My father had a stroke last week. I didn't mention it before, partly because family relations are, for me, fairly complicated, and partly because I don't always include mention on the blog of daily life events that strike near home. I also wasn't sure at first what the outcome would be, and if I should even mention it yet. But I thought I'd mention it today.
We went to visit him over the weekend, partly to reassure the kids that their grandfather was still the same basic person, just a little weaker. They needed to see that, so they knew their world was basically still intact. He's most likely going to make a full recovery. That's one benefit of hard headedness, which is a distinctive Collins family trait.
The drive downstate and back went a lot faster with the aid of a van full of reading material, and to suit my attention span short works and undemanding genre reading really fit the bill.
Michael Griffith's Bibliophilia is a collection of the title novella and several short stories. The attraction of the novella, to me, was its subject matter. Myrtle, a middle aged librarian, finds herself elected the sex police for a university library in New Orleans. Herself a former "wild child," she finds herself turning into the stereotypical dried up old librarian. When her boss tells her she needs to raid the library in search of students whos bodily fluids threaten to sully library materials, as well as ruin their chances for future funding, Myrtle is understandably a little put off. But the more she "trains" for it, the more she gets into her role. Until one day when she meets her match... Really entertaining stuff.
The thing with the novella, though, is it's obviously a short work by definition. In short works there can't be anything extraneous. There's just no room for it. My standard of the perfect sleek novella is Wharton's Ethan Frome. There's nothing extra in that book, nothing feels padded. But in Bibliophilia, though the writing is clever as hell, Griffith could have safely sliced out 1/3 of it and it wouldn't have been missed. That would have made it a really taut, brilliant longer short story. As a novella, though, it falters a bit, because it is just that bit too padded. The characters could have been transported to a full-blown novel, with benefit of a lot more plot written around them, or the novella could have been shortened. But as a novella I didn't think it completely worked.
For cleverness, and beautiful turn of phrase, Griffith is a very good writer. The short stories in the book were good, but today they're all blending together a bit for me. Bibliophilia is definitely the finest piece in that collection. I loved the characters, especially Myrtle. She was inspired.
Writers take note: We need more librarians in fiction!
I read a praising review of Christopher Golden's Wildwood Road somewhere or other, likely either in Library Journal or Publishers Weekly. The blurb from Stephen King caught my eye, a typical, praising review from the master of horror to the less experienced writer. And for whatever reason I thought I'd give this one a whirl.
136 pages later I found myself skimming, bored by the wordiness and not even the slightest bit SCARED. In a horror novel you want to be at least a little creeped out. Turning out the light at night should be something you're reluctant to do, fearing icy fingers will reach out for your toes if you leave them sticking out of the blankets... But I wasn't scared. At all. I may not even finish the book, especially now that I'm back home after weekend travels and have an almost literal ton of other books to choose from. This one may go back to the library unfinished, since I have only the barest urge to want to know how it turns out. I could always flip to the last chapter for that... Another thing BSR almost NEVER does.
So, an uneven reading weekend, but this stuff passed the time for me. Would I read more by these authors? Well, the answer's yes, possibly to Michael Griffith, but no, not in this lifetime to Christopher Golden, testament by Stephen King or not... I think Mr. King's pretty safe in his reigning position, and he can afford to hand out recommendations to lesser writers, especially those who come nowhere near his writing ability. That's a pretty safe thing to do when you're as good as Stephen King. Next time I'm feeling the urge to read something spooky, I think I'll remember that.
In the meantime, so much to read... so much to read...