With just a few weeks left till the end of our annual Short Story Competition we spoke to the Judges to find out exactly what the short story means to them. Today we spoke to Alessandro Gallenzi, writer, publisher and founder of Alma Books about writers, short stories and what to read to be inspired.
What do you look for in a short story?
Economy of language, humour, a well-devised structure and, above all, a satisfying ending that makes you laugh, cry or think long after turning the last page.
Which short story writers do you admire?
My favourite short-story writers from the Western canon are Boccaccio, Chekhov, Fitzgerald, Gogol, Conan Doyle, Poe, Pushkin, Saki, Pirandello and Carver. Among the contemporaries, Ian McEwan and Yasutaka Tsutsui.
What possibilities does the form of short fiction present to a writer that the novel doesn’t offer?
A short story enables the writer to develop a particular idea or describe a situation or set of circumstances without having to create too much context or dilute the narration with excessive description. A short story is compact and pithy – it is, to the novel, what a sonnet is to a long poem: the shorter form helps to condense the thought and delivers a punch more effectively than the diffused narrative of a novel.
How would you describe yourself as a reader?
Curious and omnivorous, with a penchant for the sapid.
If you had to recommend one short story for contributors to read what would it be?
Five, please: ‘The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Fell Out with Ivan Nikiforovich’ by Gogol, ‘The Queen of Spades’ by Pushkin, ‘Berenice’ (or ‘The Tell-tale Heart’) by Poe, ‘Chichibio and the Crane’ (Decameron, VI, 4) by Boccaccio and ‘The Wheelbarrow’ by Pirandello. Hang on, there’s also…
Alessandro Gallenzi is the founder of Hesperus Press, Alma Books and Alma Classics, and the successor of John Calder at the helm of Calder Publications. As well as being a literary publisher with almost ten years of experience, he is a translator, a poet, a playwright and a novelist. His collection of poetry Modern Bestiary – Ars Poetastrica was published in 2005 to critical acclaim.