More Kept Books, Perhaps to be Set Free

My previous post did me so much good that I’ve decided to keep going. It is time to be honest about books, to get real about what I am going to actually, honestly want to read. My reward will be bookshelves that can breathe.

Aqueduct Press (www.aqueductpress.com) always snags my interest with their classy offerings. I have two from their Conversation Pieces, a short story collection by Carolyn Ives Gilman, Aliens of the Heart, and a Sue Lange novella, We, Robots. I also have a a third from them, Eleanor Arnason’s Tomb of the Fathers. Each one is clearly worthy of my time and effort. As to why I have not gobbled them up yet, I have to think it’s the form issue. Two of these slender volumes are novellas; one, a short story collection.

Novellas and story collections can be treated as stepchildren, simply not big enough to count as “what I’m reading now.”

Reading has been my principle, number one, way to relax for as long as I have known how to read. Science fiction, kids’ series (The Black Stallion, The Bobbsy Twins), historical fiction, fantasy, detective fiction, lit fix, satire…but mostly novels. Novels of between 200 and 550 pages are the most approachable size. (Note that, if you substitute calories for words, you could say that a novel is a nice, dinner-sized plateful of reading.) 1085 pages (Against the Day) is too much reading-food; 93 pages (We, Robots) is too little to make a meal. So, while I’ve always liked short stories and novellas, they are more like a side dish or appetizer, not my main course.

This is, of course, ridiculous. Literature is more that its word count. I can remember short stories that have had as much effect on me as any full-length work. And I’ve always maintained that the novella is the perfect length to adapt for stage or film, a length at which you don’t have to leave out plot lines or characters.

So, what about these three?

Tomb of the Fathers, is blurbed as a “…witty romp of planetary romance…” I have read Eleanor’s romps in the past, and they are wonderful. She may be the most carefully intelligent writer I know. She is able to make me believe nearly anything, because she has set it up so well, and because she has so clearly thought out all the implications. Of course I’ll keep this.

Aliens of the Heart is a short collection of “…stories of the heartland.” The heartland is something of a mystery to me, socially, politically, and spiritually, and Carolyn is another wonderful writer (Halfway Human) who I expect will illuminate it. Keep.

Sue Lange is a writer I don’t know. I must have purchased We, Robots because of the the subject matter: the story of robots becoming more intelligent than humans. I have a similar issue as a subplot in the novel I’m working on; I need to read this.

Uh oh, I’m sounding like those folks on Hoarders.

Another sweep of the shelves last night revealed two more titles from Aqueduct: one more each from Eleanor Arnason and Carolyn Ives Gilman. Ordinary People is an Arnason short story collection, and Candle in a Bottle is a Gilman novella. And yeah, I’m keeping them all. All five books go back on the shelf. Well, they are skinny.

Well, okay, this second post on unread books hasn’t helped me get rid of anything. What it has done, however, is bring these books to my attention once more. These slender trade paperbacks were overwhelmed by larger volumes around them. That shouldn’t happen to any book.

Maybe I’ll give them their own special corner of the top shelf, so they won’t get lost again.

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