In May, we went on vacation to Yachats, Oregon. At night, I realized I’d left my novel in my daughter’s bedroom, so I looked through the bookshelf in the house we were renting. I came across a collection of short stories published in 1969. I read the Ray Bradbury story in it called “The Other Foot.” It’s from The Illustrated Man, one of Bradbury’s books I haven’t yet read. The premise of the story is that for a few decades only African Americans have colonized Mars. Now, a rocket ship of white people fleeing the nuclear Holocaust on earth have arrived, and the inhabitants of Mars need to figure out how to respond. Like all of Bradbury’s stories, it was thought-provoking and extremely well-written. Every sentence he writes seems to have the precise number of words that it needs. I feel I learn something about writing every time I read him.
In June, we traveled to Bend, Oregon, again renting a house with our baby daughter. While it had been obvious that the house in Yachats had been owned by an older couple, the Bend house was owned by a younger couple with children. It was interesting to see the difference in books. In Bend, I read essays from Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures. The short, funny essays were the perfect vacation read.
Reading these books made me think about the short form in literature. Novels often get all the attention, but sometimes the succinct crafting of a short story or novel can stay with you longer, the way we can know a song better than a symphony. I know I won’t be forgetting the Bradbury story anytime soon.
Now that I’m at home for the summer, I’ll be welcoming travelers into my guest bedroom. It’s fun to think about what books I want to have available for their vacation reading.