It was time for a library visit (this usually means if I don't get my books back right now they will charge me a humungous amount of money, commonly known as "late fines") so away I went, anticipating many shelves full of books I just had to read.
Not that there were no books - there were just no books that I wanted to read. I wandered, I picked up books at random, I looked for familiar names in case I found something new, I even got desperate enough to check out the Large Print section. Nothing appealed. Nothing jumped out and said "Read me! I'll be good, I'll keep you hooked for hours on end!" So I came home with three kind-of-OK-maybe-readable books. At least when this happens in the bookshop, you can go home feeling virtuous about how you didn't spend any money (for a change).
Maybe I'm anticipating my trip to Tucson next month where there are not only several Borders and Barnes & Nobles, but three branches of a second-hand bookshop chain called Bookmans. And a great independent bookshop called Antigones.
On another tack, maybe I was put off the library because the first book I picked up inside the door (it was on a display) was "The Idiot's Guide to Branding". There are writers' conferences now where they run sessions on branding. I know it's becoming part of publishing now, I know for lots of authors it helps them to sell more books, but I haven't got to grips with it yet. I equate it to words like "pigeonholing" and "nice little box" and "you shouldn't write anything else". But I guess that's why pseudonyms were invented.
A couple of days ago, I started "Best American Short Stories 2006". I say started because this yearly feast is not something to be raced through, it's like a 20-course meal. I like to read two or three stories, then put it down for a few days. Then two or three more. The stories are so different, and often demand time and reflection. What I also like about BASS is that in the back of the book, each writer has a bit that explains where the story came from, how it was written. I never read this until I've read the story. Other friends of mine always read that bit first.
Short stories ... here in Australia it seems there are a million competitions (usually with a 3000 word limit, which can act like a garotte) and not many publishing outlets. Another handy extra in BASS is a list of magazines/journals and their submission addresses.
Long live the short story!