While the short story often occupies a grey area in the world of literary fiction, ending up unjustly relegated to the status of the flashier novel’s annoying little brother, short stories offer let the reader glimpse inside a writer’s world without the commitment often required by a novel.
The recent addition of Paragraph Shorts magazine to Apple’s Newstand makes it easier than ever to enter the world of the story. If you haven’t read a short story since discovering O. Henry in eighth grade English class, then it might be time to try Paragraph Shorts.
Paragraph Shorts publishes a new issue each week for free featuring literary fiction and other modes of story telling including excerpts from TED talks, or The Moth (totally the kind of stuff that we all intend to keep up with, but don’t).
Presently on its third issue, this newcomer has already featured pieces by masters of the genre such as Flannery O’Connor and John Updike, as well as current submissions from the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan, and the innovative oddball Etgar Keret. The most recent issue includes a must listen: “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson’s timeless and disturbing story of a community at its darkest, while next week’s promises to include offerings from beloved writers Alice Monro and Tobias Wolff. Yes, please. May I have another?
In keeping with the iPad’s flexible multimedia capabilities, Paragraph’s method of delivery varies. Many entries include text, some also offer an audio option, while still others are audio-only. The app also includes a few video entries. There’s a nifty indicator on the menu page that tells the reader what to expect.
Paragraph includes social integration. The reader can tune-in to the conversation in landscape mode, or tune-out the greek chorus of opinion by reading in portrait mode. Cool, right? The app also includes links to the author’s biographical information, as well as links to purchase the authors books, and suggested stories to read next.
Once downloaded to Newsstand, Paragraph doesn’t require an Internet connection. This means iPad owners will never, ever be subjected to reading dating copies of People in the dentist office waiting room.
Paragraph draws its stories from the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the Guardian, so it effectively acts as a free, de facto aggregator for some of the world’s most respected outlets for short literary fiction, as well as a platform for leading readers to new storytelling resources.
Even though it comes out weekly, each issue includes around six or seven stories, so Paragraph is right-sized for busy lives. Really, it gives so much and asks so little.
As soon as you’re hooked on Paragraph, don’t forget to check out the New Yorker Fiction Podcast (where one amazing author reads another amazing author’s work each week) where one author reads a story from another author he admires — Dave Eggers reads Roddy McDowell, for example — as well as the Guardian’s utterly British Short Stories podcast.