Sybil Fiction Editor, Jake Buckholz, Reportedly Horrified to Discover he has Been Writing "really, really tiny novels" Rather Than Short Stories All Along

"I have come to see that a short story needs a moment, maybe a single word or sentence, in which everything sort of clicks. Now, that can mean a lot of things. It can mean a 90 degree angle snaps into a straight line, or it can mean a twisty/turny road just dissolves into nothing. Really, there is no limit to what can happen. Sometimes the click is for the reader and sometimes it is for the protagonist, and sometimes it is for neither, and is, in fact, so hidden that only the writer ever knows it is there," the twenty-six year old editor said, attributing his realization to the American writer, Joy Williams. 


 

"People who say a novel is a piece of fiction that is so-and-so number of pages or words are full of shit. The novel has a set of rules it follows and the short story has another. Hell, Borges fit 17 novels into Ficciones which isn't even 200 pages."

 

The epithet for Williams' latest collection, The Privileged Visit, comes from 1 Corinthians: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye."

Don DeLillo called this ‘‘the definition of the classic American short story.’’

"A novel is one thing and a short story is another," Buckholz said. "I grew up reading a lot of novels, and very few short stories, so I think it is only natural that I have been writing novels all along. People who say a novel is a piece of fiction that is so-and-so number of pages or words are full of shit. The novel has a set of rules it follows and the short story has another. Hell, Borges fit 17 novels into Ficciones which isn't even 200 pages. A traditionally novel-length short story is possible, too, I'm sure, but I can't think of any specific examples right now." 

"With that in mind, I think the first actual short story I ever wrote was The Cult of Originalitywhich I only finished last month, and that was on accident. I can say now that it is probably due to the fact that I have been submerging myself in short stories lately, so, yeah, I think I am starting to notice that twinkle which is so easy to miss. It can be difficult to talk about in a way that makes any sense, so I'm sorry if this all sounds like nonsense. 

"There is a piece I am working on right now that doesn't have a title yet, but I am actually starting with the moment where everything is supposed to click, the so-called twinkle in the eye, and building the story out from there. In it, there is a couple at a farmers' market and the guy has just bought a sweet potato. They have kind of had a bad morning, and have been fighting a little, so there is some tension between them, but, as they are leaving the farmers' market, he is sort of fidgeting with the potato, tossing it up and catching it. When it goes up, things are one way, and when it comes down, they are another, and there you have it: the twinkle.

In the end, Buckholz's mood brightened considerably and he told me he was not ashamed of his tiny novels, and, more so, that he was excited to begin writing short stories.