Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Books in the Bookbag

Books in bookbags and backpacks, stuffed in a purse, piled on the coffee table or bedside table, waiting on the kitchen counter to be returned to the library, stuffed sideways on bookshelves waiting to be read: wherever you keep the books that buffer you from the possibility of being bookless when you finish the one you are reading might be the bibliophilic (word?) equivalent of keeping milk and bread on hand in case of a snowstorm.
BHPL has uncataloged paperbacks which patrons borrow without actually checking them out so there is no due date. When finished, return the book or another paperback of your own. Think of these books as security blankets which can be kept on hand without worrying about due dates. Turn to them if your current pile of checked out books prove to be duds and snow has shut down all the roads to the library. (BHPL rarely closes for snow, though.)
Lately, I've found another kind of bookish security blanket: books of very short short-stories, which is called either "sudden" fiction or "flash" fiction. Stuffed in the necessarily largish reticule (as S.J. Perelman would have said) is New sudden fiction : short-short stories from America and beyond / edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas. One story told in just five pages tells the surreal tale of a bank clerk who covets a red fox fur coat, really obsesses on this coat, puts a downpayment on it and suddenly becoming athletic, starts to run in the forest, develops an accute sense of smell, craves bloody can see where this is going. It was kind of Twilight Zone-ish in mood. Like most of the stories in the collection, it was beautifully written and the story and character fully developed, but in a very short format. This makes the stories perfect for any odd moment, standing in line, waiting for an appointment and so on. No need to be at the mercy of ten year old Field and Stream magazines in your doctor's waiting room.
Even shorter than sudden fiction is "flash" fiction, some of that is included in the anthology: The best American nonrequired reading 2006 / edited by Dave Eggers ; introduction by Matt Groening. Here is part of the table of contents:

Introduction Matt Groening
Best American Fake Headlines from The Onion
Best American Daily Show Exchange on the Anniversary of Watergate from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Best American Ringing Defeat of Religion Masquerading as Science from Kitzmiller v. Dover
Best American Answers to the Question "What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?" from The Edge Foundation
Best American Excerpt from a Military Blog from A Soldier's Thoughts
Best American Epigraph Wherein a Contemporary Writer Quotes a Great Writer Who Died in 2005 from Saturday Ian McEwan
Best American First Sentences of Novels of 2005
Best American New Words and Phrases from The Oxford Dictionary of English, Revised Second Edition
Best American New Band Names
Best American Things to Know about Chuck Norris from Chuck Norris Facts
Best American Things to Know about Hoboes from The Areas of My Expertise


Book excerpts, reviews, tables of contents and annotations are available from the BHPL catalog by clicking on the links in the catalog record, a handy feature to know about.

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