In this little corner of the world, the temperature is up, but snow is coming down.  In Ohio, the minimum wage is up, and unemployment is down (don’t expect those trends to continue).  And as my work hours go up, my reading time goes down.

That’s bothersome, because there’s another book fair coming up real soon.  I’m already behind in my reading, and not keeping up with the books I picked out last time.

But I have a plan . . .

Well, aside from the plan of becoming fabulously wealthy and quitting my job and reading as much as I’d like.  Or the other plan of getting an ultra-high-paying job of second reader, after the low-paid first readers get all the junk out, leaving me with only high-quality reading material.

I like reading.  I tend to like science fiction (the hard stuff, please, not the weird touchy-feely soft stuff that seemed to start in the Seventies), and mysteries, and military books, and some biographies.  Please keep your romance novels, or best-seller stuff.  That’s not for me.

The stuff I like is the stuff I tend to pick up when I’m at the book fair, reading it and then returning it to be reused the next book fair.  This last time, I decided to branch out a bit into some different genres.  “Of what sort?”, you ask with one eyebrow arched.  The short sort.

I picked up a couple compilations from small presses, distributed as The Pushcart Prize.  I have the ones from 2002 and 2004.  I started on the 2002 one first, and have gotten through 325 of its 562 pages.  I think I have given it a fair shake.  And yet, though the small presses have done their due diligence to get rid of the junk, and the Pushcart Press people have done their share to remove the merely ordinary, I am left with something I’m plodding through instead of enjoying.

The books are compilations of fiction, essays, and poetry.  I’m not big on poems.  One interested me, but that’s all.  The essays I could do without.  They were nicely written, but all except one seemed forgettable.  The fiction interested me more, but even that was not enough to compel me.  Some of it was good enough for the back issues of Analog and Ellery Queen magazines that I read on the bus coming home (not of those genres, but of that quality), but not good enough to continue reading the book.  My time is worth more than that.

So my plan is to return the books to the book fair, having left unread one and a half of the two I picked up.  And I’ll move on to something more of my liking.

The one bright spot, and an essay I would have paid money for (after the fact) was Kim Barnes’ The Ashes of August, an essay and historical review of fires and life in Idaho.  Her prose is clear, unhurried.  In Idaho, fires are a fact of life, and of death.  She talks coolly of her husband going off to fight a fire started by a lightning hit a quarter mile away, and builds tension when he doesn’t return.  Interwoven are facts of prior fire disasters, and ways that people have learned how to fight or flee the inferno.  19 pages in the link, 17 in the book I have, and as much of an impact as I’ve gotten from reading in quite a while.  This essay is highly recommended.

The Pushcart Prize books, however, are being returned to the library.  As planned.