Banks Makes 'Physiological' Shift to Stories Russell Banks is a writer known for both short stories and novels -- most recently "Lost Memory of Skin," which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award -- his new book, "A Permanent Member of the Family" (Ecco), is his first collection of stories in 15 years.  He talked about the short story form in my Washington Post interview with him, which ran today. 

Here's an excerpt from my transcript, less edited than the Post version:
Why did you come back to the short story form?
I had written three novels in the intervening years, and they were hard novels – they weren’t easy to write.  I came up out of the depths of “Lost Memory of Skin” feeling kind of exhausted and that I really needed to work on the other side of my brain. Short stories feel as though they do come from a different place entirely. It’s not just a literary shift, but a physiological one. They’re much closer to writing songs or poems.  Your attachment to language is different, your attachment to form is different. A novel is so large and amorphous that you live inside a novel, whereas with a short story you can have a slightly distanced approach.
How do you know an idea is a novel and not a short story?
I can almost always tell immediately, if what I’m looking at is a moment of transition in someone’s life -- that’s what the short story does best. It implies time past and it implies time future but it’s the moment itself, the moment of change, that  we're focused on.

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