I have to admit, a little bias, or at least a bit of natural leaning, slipped into my head with this round of titles, even before I had cracked the spine of any of the trio of books we read this round. It had nothing to do with those nominating the titles - I think all three have fantastic litblogs and wonderful taste. Nothing to do with the appearances of the books - I've long ago learned to try to not judge a book by its cover, hard as that may be at times. It wasn't even because of the publisher - fond as I am of the folks at Coffee House Press and the work they do. It was due to a single word that one can find on the cover of Sidney Thompson's Sideshow. That word is stories.
Much as I enjoy getting sucked deep into a well-written novel, I absolutely love short stories. Story collections typically generate about half of my annual list of titles read. Combine that with the large number I treat myself to via literary journals and I probably am fortunate enough to read between 400 and 500 per year.
I love the precision with which a short story writer (well, a good one) much select his/her words, and structure his/her sentences and paragraphs. I enjoy the fact that I'm picking up something to read that I know I can finish in less than 15 or 20 minutes. When truly done well, I'm amazed at the author's abilities to create a well-developed character and scenario, add a touch of foreshadowing, move the plot forward, and come to a conclusion that might even surprise me a bit, and all within 20 to 40 pages or so.
Where novels bring their own special treats to the reader, one of the amazing things to me about stories is that precision factor. An author can really at most only have one little bit of sloppiness in a short story - a little too much description, a bit of a jump in character development that seems a bit quick to the reader - before the story is lost. At least that is what I expect when I sit down with a story.
And, as the bulk of the nominees for LBC consideration to date have been novels, seeing the word "Stories" on the cover of Sideshow was pretty exciting news. In the following days, various LBC members will be taking individual looks at over half of the stories from Sideshow, so I implore you to come back frequently to read these takes. We'll also see Sidney Thompson here tomorrow, guest blogging, so come on by and ask him some questions, or comment upon his work. We should end the week Thursday and Friday with an email interview of Thompson and then a podcast interview as well.