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Bookends: Short form Books are exploding January 28, 2016

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Short form Books are exploding

By Dan Davidson

July 15, 2015

– 867 words –
While we have about 16 bookcases (not shelves – bookCASES) at Chateau Davidson, most of them organized by genre and filled to the brim, we also enjoy e-books, especially for light reading that we don’t necessarily want to find shelf room for.

One of the advantages of the e-book format is that it allows works by a particular author, or in a particular series, to remain “in print” (so to speak) due to the “just in time and as needed” nature of e-publishing.

Mystery writer Dana Stabenow (the Kate Shugak series) told me recently that the only way to get the first half-dozen volumes in her series these days is in e-book form. With many other writers this is also true.

Aside from that, e-books make possible the publication of volumes that are not quite long enough to be actual books, unless they happen to be published by specialty

The novella (or short novel) used to be a popular form, and such classic works as Animal Farm, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Time Machine and The Pearl are all examples of this type. These have all been published many times over in book form, but most novels these days seem to be well over 300 pages in length and many simple genre works run even longer.


Jacaranda: A Novella of the Clockwork Century

By Cherie PriestJacaranda

Subterranean Press

181 pages



Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series about an alternate America where history is quite different and the supernatural is a real element of everyday life, has a number of novels connected to it. Jacaranda is set in this world, but it is short and has previously been available only in the above referenced high quality press edition for really serious fans, put out by Subterranean Press.

This is a dense and fairly complicated haunted hotel story in which the central character is a former robber and gunslinger turned priest. There’s a hurricane, ghosts, guilty secrets (a slight touch of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians) and enough tension to go around.

I hadn’t read anything by Priest prior to picking up this volume during one of the Humble Bundle promotions, but I think I will be looking for more.


Another advantage of the e-book is the promotion of long form journalism outside the boundaries of the newspapers or magazines in which the pieces first appeared. This week I’ll mention the memoirs of two writers who have been Berton House writers-in-residence.


Blindsided: How Twenty Years of Writing About Booze, Drugs and Sex Ended in the Blink of an Eye

By Russell Smith


Kindle Edition

21 pages



Russell Smith was our first resident, nearly twenty years ago now, and has gone on to write a number of novels and short story collections. These drew upon his experiences and the adventures he had during his day job as a lifestyle columnist for the Globe and Mail and contributor to a number of national magazines.

The full title of Blindsided, narrated in Smith’s usual somewhat ironic style, gives you the notion, justified in the story, that his sampling of the various substances imbibed as part of his regular “research” led to the loss of sight in first one eye and then the other.

Smith isn’t moralizing in this book, but he makes no excuses for what he ultimately describes as self-destructive, and somewhat dumb, behaviour. Even after the first eye went, he hardly slowed down his pace. It took the near loss of the second eye to make him change his lifestyle.


My Never-Ending Acid Trip: Why I Still Hallucinate Years After Taking LSDNever-ending acid trip

By Jacob Scheier

Toronto Star e-book

About 56 pages, with photographs


Jacob Scheier was this year’s early spring Berton House resident. He is best known as a Governor General’s Award winning poet, but he has lately taken to developing the prose side of his talents.

This long form memoir began as an exercise at a writers’ workshop retreat and developed into a series published in the Toronto Star.

Scheier is completely candid about the fact that his experimentation with drugs during his teenage and young adult years – he specifies 200 hits of acid and more than 60 tablets of ecstasy – opened some relays in his brain that interacted with medication he was taking five years later for depression and anxiety.

He began to have intense visual hallucinations, thought he was going mad, and eventually checked himself into a psych ward, where things got worse. The profession’s reliance on an array of pharmacological interventions did nothing for him.

Interestingly, it was the out of fashion “talking cure”, the same experienced by another Berton House alumnus, James FitzGerald (What Disturbs our Blood). that eventually gave him some relief and enabled him to develop his award winning craft.


As noted above, none of these three books would have been available unless I had either paid the high price for the specialty volume, or had seen the memoirs in the magazine and newspapers where they were originally printed.

That’s enough to make a good case of the usefulness of e-books to the devotee of the printed word.





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