15 December 2004

Frank O'Connor

Frank O'Connor's The Lonely Voice, originally a lecture series at Stanford University in the 60s.

"The short story has never had a hero. . . . What it has instead is a submerged population group . . . [In “The Overcoat”] what Gogol has done . . . is to take the mock-heroic character . . . and impose his image over that of the crucified Jesus, so that even while we laugh we are filled with horror at the resemblance."

O'Connor says we marvel at more than identify with the short story protagonist.

Regarding the difference between novel and short story:

"One character at least in any novel must represent the reader in some aspect of his own conception of himself—as the Wild Boy, the Rebel, the Dreamer, the Misunderstood Idealist—and this process of identification invariably leads to some concept of normality and to some relationship—hostile or friendly—with society as a whole. . . . without the concept of a normal society—the novel is impossible."

O'Connor discusses the short story in the hands of Turgenev, Maupassant, Chekhov, Anderson, Mansfield, Lawrence, Hemingway, Joyce, Kipling, and more.

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