So, I'm at home today with bad sinus pain across one side of my face, and to take my mind off it all I watched the wonderful Culture Show episode for World Book Night about 12 debut novelists, including the excellent Jenn Ashworth. It was wonderful to watch a whole hour celebrating first-time novelists, hearing about their books, about their stories. But all the way through, that little voice in my head which is rarely satisfied kept whispering "What about debut short story collections? Where are the short stories?" Now I understand that this was a programme about novels - but the phrase "literary fiction" was used several times, and the novel is not the only form under that heading.
Several of the new novelists featured write short stories - Deborah Kaye Davies' short story collection, Grace, Tamar and Laszlo the Beautiful (reviewed on the Short Review here) won Wales Book of the Year in 2009 and she is also a published poet. I think it was Evie Wyld who mentioned in her interview on the show that she wrote short stories but wrote this novel because she was told that "publishers don't want short stories". No surprise there then.
Instead of grumbling and moaning too much, I wrote a tweet on Twitter asking who would like to see a similar TV show about short story collections - and the roar of response was deafening! It really cheered me up, and fuelled by this I fired off 3 emails to people I know with BBC connections, and also to John Mullan, the host of the Culture Show episode and very well known for the Guardian Book Club. As I write this I remember that he was the person who interview short story goddess Lorrie Moore last year about her must-have Collected Stories, an event I went to and which will stick in my mind as one of my short story highlights. So I have no doubt at all that he appreciates what an amazing short story can do.
I am writing this blog because doing all this in 140-character bursts on Twitter is rather restricting, and also to canvas more opinion. There was one tweet in reply which seemed to think there was quite enough short story coverage on radio and TV but I don't think those of us who disagree are just being paranoid. What do you think? Please comment below, perhaps I might need a petition in order to get the BBC - or another TV channel (Sky Arts? Mariella?) on side, so don't hold back!