short story month

Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

May is National Short Story month and like a daffy short story writer, I’ve gone and waited until the last day to remember.  I’ve been in novel land and regarding that, I have news I cannot wait to share.  But that doesn’t mean my love for the short story is weak.  On the contrary.  I would, for the short story, do anything.  I would present the short story with a bouquet of sharpened pencils.  I would let it eat half of my sandwich, and that’s big for me because I really like sandwiches, and hate sharing.  I’d better make my offering good because it’s the last day.  So as Horace Silver would say, let’s get right down to the nitty gritty.  

There are short stories that are anthologized far and wide, that everyone knows, that are safe and riskless and nice and neat and expected.  And then there is “Sonny’s Blues.”  For my money ($5), the hardest thing to write well, even more than sex and even more than love, is music.  The soul, the acuity of language, and the pay off of “Sonny’s Blues” is unable to be replicated or articulated, because James Baldwin managed to wrangle something rare and mythical into these short pages.  His gifts can only be explained by a kind god.  And so, just as if we were in the presence of a jazz virtuoso, there is nothing for the rest of us to do but shut up and listen.

Happy short story month.  Every month is short story month.

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