Moira Peckham, BFR Editor

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              As I’ve gotten older, busier, and generally more stressed, I’ve noticed something sad about myself: I seldom read for fun anymore. When I was a growing up in the truly riveting hubbub of Morro Bay, California I would make a conscious effort to sit myself down and read a gosh darn novel or even just a few short stories every week. Eventually I didn’t even have to try because reading was the most wonderful thing I could be doing. There was nothing like getting lost in someone else’s world for a few hours and, to be honest, that’s still one of the most incredible things life can offer us. When I reached college, however, I found my time increasingly taken up by technical readings for my courses in anthropology, philosophy, or whatever I was taking that semester. And let me tell you, after a week of reading Marxist theory and critiques of cultural ecology, nothing and I mean nothing sounded less appealing than sitting down with and trying to actually understand the copy of Infinite Jest that’s currently collecting dust on my book shelf. And after several months of doggedly ignoring all the books I’d been collecting, I finally realized something: I would have to force myself to read for fun or face the reality that I would only be reading technical pieces for the rest of my life. And I was not cool with the latter option.

              The first strategy I utilized to make myself read for fun was by taking an English course. English courses are a lot of work and anyone who tells you differently is wrong and probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But in spite of the work (or maybe because of it), English courses are also unbelievably rewarding. English 27: Introduction to the Study of Fiction allowed me to read seven incredible novels that I would never have picked up otherwise (as someone who reads mostly science fiction it was a trip to actually have to sit down and read Heart of Darkness for a grade but you know what it was great). I got to read amazing books for units! And write about them, which is a reward in and of itself. It was so amazing to be able to read and critically engage with literature that I never would have looked at before. Had I not taken that English course, I wouldn’t have even discovered how much I love Thomas Pynchon. So that particular experiment in forcing myself to read non-technical writings was a complete success. But alas, the summer rolled around and with it the time in which I could take classes outside of my major came to an end, so I had to think of strategy number two.

              Strategy number two was less about clever tactical course-planning and more about brute force. Amidst the balmy days of summer, my favorite author published an 880 page hard science fiction space odyssey and I vowed to finish it that summer in addition to about five other books that were burning a hole in my bookcase. So the strategy was basically to utilize my summer months to read as many books concurrently as I possibly could. I failed. But, boy, did I try. I got through probably about seven hundred pages of literature by the time summer ended just by sheer force of will, but it took me until the end of winter break that same year to finish the space odyssey. But that winter break introduced me to strategy number three: power reading.

              My first experience with power reading was with Camus’s The Stranger. If you aren’t familiar with that particular title, all you really need to know is that The Stranger isn’t that long. Maybe 160 pages, tops. One night after Christmas, I decided to read The Stranger but given my track record with actually finishing the books I start I knew that I needed to finish it all in one sitting or I wouldn’t finish it at all. So that’s what I did. It took me two and a half hours of non-stop reading but I did it. And it felt amazing. And so, I decided to try this tactic with something a little longer over spring break. (In between winter and spring break I didn’t read a single book; it was really sad.) Over the break, I went on vacation to a place with no Internet and I attribute this in part to the fact that I finished a 660 page book in four days. I was a well-oiled reading machine. I don’t think I had ever read anything as quickly and as thoroughly in my entire life. This too, is more an exercise in brute force rather than in self-control and cleverness. As of right now, however, power reading appears to be my most successful tactic for dealing with the fact that during the school year I have less and less time and drive to read for fun.

              Other strategies I’ve not tried myself but have seen others successfully employ include but are not limited to: having a book to read on your breaks at work, reading books of short stories, reading just before bed (I have tried this and fall asleep every time but other people do not), joining a literary journal (I actually do this one but some people don’t consider work fun for some reason), read poems, attempt to substitute Netflix with books at least sometimes, and many, many more!

              And perhaps this issue isn’t as universal as I feel it must be given my complete and utter lack of interest in staring at more pages full of words after spending my week doing just that, but maybe someone somewhere is struggling with this is very same thing. And if you are, hi there. I am here for you. Reading is the best and it is possible to find time to actually finish books, it just might take more effort than you’re used to. But stick with it because one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the ability to get lost, at least for a little while, inside someone else’s reality and to learn from it.

Jenna Mohl, BFR Staff

 

Steve Flinton sat in an armchair and watched the morning news. He tried to hold his tongue as he checked his watch. Again. Nine-thirty.

He had wanted to leave the hotel by eight forty-five for the museum, and the hotel stopped serving breakfast at ten. But in a family with three women—his wife and two daughters—Steve had long ago accepted waiting as an inevitable part of marriage and fatherhood.

However, in this particular instance, the waiting was longer than usual. In spite of all his meticulous planning before the trip, Steve had failed to account for one very important factor: the hotel room they were staying in for the duration of their vacation had only one bathroom.

Steve, with a growing impatience proportional to his growing hunger, listened to the ensuing struggle that was the result of this most unfortunate of circumstances.

“Kat, can you move? I need to do my makeup,” said Anna, his youngest daughter, as she tried to squeeze in between Kat, his oldest, and Lily, his wife, for a spot in front of the mirror.

