- Jun 2019
David Jauss. Alone With All That Could Happen: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom about the Craft of Fiction. Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1st edition edition, July 2008.
The chapter "Stacking Stones" describes the various techniques and effects that can be created by authors of short story collections. Put simply, Jauss argues that we ought to read story collections as collections, in the order in which they appear. The argument is based on a series of "unifying principles" and "structural techniques" that stitch collections together. The most important two, in my view, are the "liaison" — or, a motif that speaks across stories — and "mimesis" — the interaction in a collection between form and meaning. Jauss holds The Things They Carried as an exemplar of mimesis.
This text is useful in thinking about collections, but it is also useful for teaching new literary readers about how to approach collections. The instinct is to fragment the collection into digestible chunks — i.e. the stories as individual texts — rather than reckon with them en masse.