Irish Book Awards 2013
Speech given when presenting the Writing.ie Short Story of the Year Award
The short story is a clever trick. It looks simple but it’s not.
It’s brief, but never flimsy. Economical, but never cut-price. Deceptive, but never untrue.
The fewer the words, the more they convey. This is precision craft. It works because of what’s left unsaid.
The short story is the hobbit of the literary family. Sometimes underestimated. Yet heroic, in its way. It’s a survivor. It delivers. It’s tailor-made for the digital era – a compact format which allows for immediacy.
Oddly enough, for a people who never knowingly use five words when we can let rip with 500, the Irish have a knack for the short story. It occupies a pivotal place in our literature.
Perhaps because, at the core, we’re an emotional people. And short stories alchemise words into feelings which engage with the heart.
All writing practises the art of deception, to some extent. The short story takes that illusion to its outer limits. Reading one, we think we’re stepping into a room – instead we discover ourselves in another world.
And when we reach the story’s end, we never quite leave that world – we carry it with us. Because the best short fiction sparks a pulse of recognition within us.
And forever afterwards, it haunts us.