beginnings and endings

I only just now figured out what it is about collections of short stories that turn me off. … I don’t like beginnings and endings in fiction. This is true for novels as well. It generally takes 3 to 4 times as long as it should to get through the first 8 to 10 pages of a novel, given my usual middle-of-the-book reading speed; it’s like there’s this big activation energy I have to overcome, all these additional resources I have to put into figuring out the characters, setting, tone, what’s going on, what’s the style, how do I read this, etc. Then you ease into it and it’s smooth sailing for at least 150 pages. Unfortunately, I tend to get antsy toward the ends of things. I think it’s because I like finishing books; it gives me a sense of accomplishment and means I can start something new. So I rush a little toward the end and miss things; too, I overanalyze them, because writers fret over endings and I’m more likely to question the decisions there and feel like something falls flat or feels false. So there’s a certain amount of dread as I approach the last 10-15 pages of the book.

Elisa Gabbert

This is a long quote, because yes! All of this. Although, I don’t know that I’d say I don’t like beginnings per se, but I do find them more difficult to get into / slower reading than middles. Partly I think it’s that when I start a new book I still have one foot in the-book-I-was-previously-reading’s ending. So there’s a transitional phase there.

Endings… well. It’s true I often find endings disappointing. They’re so rarely as good as the rest of the story. Endings are hard. Or maybe I am just super nitpicky.

I have come to the conclusion that the way to read short stories is one at a time, which may seem obvious, but when you’re mainly a novel-reader who’s used to getting in that middle-of-the-book zone where you just buzz from one chapter the next devouring the book, stopping and setting the book aside for a while after you finish each story is kind of an “ohhh” moment. So what with all the beginnings and endings and pausings, it makes sense that story collections are much slower reads for me than novels.

Now that I’ve let go of the expectation of being able to read a story collection like a novel, I’m less reluctant to pick one up. There’s still some hesitation, though, because of all those beginnings and endings. (But then you read a gem of a story and it makes it all worth it.)

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