Telling Stories: An Anthology?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about stories that tell and don’t show.

Guided by Leah Stewart (author of The Myth of You and Me and Body of a Girl), I did a sort of independent study on this a few years ago. At Leah’s suggestion, I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Third and Final Continent,” George Saunders’s “Jon,” Ben Fountain’s “Fantasy for Eleven Fingers,” and Kevin Wilson’s “Blowing Up on the Spot” and “The Choir Director Affair (The Baby’s Teeth).” I can think now of a few others: Anthony Doerr’s “The Caretaker,” and Miles Harvey’s “The Drought.” Roxane Gay’s “This Program Contains Actual Surgical Procedures” and Aimee Benders’s “Appleless” are also fine examples.

These are terrific stories, are they not? I wonder: how would they fare in a fiction workshop? Would anyone dare say, “There’s an awful lot of telling in these stories. Why aren’t there any scenes?” It’s an interesting, if not funny, thought. (Wouldn’t it be great if all those writers were sitting in a classroom, workshopping these stories? I’d love to be the fly on that wall.)

Anyway, first, a question: What other short stories (or novels, for that matter) can you think of that do this?

And now, my point: I would really like to put together an anthology of stories that tell. If you know of a press that might be interested in backing such a collection, please do let me know. If I can make it happen, I’ll put out a call. In the meantime, any and all feedback is welcome here.

8 thoughts on “Telling Stories: An Anthology?

  1. I just finished “A Moveable Feast” by Papa H. There was an awful lot of telling, and it definitely seemed liked I was eavesdropping at times. Maybe “Child of God” by McCarthy as well.

  2. How to Touch a Bleeding Dog

    Also Fear; Four Examples is a great one by Lish. Several segments all SHOWING fear, without saying it. Then you spin this into an exercise. Class writes a flash SHOWING an emotion but can not say it. Next class, read them aloud and have the class guess…will make writer feel good when they get it (they will).

  3. Roberta: Thanks for the enthusiasm!

    James: I will take some time and hit you up with a nice, professional letter / proposal.

    Barry: Yes.

    Sean: Nice.

  4. I guess I don’t quite understand this particular form you’re talking about. There’s a difference between a sceneless story and a “telling” one, right? Or at least they’re not mutually exclusive. I’m thinking of Ring Lardner’s “Haircut,” which seems about as pure as a “telling” story can get–a monologue, or more precisely, a one-sided dialogue–but it definitely has scenes. So is “Haircut” a telling story?

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