No, Not Binge-Watching, Binge-READING

“Binge-watching” has become quite common in today’s world – both the compound verb and the act itself. I myself have enjoyed a few watching binges. But this past weekend, I maxresdefaultspent a lot of my time binge-reading. Yes, at first one wouldn’t think there could easily be such a thing, as books take so much longer to read than episodes of your favorite tv series. Well, the solution is obvious: short stories can be binge-read. (“…and we’re just the guys to do it!”)

Back in late January, I mapped out 24 short stories to read during the 24 in 48 readathon and, as often is the case, failed to complete my mission. I didn’t even blog about the stories I read then, only tweeting updates to the #24in48 hashtag. The remaining stories had been kind of rotting on my TBR vine ever since, but I didn’t want to forget them and this past weekend I resolved to just “knock out” the rest of them. The exercise felt similar, emotionally, to the more common form of tv show binge-watching. As usual when I read through a batch of stories, I discovered some real gems, and I’d like to tell you about a few of my favorites:

“Irises” by Elizabeth Genovise, found in the 2016 edition of “The O. Henry Prize Stories” anthology. Uniquely told by an unborn baby narrator (!!) it provided poignant insight into a love affair.  “I am not yet a daughter but rather a subtle shift in the taste and color of her world, unfurling at the edges of her consciousness as the autumn does just before it erupts into deep reds and yellows.” Why is the narrator’s mother “ready” to have an affair? She’s an artist, specifically a ballet dancer, and he is a well-intentioned but “unfeeling” brute. “He has never known immersion in an art, never taken the artist’s gamble, and so the sheer foreignness of my mother’s commitment to dancing baffles him.” This was truly a great story with some of my favorite writing that I’ve encountered lately. I recommend you pick up a copy and read it for yourself. You can find out more about this author at https://www.elizabethgenovisefiction.org/

“A List of Forty-Nine Lies” by Steven Fischer from the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. A very effective format for a story about a “suicide-bomber-like” revolutionary of the future, in opposition to the ruling dystopian society called The New Dawn. A very short story, only forty-nine sentences long, and each one of them is a lie. If you weren’t aware of the title of the story, whether or not the sentences are lies, would not be immediately obvious, but by the end of the story, no knowledge of the title would be necessary. Bravo. The entire piece of flash fiction – at least the first draft – was written during a tedious lecture on medical statistics (the author is described as a fourth-year medical student in the story’s intro)

“Train to Harbin by Asako Serizawa, also from the 2016 edition of “The O. Henry Prize Stories” anthology. A hard-hitting story on a difficult subject – the World War II era war crimes of Japan in using Chinese prisoners for medical experiments. Told by one of the doctors/perpetrators who is, naturally, struggling with his role though he was – as the cliche goes – “only following orders.” A powerful story.

“You see, you must understand something: We had always meant to preserve lives. A few thousand enemies to save hundreds of thousands of our own? In that sense, I hardly think our logic was so remarkable or unique.”

“The Equationist” by J.D. Moyer, also from the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. Rare among short stories in that it follows almost the entire life of the protagonist who, as a precocious young math student, decides that people can be understood as equations. Some linear, some circular, some exponential. One he can’t figure out is his classmate crush, Emily Lessard – “A chaos function, maybe. I’m just learning about those.”

I also read four stories from W.W. Jacobs’ collection “The Monkey’s Paw and Other Tales,” all of which were good, but none as extraordinary as the four I list above (and none were as good as the two I’d already read during #24in48 – “The Lost Ship and “The Castaway”). Additionally, I enjoyed three more stories from the Welcome to the Greenhouse anthology (stories featuring – you guessed it – climate change)

I enjoyed my weekend binge-reading so much, I plan to make it a regular habit whenever I have a weekend largely free of other responsibilities. Maybe once or twice a season? As usual, I will randomize my reading order and have stories from four different sources; I’m assigning each to a card in a euchre deck to fit my “Deal Me In” challenge methodology.  For this batch, I’m continuing on in several of the sources I started for the Readathon, while adding a new source, that being the short stories found in recent issues of The New Yorker, to which I am a digital subscriber.

What about YOU? Have you ever binge-read? Have you ever binge-watched? I’m much more interested in binge-reading, but I’d like to hear about either, frankly. 🙂

spring 2018 deck

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13 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    March 19, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    As far as binge-watching, I watched the first two seasons of Broadchurch on Netflix about a year ago. Very good, but I have yet to watch season 3. You might also say that I binge-watched the second season of Stranger Things but that was just because I wanted to find out what happened on my own and other family members were binge-watching it for about the seventeenth time before I got through it the first time. It’s a fun show but not worth watching 17 times.

