But I began with Dan Pope’s interview of James Salter, since I just finished Salter’s latest collection of short stories, titled Last Night, and was dazzled by it. (I’ll post a full review of Last Night soon.) The Pope-Salter interview is marvellous, though it must have been a rather trying experience for Pope. Salter resisted nearly every question but revealed a great deal all the same. Here’s what he had to say about short stories:
No one I know of has ever been able to definitively say what a short story is or should be, what distinguishes it from an anecdote or an account -- Mishima’s “Patriotism” is an account but with a power that dismisses definitions -- or a piece of description. I like stories that keep you reading until the line that makes it a story, as in, say, Carver’s “Night School” when [the narrator’s wife] says, “That’s only writing…. Being betrayed by somebody in your own family, there’s a real nightmare for you.” Suddenly all of it, solid, with a click like steel, falls into place.
I must note here that Salter's own stories frequently contain similarly perfect and devastating lines.