who persist with it. In contrast to most literary criticism, this textbook is often as illuminating and interesting to read as the literature it discusses, and succeeds in engaging the reader throughout. As an argument for the merit of the short story it is an admirable effort, and the author's enthusiasm becomes quite infectious.

Who is it for? Literature students.

Presentation: Well organised and easy to navigate.

Would you recommend it? Yes, to any student interested to learn about this oft-overlooked form.

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