The Doors of His Face, The Lamp of His Mouth – Roger Zelazny

Before I say anything else, how about that title, eh?

I don’t read a lot of short stories. I find them hard to get into, often because by the time I finally do get into the swing of the story’s style, the story ends. I am a much bigger fan of the novel, and pretty often the longer the better. But that is just a little bias I carry with me. But I for some reason write a lot of short stories, and I figure I should really be consuming a lot more of them.

I didn’t pick this up arbitrarily either. This book is cited by a whole lot of very respectable authors as being among their favorite short story collection – Sam Delany and Neil Gaiman come to mind. I don’t recall if either of them ever bothered to elaborate on why they thought so, but it was endorsement enough for me to read the collection.

I didn’t just read the damn thing. I actually transcribed the whole thing into a separate notebook. It’s a project I have had going for about five years now with various books of short stories, and it affords me a pretty intimate knowledge with books of short stories and their author’s. And get intimate I did. I was struck by the amount of tonal and stylistic variety within the book, which is something I normally tend to dislike. The fact that I approached the book so utterly slowly probably made me digest this a lot better. Again, I don’t actually read a whole lot of short story collections, but one that comes to mind is Sam Delany’s excellent collection Aye, and Gomorrah which is a little more consistent in nature. It’s a flavor I like, so much so that I could eat it by the bucketful, but it does feel like just one flavor. Zelazny gave us a little bit more – some stories are thoughtful, others are quirky, one is even humorous. They weren’t that different, and I did come away with it all thinking that I certainly knew what it meant to have a certain Zelaznian flavor to something, but I did appreciate the differences when I found them.

The appreciation stems from my being able to handle them at all, as a person who has a bit of a hard time getting into reading doesn’t like his flow interrupted when he does. Getting as intimate as I did with these stories made that a little more bearable. But do these stories deserve the acclaim I have heard so many others put on them? I am likely not the best judge, but I would hazard that they don’t. Every story in the aforementioned Aye, and Gomorrah is burned into my memory. Now, just a bit after finishing this book up, I don’t really recall all the stories here.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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