Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Books I'm Not Reading -- "Things Will Never Be the Same"

When authors and publicists write to me and ask whether they may send review copies of their latest books, my response tends toward the politely (I hope) discouraging. Even the least promising print-on-demand project deserves more than a "For the love of God, don’t waste my time" reply, but I feel that people should know what their chances are before they go to the expense of mailing, and especially Fed-Exing, their books to me. Those who persist (politely) are rewarded with the direct address to my desk, rather than to the catch-all that delivers everything to the Chronicle basement for haphazard sorting.

The publisher of "Things Will Never Be the Same: Selected Short Fiction 1980-2005" by Howard Waldrop wanted to know whether he could send a galley. I replied that, as much as I admire Waldrop's stories, I wasn't likely to review this compendium of previously collected work, and he might end up wasting postage. He sent the galley anyway.

I'm glad he did. Even though I’m not going to read "Things Will Never Be the Same," right now.

See, I’ve already read most of these stories. Written about many of them, too. Most of them are wonderful. I particularly recommend "The Ugly Chickens," "Heart of Whitenesse” and “Night of the Cooters.” As he’ll tell you himself, Waldrop is a National Treasure.

Sure, this volume features new afterwords by the author, and those are always illuminating. (In fact, there has been more than one occasion when I didn't know what the hell a Waldrop story was about until I read his explanatory endnotes.) But I can't see my way to devoting even 250 words in my column to this collection, not when there are so many other new books clamoring for attention.

I'll certainly recommend it here, though, for whatever good that does.

Just so we're clear: If this were a new Howard Waldrop novel, I'd be all over it.

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