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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Short stories, essays, novels, poems

I am not a fan of short stories. Until I read one. Not sure why this is, but I'm always reluctant to read anthologies of short stories even though I love their completeness and the ability to put the book down after reading just one. When choosing books, I always want those that have one narrative thread that pulls things together, and I'll pick up a bad novel before excellent short stories. When I do get involved with short stories, I always enjoy them, so this contradictory behavior sort of baffles me.

I love essays. Essays also offer the ability to read "just one" and not feel compelled to keep reading. Like short stories, they offer the opportunity to pause and digest. My favorite anthology of essays is still Lopate's The Art of the Personal Essay, but essays by one author are also fun as they offer a deeper insight and a broader view of the author's life, imagination, philosophy, and background. Why I not only tolerate, but love essays and don't feel the same desire for short stories is another puzzle.

I adore LONG books. If the book is really good and appeals to me, I don't want it to end; that is the beauty of trilogies, especially in fantasy. Robin Hobbs' set of 3 trilogies --The Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man Trilogies (all well over 500 pages each) -- created another world and the 3 sets of 3 intertwined with certain characters woven, even if briefly, throughout all 9 books. Tolkien's Ring Trilogy is still my favorite, but after that comes Robin Hobbs' Farseer, Liveship, and Tawny Man tomes.

Poetry is necessary. Can't live without it. It is in my head even if I neglect reading it for long periods.

On another note entirely: I found this post about author quotes on other books (you know, "loved it" on back cover and the name of an author) on Another 52 Books and the link to this Jennifer Crusie's blog where she wrote about her experience -Confessions of a Reformed Quote Whore-with this (often dishonest) phenomenon. Great post!


  1. as much as i love to read, i'm not really a big fan of short stories.. and even less fan of poetry. in fact, i can't think of many poems that i actually like. guess i just want people to say what they mean! don't beat around the bush! lol

  2. Hehe. I pretty much wrote the same thing about my love-hate relationship with short stories here. Having just finished Daphne du Maurier's Don't Look Now collection of sinister short stories, I have a new outlook on the genre and hope to read more in the coming months.

    I love essays, too. One of my favorites is Birdbaths and Paper Cranes by Sharon Randall. High Tide in Tuscon by Barbara Kingsolver is very good, too. And then there's The Sewing Room: Uncommon Reflections on Life, Love and Work by Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton. I'll stop now. You can read more here.

  3. Angela - Readers have such different loves, don't they? From poetry, essays, short stories, novels, graphic novels, non-fiction...and then all of the genres within each one. I'm pretty eclectic, but can't completely shake my tendencies toward certain biases.

    Les, The DuMaurier short stories sound really good, but the essay collection really captures my interest. I've read some of Kingsolver's essays, but not this anthology. Also loved Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road, but most of the others I've either not read or have not heard of before. I've made a note of that post so I can go back and check titles later. Thanks!

  4. how boring would it be if we were all the same?!

  5. I don't usually choose to read short stories, but I do read 1 book of short stories every summer for the library's reading program. I love Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett.

    Don't know that I've ever read essays, but you and Les have given me the urge to try.

    Enjoyed reading Jennifer Cruise's comments on author quotes. I bookmarked both her blog and Another 52 books.

    Speaking of LONG books, have you tried the Outlander series?

  6. I feel the same way about short stories and essays -- don't read the former all that much but love the latter. And I think the Lopate anthology is wonderful too.

  7. booklogged - I'm not familiar with Barrett, but have jotted her name down. No, I haven't tried the Outlander series. I think I read part of one years ago; it belonged to a student who didn't like reading, but was glued to that book. And it was a BIG book.

    Dorothy - I think with short stories, I really want them to last longer -if I like them. I heard an NPR review of The Art of the Personal Essay in 1994 and went straight out and bought it. I sent copies of Egeworth's Essay on the Noble Science of Self-Justication to my daughters when they were in college.

  8. I love short stories. When done correctly they can be the most entertaining, interesting, creepy, inspiring, thought-provoking writing out there. I do know alot of people who don't like them and in my mind they are just missing out on some wonderful reading.

  9. You are right, of course, Carl. I don't know why I'm always so reluctant to bring them home as I do enjoy them when I read them.

  10. I think sometimes they feel like cheating. And some simply aren't that good, but the ones that are good are usually really, really good.

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