For some time now the term “minimalist” has been used to describe a group of authors who seem intent on proving the proposition that less is, indeed, less. The label, borrowed from the art world, hasn’t really stuck, which is too bad, because this movement—and it is cohesive enough to be thought of as a movement—shares a lot with minimalism in painting and sculpture; it may even be that the language of contemporary art criticism is more applicable to these writers (“. . . an almost virtuosic purity in the very absence of technique”; the pile of bricks “. . . set off-center, accentuates the feeling of empty space in the surrounding area”) than conventional literary concepts such as character, plot, language, and style.

Anyone who reads The New Yorker will be familiar with minimalist fiction: those little stories which seem to grow even...


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