Sunday, 27 September 2009

Beryl Bainbridge on the short story...


At the Small Wonder festival today, the top speaker Beryl Bainbridge prefaced her reading with this:

"If a writer thinks up a good idea, it seems silly to waste it on a few pages..."
I was very glad Tania Hershman had gone home and didn't have to hear that. I felt deflated, very saddened, and not a little cross that a writer of her stature felt it right to make this remark at a festival dedicated to celebrating the short story.

13 comments:

Nik Perring said...

What a thing to say!

E.P. Chiew said...

Oh, that would have made me very cross indeed! How unedified of her, actually.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I was half-moved to ask the question during the lengthy Q&A whether that statement was based on artistic considerations or economic ones.
But actually, I didn't wish to hear the reply.

Whatever it would have been, I remember with pleasure a workshop I attended in my writing infancy, in which the tutor used one of Bainbridge's short stories to illustrate character and voice and point of view. It was marvellous, and switched me into the power of the short form.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

How sad. Was that from her prepared speech? That would be even worse that it came about after much forethought. I don't understand the either or - stories take the length they need to I've found.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I dont know, Lauri. I have been told that she has expressed this view before, but have not been able to find it quoted anywhere as yet. I think stories find their own length too, but then craftwise, Bainbridge spoke a lot about 'plotting' so maybe we just work very differently.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Oh my. Why all the negativity from top writers??!! I don't get it. I would have seethed at this rubbish.

Tania Hershman said...

OY OY OY!!! I am really glad I wasn't there either, my blood pressure took enough of a beating with that first damn sesson I wrote about on my blog... bloody hell. How is it that a SHORT STORY FESTIVAL is the kind of place someone, a big name someone, feels it is permissible to say this? Now I am feeling murderous. Not feeling very inclined to shower my hard-earned cash on S Wonder again.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Well I did seethe, Nuala - and so did the lady next to me, who actually hissed! (But I thing BB is hard of hearing, so would not have heard).
I understand completely the need for big names, the need to get bookings. But at what cost? Look - a room full of people who have paid to hear her at a SHORT STORY festival, hearing the short story being belittled. It was incomprehensibly rude to the organisers, who are dedicated, hardworking people with a vision.... it's just I wonder if they lean a little too far to economics, I think.
Not many of the people qho asked questions were interested in short stories, from what they asked. But the best one was 'tell us a little about your travel writing?'

reply from BB: 'Travel writing. I don't do any of that, do I?'


.

Tania Hershman said...

Ha! Funny, I like that. So it does seem to show that the crowd didn't really know who she was so the big name draw hadn't quite worked, eh? Was odd that the audience didn't seem to be such short story lovers.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Tania, I am mystified. I get the feeling that the BB example is 'out of left field'. That maybe she forgot where she was, or maybe was being mischievous. But she undid a lot of hard work in those few words.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Travel writing - The English Journey is a travelogue among other things...?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Here's the short story that made an impression on me way back then. I just read it through. Does it stand the test of time? I think so.
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/try/britlit/clap-hands-here-comes-charlie

E.P. Chiew said...

I never knew Beryl Bainbridge wrote short stories. I will check out this link. Thanks V.