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by Ian Birnbaum
As happens so often to me this summer, I’m swinging in my hammock in the backyard, reveling in a haze so thick you’d swear it was an opiate. It’s not, by the way, it’s just a cloud of sweet, sweet unemployment hovering over me, making the nearby birds bored and the mosquitoes lazy.
The unemployment buzz is just temporary, however – that gap between classes ending and a new job beginning has left me plenty of time to be bored and enjoy the hell out of it. It has also left me tons of time to read and write. The writing has been the subject of this column for some time – I think it’s high time I talk about reading as well.
Sitting on the small shelf next to me is a copy of the Best American Short Stories (the 2005 edition) edited by Michael Chabon. If you’ve never checked out the BASS series, you certainly should. Each year presents some of the most truly spectacular fiction by writers famous and not, compiled and edited by a different editing or writing bigwhig. This year, for example was compiled and edited by Steven King (yes, that Steven King).
Sometimes, a fiction writer needs a jumpstart. Usually I’ll pick up whatever I happen to be reading at the time (right this instant it’s World War Z by Max Brooks), but other times I’ll reach for the BASS collection. I give 20 minutes of my time to sift through a handful of pages, and I’ll absorb a self-contained story and a big jolt of inspiration that could really lead anywhere.
For example, instead of writing something original, I wrote a column about reading to get ideas for writing. Soooo existential.
Regardless, if you’re looking for a good read, I seriously recommend the BASS series. The newest versions are somewhat expensive, but you can find last year’s best short stories at a used book store for cheap – and the stories don’t spoil with age.
I will now return to my unemployed high. I love summer.