'If loneliness is the disease, the story is the cure,' says award-winning author Richard Ford
'Why is it that everybody thinks these short stories are so hard to write?'
Mark Twain once wrote an apology to a friend: "I'm sorry for the long letter; I didn't have time to write a short one." The short story, like Twain's unsent letter, may just be the most demanding literary form we have. Everything turns on concision. On brevity. On the ability of the writer to forge character, plot and drama in clear, simple, immediately graspable language.
From Chekhov to our Nobelist Alice Munro, the short story has captivated the enthusiastic loyalty of researchers for generations. Richard Ford is a master of the form. He takes his time. He polishes and shapes each word with the care and attention of an Antwerp diamond cutter.
Ford, who describes writing a short story as kind of a highwire act, is a little mystified though. "Why is it that everybody thinks these short stories are so hard to write? I actually never really thought that was true … I think the long years of a novel, and all of the many more words that you have to corral and put in their right places, constitutes quite a bigger challenge than writing a story."
Ford is the first writer to win the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award in the same year, for his 1995 novel Independence Day. He is the bestselling author of The Sportswriter, and Canada. He has also written the short story collections Let Me Be Frank With You, Rock Springs and A Multitude of Sins.
In 2019, Ford was awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.
His latest collection, Sorry For Your Trouble, delves into the lives and losses of, as he says, "Irish in America, who are kind of Americanised Irish."
Ford recently spoke with The Sunday Edition's host Michael Enright from his oceanside home in East Boothbay, Maine.
Enright asked him if he had met his ambition "to create a literature worthy of America."
"I certainly wanted to," said Ford. "And if I could, it would be a literature that didn't exclude anybody … that would speak to the conundrum that, if loneliness is the disease, the story is the cure."
All nine stories in Sorry For Your Trouble are poignant explorations of loss, death, bereavement and looking back.
Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.