Keeping it Short

I’m not sure why it’s happening, but almost every book on the nightstand (my To Be Read Pile, as opposed to all the unread books on the shelves) is a collection of short stories or essays. Usually I read novels, so this has kind of crept up on me. I just finished a collection of Norvell Page stories (see yesterday’s FFB post) and am now working my way through a Zorro collection and one of stories from Adventure Magazine and one of Dr. Poggioli stories by T.S. Stribling, as well as some Lester Dent air adventure stories. I’m very slowly moving into Collected Stories of Lewis Shiner and there are a couple others in the stack that don’t come to mind as I’m typing this, including a book of essays.

But there’s not a novel in sight.

This seems to happen once or twice a year; suddenly I find myself hip deep in short stories, and there are plenty more collections on the shelves I could read, I want to read. Does this happen to anyone else, or are most people more organized about their reading and mix up the short stories, novels, non-fiction and different genres when they read?

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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12 Responses to Keeping it Short

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Boy, does it! By coincidence, I finished the Shiner collection this morning. I’ve been reading one (or two) stories a day in it. I may have to look out some of his novels now.

  2. Cap'n Bob says:

    Yes, I go for a change of pace once in a while. It’s an uncontrollable urge, like needing a piece of chocolate.

  3. Art Scott says:

    My “system” –never planned this way, just happened — goes like this. I read fiction almost exclusively in bed before retiring — a mix of novels & shorts, with 2 or 3 books often going at once. In my other reading venue, downstairs, the music-tv chair, I read almost exclusively non-fiction — books on music & record reviews, biographies, golf, Mencken, what have you. Something about fiction — mystery novels at least — requiring a certain level of focused attention to cast of characters, plot developments and so on; whereas the non-fiction I read can be more easily set aside and interruptible by other media distractions. Call me Mr Upstairs/Downstairs.

  4. I read novels most of the time, rarely more than two going simultaneously. I generally sprinkle short stories in among them, though I do sometimes run a string of them in a row. Very rarely a complete book in one run and most of the time several different author collections are going over the same period.

    It sounds confusing, but it works for me.

  5. I read only one book at a time. I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction. I prefer novels, but sometimes (like Cap’n Bob) I have an irresistible impulse to read short stories or essays.

  6. Richard says:

    It’s good to know there’s no set pattern, everyone seems to go with what’s most comfortable at the moment. I have a hunch I’ll be getting back to novels soon, especially after reading the latest CADS.

  7. Chris says:

    I never used to read short stories at all, but when I started trying to write them I figured I should probably read more. I think my biggest surprise is to learn how many people absolutely love them — even prefer them to novels. I don’t know why that was strange to me, but it was.

    Anyway, I don’t usually read short story collections cover to cover like I do novels. I usually have one on the side, and I’ll read a story or two every few days, or as time allows (like if the book I’m reading is in upstairs and I happen to be downstairs). I also have the Kindle ap on my cell phone, and a number of writers in my circle of friends have released eOnly collections; these are very handy for those times I find myself waiting for something and don’t have a book with me. I never thought I’d be able to read off the phone, but I’ve found it to be no trouble at all. Have even read a couple full books that way, but prefer not to.

    Good topic, Richard.

  8. Richard says:

    Chris – thanks, these thing pop up every now and then. I used to read short stories only rarely, and sometimes read a collection as you do, one now and then. I know people who read one story per day and work through an amazing number of collections that way. If I’m enjoying a collection I tend to just keep going.

    I don’t have a cell phone, smart or otherwise but can’t imagine reading on a screen that small. Even a Kindle or similar e-reader seems like it would be uncomfortable, but then I’m guess I’m just old fashioned and want to hold the real item in hand.

  9. Carl V. says:

    I know the feeling. My reading has gotten well away from fiction over the past few weeks and I’m reading a lot of shorts too, only they are all essays. I’ve read both of my favorite Anne Fadiman books, Sloane Crosley’s latest essay collection, a collection of small town newspaper stories from a guy named Chris Bohjalian, Steinbeck’s travelogue: Travels with Charley, and am now reading a collection of the works of C.W. Gusewelle which is excellent. Not sure what has happened, but I am strongly desiring these slice of life essays over fiction right now. I think part of it is the spring fever, which makes me want to get out in the yard, take on house projects, and reading about others’ adventures in these areas is inspiring.

  10. Richard says:

    Carl – Yes, yes and yes again. We’ve talked of the Fadiman book(s), on your blog I believe, and Crosley too. Like ’em both. Boy, it’s been a long time since I read Travels With Charley, I really liked it, poodle and all. But then I have always enjoyed Steinbeck, no matter how grim his books can be sometimes, showing us the difficult side of life. But then so did Faulkner and Lewis, right? TWC is a lot of fun and a good insight into the country at the time. Reading it today, I’d probably follow it up with Charles Kuralt’s A Life on the Road or Chalres Kuralt’s America. Both wonderful books. It’s has been posited that Kuralt got the idea for those segments from the Steinbeck book.

  11. Patti Abbott says:

    I can never read short stories in bed. The timing is always off. I read short stories in late afternoon.

  12. Richard says:

    Patti – sounds like a pretty strict schedule…

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