I used to talk to my stepfather, Khosrow, about the death of the novel. I have always enjoyed reading novels and I always liked the feeling at the end of a book that I had gotten to know the characters, I somehow felt at the end of it that not only did I know the person I’d just spent so much time with (ann of green gables, ramona, the babysitters club, owen meany, betty and archie….) but that somehow they knew me too.
My friend Amanda used to write notes in her novels, and when you borrowed one of these books you would feel like you’d just shared a good part of life with her. Nuri once lost one of her books and felt like she had lost a piece of Amanda.
I have a memory I don’t trust, but when I remember those conversations with Khosrow they always happened on the boardwalk of a beach somewhere in the South Bay. The sun is shining but it is night, and so you see why I don’t trust the memory. I did not like short stories. He maintained that the novel was too slow and meandering for the 20th century (we’ve never had the conversation in the 21st) and the short story was a reflection of our times. He loved that at the end of the short story the reader was left with questions. I hated those questions. I wanted to learn something not be forced to come up with answers. I loved the fact that the novel as a whole is the important part of the story, that every comma did not need to be weighed as it must be in a short story.
So then, I have no excuse for not knowing that this last relationship was a short story. I find myself, as I have found myself at the end of hemingway’s short stories, full of questions, angry at the author, and disgusted with myself for having flitted away the invaluable minutes that could have been spent doing something worthwhile. And yes, I recognize the melodrama of these statements. I know that even the shortest story has added to who I am. (For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.) And that the introspection about the pure bile I have felt after those stories was worth whatever time I lost in reading the story.
I hate this. I hate the time I spent weighing commas and word choices when I could have been enjoying the passing of time. I hate that I am left with unanswerable questions. I hate that once more I was duped into reading what I thought would be a good story and ended up being the mental masturbation that most short stories are.