I have recently been reading a collection of modern short stories/flash fiction and two common threads stood out which left me with questions about my writing.
Nearly all the stories exhibited a sense of distance or aloofness with regard to their subjects and characters. I was reminded reading them of once observing a cat in my garden watching a spider. Neither could understand anything of the life of the other. The stories had a sense of this. The narrator kept so far back from her story you’d wonder what investment it held for her, or was it simply an experiment? A study of X in Y situation? Has scientific coolness entered narrative storytelling? Are these the only stories being published?
Nearly all of he stories built towards, or included something shocking. Sexual deviancy. Physical pain/damage. The grotesque. Violence. Crime. The psychologically disturbed. Sure, I agree that no subject is unsuitable for a story as long as it’s honest and reflects a truth. But if a story’s main purpose is to shock does it not seem a bit of a cheap thrill? For me stories need to have a little more going on than just a cheap thrill. They should make us feel, think, entertain us, say something about the reality of existence. Without an additional element like that, and when coupled with the aloofness mentioned above, they seem to be aiming for coolness. To hang with the cool kids at the back of the bus.
Anyway this is only a slice of literary stories being written now. Has anyone else noticed this trend? What you think? Do you like it?
Maybe I’m wrong… Or I might change my mind tomorrow and write a shockingly cool story.