    I need to binge-read more. I’m in sort of a slump when it comes to books/novels. I’m having a difficult time finishing anything. As far as short stories go, I am keeping up with Deal Me In (which have been some of the best I’ve read in a while). I keep telling myself that maybe I just need to read short stories for a while. There are so many out there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      March 21, 2018 at 11:24 am

      Thanks for reminding me I still need to watch season 2 of Stranger Things! I did enjoy the first one a lot.

      I my binge-reading “on the road” last weekend. Spending a glorious few hours at Mo Joe’s coffeehouse there on Senate & Michigan in downtown Indy, slowly sinking into one of their 2 ‘comfy’ chairs in the corner. Wrapped it up at the Central Library on Sunday where I read in the Annis reading room until closing time. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. marianallen said,

    March 20, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    The last time I binge-read was when I had a week or so of insomnia and read about four Harry Potter books when I should have been sleeping but couldn’t. Regular life all day, Harry Potter all night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      March 21, 2018 at 11:26 am

      I have read all of the HP books, but only once (so far – I’ve heard people rave about the audible.com editions and may try them eventually). Sadly, when I am insomniacal, I am also unable to read; my brain is instead in some sort of functional limbo. 😦

      Like

      • marianallen said,

        March 21, 2018 at 1:25 pm

        Oh, that’s sad! The functional limbo, I mean, not that you’ve read the HP books only once. Me, too. Oh, I may have read #1 twice, because it was pretty much pure fun. A little sad, but youngster-level sad, not grim and grisly sad.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. vidyatiru said,

    March 20, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    done both binge reading and binge watching (and still do both often!) .. and now your list here might put in another binge-reading mode 🙂 here are my week 11 and 12 – 11 –
    http://www.ladyinreadwrites.com/kid-authors-daydreamers/ and 12 –
    http://www.ladyinreadwrites.com/jabberwalking-your-way-to-ship-trap-island/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Linda said,

    March 23, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    Some of those stories sound intriguing, Jay! Binge-watching seems easier these days — I guess because I can do it while also keeping track of a basketball game or whatever. Recent binges: “The Crown,” a dark Welsh series called “Hinterland” and the latest season of “Mozart in the Jungle” — and am loving “Detectorists” though not exactly bingeing on it. I did once polish off Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder” as a birthday gift to myself (353 pages in a day) and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” in a weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      March 27, 2018 at 10:16 am

      I’ve heard good things about “The Crown” and “Hinterland” sounds like it’s right up my alley too. I’ve rarely been able to binge read through a full novel or other book – unless it’s relatively short, like Fahrenheit 451 or Frankenstein. 🙂

      Is The Girl in the Spider’s Web the ‘sequel’ to the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series? I enjoyed those books, and especially the title character.

      Like

      • Linda H. Lamb said,

        March 27, 2018 at 3:48 pm

        Yes! I thought the Swedish heir to the series did a really credible job and am on a waiting list for the most recent one.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. vidyatiru said,

    March 30, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    So hoping your binge-reading is going on fine .. I realized I did not actually comment on your post during my last reply here. But I am going to first check out ‘Irises’ just because the concept sounds fascinating. My pick for week 13 was Kate Chopin’s short short… http://www.ladyinreadwrites.com/magical-stories-and-games-and-the-story-of-one-hour/

    Like

  6. hkatz said,

    April 13, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    I love binge-reading short stories. Recently, I’ve been going through some of the books from the Akashic Noir series (crime/mystery stories set in different cities around the world). http://www.akashicbooks.com/subject/noir-series/

    As for binge-watching, in the past year I’ve done that here and there with Star Trek (season 1 of DS9 and seasons 1 and 2 of Voyager).

    I’ve bookmarked the recommendations you share here and am especially interested to read Train to Harbin.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      April 16, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      A couple years back I finally got serious about catching up with DS9, which I didn’t watch too much of when it was being broadcast, and eventually made it through all the episodes. Voyager is one of fav ST series. Of course, there is no need for me to binge watch ST:TOS since I have it committed to memory. 🙂

      Thanks for the tip re the Akashic Noir series. I will check it out.

      Yeah, Train to Harbin prompted me to do some googling after reading it. Funny how in the West that part of history is not very well known.

      Like

  7. atmikapai said,

    May 11, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Very interesting post! Check out the detrimental effects of binge-watching TV shows: https://thetamarillo.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/press-pause-and-read-binge-watching-can-ruin-your-life/

    Liked by 1 person


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