David Morgan O'Connor


Long Story, Short Journal

I once worked with an older actor who repeated “I have the attention span of a gnat” every time he had a pint. That was pre-internet, and since then, even gnats have shortened their attention span. If you have no attention-span you will have trouble with Long Story, Short; you can always go watch your favorite cat video. Two minutes is an eternity, concentration is a rare commodity. Everyone has friends who can’t finish a sentence. Don’t bother sending them this link. But if have a friend who likes a long read, then Long Story, Short is a perfect monthly gift.

LSS is slow food for the lit rag race. They publish one long story per month, period. Only a minimum length, 4000 words. No upper. If you are a runner, think marathon, but no novel chapters.

This June, LSS published "Tiny Dancer," a 5,000 word story by Lisa Lang, that delves into the heart-strings of a young dancer who has just joined an international dance company on another continent. Her sexual and artistic awakening is at odds with her simple slow-maturing boyfriend back home who represents comfort and security. The small town girl following her dreams in a sophisticated city must cut the ties to all she once loved, a common story but illuminated in detail and with passion. Doubting the selfish choice to chase art and throw away the status quo of her family and community are explored with skill by Lang, an award-winning Australian novelist.

In May, "Limbos," a 29-page story about waiting by Stuart Snelson was published. "Limbo" is a slow boil, which might leave the short-attention-spanned on the side lines. The first nine pages describe a waiting room where “lingering malingers” awaiting “eye-rolling doctors listening to cracked Latin diagnoses, a mishmash of mispronounced afflictions, wishing, perhaps, that the self-diagnosing would self-medicate, remove their misgivings from the loop altogether.” Snelson is a deep thinker, with a magical turn of phrase, using commas like a master, transforming the story of one family into the universal, which while serious, is highly addictive. Sentences like, “In the morning, they had argued over breakfast. By nightfall, the best of her organs had been removed from her body, dispatched hastily across the city and reinserted elsewhere” turns Limbos into a poetic meditation on family in which a father “hoped for good news, for survival, that he would live to wait again.” What this story lacks in action, is clearly compensated by precision.

In April, Jane Hammon’s "In My Father’s House," at 37 pages, spanning 30 years, is a fine account of a New Mexican family. Location combines beautifully with narrative and character. There is sadness, cacti and sentences that rock the heart, for example, “I know he is imagining that he can recreate what he has lost by staying close to what it used to be.” Once again family-themed, poetic and precise, Hammon brings you into a father’s house, which could be yours, allows you to visit and leave with gems in your pocket. “We cease naming what we fear we can’t live without as we touch ground not so far from home.”

In March, "Sheela-na-Gig" by Susan Burke-Trehy is a modern Celtic fertility-themed story which enwraps with vivid details of West Cork before unravelling into an unforgettable magical realism ending that would make Gabriel Garcia Marquez grin from the grave with envy. Subtly weaving grand themes with daily details, spanning generations, attacking traditions, Burke-Trehy fattens the reader on detail before delivering a final emotional tour-de-force blow: “Her last breath felt like she had swallowed a mountain of earth, her feet rooted themselves into the soil, becoming part of it, and as Rose finally disappeared, her last human sensation was one of peace, as she became a Hawthorn tree.”

In February, Sydney Weinburg’s "The Alexandra Role" is structuredin self-aware and referencing letters, which makes the reader doubt the unreliable narrator’s sanity and would thrill any literary detective. With nods to Barth and Nabokov, this is post-modern entertainment clearly executed by a “delusional and bereaved English professor who, in epistolary form, attempts to secure the services of a young actress in the way I have previously described. I am the narrator, and I mimic Víctor Vargas’s style.” Layers and layers to be peeled away, this is not waiting room material, this story is for a serious reader, you might want to take notes, and would benefit from several reads. On the surface comic, but the themes are dark.

In January, "An Optical Illusion" by Eimear Ryan, is plot concoction at its finest, where a climatic lie shows altruism stronger than most could imagine. Reminiscent of Frank O’Connor, this Irish story reveals a woman who takes the blame for an affair she didn’t commit to ease the mourning of a the woman who stole her husband. Ryan’s observations; “How much easier, she thought, to lose a husband to death rather than to a twenty-five-year-old” or for example, “You might never have said more than two words to your neighbour down the road, but of course you'd go pay your respects to his corpse” capture human hypocrisy and generosity with the clarity of a double-edged sword.

Long Story, Short, is not light reading. The reader will need to work to savor, but each story has a sustained urgency which keeps you scrolling. LLS is working on a kindle edition and an email system of .pdfs so the reader can enjoy offline. Jennifer Matthews, the editor, should be applauded for this labour of love, which is doing exactly what it says, giving space to the long short story, which will never compete with cat videos or status updates or tweets but will train your attention, make you a better reader, better writer and hopefully touch your heart.