Anyone following my Short Story Mondays could tell you, I like reading free stories. In my weekly Internet scours, I've come across many, many wonderful yarns without ever having paid a cent.
So when I was planning my trip to New Orleans and trying to load up the old Sony eReader for the long flight south I was thrilled to find a free version of Louis Maistros's Anti-requiem, New Orleans Stories. Unfortunately, this was a case of getting my money's worth.
Some of the earlier stories weren't without appeal. "New Orleans, December 24, 1994" is a charming story about a musician, recently moved to NO, who ends up playing on the streets in front of St. Peter's Cathedral alongside some homeless characters and finding a sense of belonging and peace. That story contrasts remarkably well with the following story, "Gleeby Rhythm is Born," which could be a a Stephen King short, about body art taken to a shocking degree.
But soon the few good stories and my tourist attraction to the them (St. Peter's Cathedral? Hey, I know where that is!) were overwhelmed by the preachy essays and poorly written stories that came next. Looking back at all my stylus-scrawled notes across the pages, I see "trite," "clumsy," "out of place," and other negative comments vastly overshadowing the positive.
But what I think really did the book in for me were the excerpts. Way too many of the so-called stories weren't stories at all, but excerpts from Maistros' novel The Sound of Building Coffins. Excerpts are not short stories and I wish publishers would get that through their heads. Short stories should work on their own. These didn't. While I like the idea of reading a short story to get a sense of an author's writing before buying a novel, I hate excerpts. I still want a sense of completion after all. I'll read a blurb or a back cover synopsis before an excerpt. If the aim of offering this assortment was to sell The Sound of Building Coffins, I'm afraid I'm even less likely to buy it now than I was before.