Kat, who was in the process of brushing her hair, refused to budge. “I’m not done yet. I still have to use the flat iron.”

“Why? Your hair is perfectly straight already! Mom!”

Lily painstakingly separated each eyelash, never looking away from the task at hand. “Anna why don’t you use the mirror in the hall?”

Anna scrunched her nose and whined in the way that all younger siblings do when injustice arises. “Because the light is better in the bathroom. Why can’t Kat use a different outlet?”

Lily pursed her lips and rummaged through one of her many cosmetic bags until she found the right lip liner. “Fine. Kat. Use a different outlet. Your dad wants to leave, so you both better be ready in ten minutes or we’re going without you.”

“Breakfast ends in twenty five minutes,” Steve interjected. He knew his wife. When she said ten minutes, she really meant fifteen or twenty. He wisely didn’t point out the hypocrisy of Lily threatening the girls when she wasn’t ready herself.

Such prudence, however, did not extend to his oldest daughter. “Seriously, Mom? You’re still doing your makeup.”

Lily’s eyes narrowed and Steve saw the flashing sign of ‘Danger Danger Danger.’ His survival instincts kicked in and he turned the volume of the T.V. up.

Kat, however, was saved by the interruption of Anna, who once again tried to push in, whining “movveeee”.  Kat picked up the flat iron and elbowed her out of the way. “It’ll take me two minutes! Just wait, Anna!”

Seeing that she was not going to get her way and that her mother was in no mood to arbitrate, Anna took up a new tactic. “Well hurry up! Dad wants to leave.”

Yes, thought Steve. Dad does want to leave.

“You’re not even dressed yet!” Kat pointed out.

Anna stomped over to the suitcase she shared with her sister and dug through the carefully folded clothes. Returning to the bathroom, she asked, “Can I borrow your scarf?”

Kat, running the flat iron through her bangs for the last time, answered, “Yes. But remember this the next time you get mad.”

Anna rolled her eyes and looped it around her neck. “Thank you. Out of all the sisters in all the world, you’re the very, very best.”

Kat fluffed her hair one last time. “You’re being sarcastic, but it’s true. Mom.” She turned to Lily, who was putting the finishing touches on her lipstick. “Can I wear your peace sign necklace? Please?”

“I don’t know where it is in the suitcase and I don’t want you tearing through everything.” Lily glanced over at Steve, whose jaw was clenched in his effort to stay calm. “We better go before your dad has a heart attack.”

“But I haven’t done my makeup!” cried Anna.

Seeing that his wife was ready, Steve felt as though he could now impose discipline without fear. “Too bad. We’re leaving. Now.”

Anna glared at Kat. “Thanks a lot.”

“It’s not my fault. Get up earlier next time. And wear your own stuff if you’re going to be such a—”

“That’s ENOUGH!” shouted Steve.

“Honey,” said Lily, putting her hand on his arm. “Calm down. We’re going to have a good breakfast and we’re going to be pleasant. Right, girls?” she said, with a pointed look at Kat and Anna.

“Yes mama,” said Anna with affected sweetness.

“Katrina?”

“Yes” she answered begrudgingly. And so, they shuffled out of the hotel room, down to breakfast, with Steve leading the way.

 

 

Emily Jean Conway, BFR Staff

Mom is sitting on the couch again.

She’s been doing this lately. “Fishing,” she calls it, as if a little self-reflection is all the rod and line she needs to remember what is—has—been gone, going, for the past five years.

Mostly, she naps.

But when she wakes up, she’ll tell me about the lake again. Those are her favorite stories; it’s what’s made the most impression from her childhood. Lasted the longest, after school and old loves and adventures didn’t. But there’s a little less detail every time, so I remember for her—remind her of the time her uncle fell in the water one spring and kept falling in; when her brother broke a canoe in half before it’d even touched water when he was eight; the year the algae bloom cut the vacation short, the smell was so terrible; and when she was seven, she’d caught two fish with one hook and no bait. She likes that last one the best. There’s even a picture I can bring out for the occasion.

What’s better than me doing the remembering is when she remembers on her own and she tells me something new. A detail oddly specific—maybe too specific, so who knows how real it really is? There’s no one left who can say.

It’s happening less now, the remembering. But sometimes, whatever’s been submerged resurfaces, and the fog of her eyes clears. She calls me the right name, remembers I’m her “little bird.” And then she’ll talk about the news that morning and make a joke I haven’t heard in years at her own expense and it’s almost like having her back again.

More often it is that I walk in and she is staring at the wall and when she looks at me, I may as well be another piece of furniture. It’s these moments that remind me better than a schedule to take my Omega-3 and B-12; anything to stave off this decline.

But today she sees me. She smiles, at least, when I walk in. She stops looking at the wall. “Susan!” she says and beckons me over, patting the seat beside her. “Little bird, I have the best story to tell you. Do you have a second?”

“Of course, Mom,” I say and take the seat and smile. She doesn’t notice that it looks wrong. She would have before; she used to know me so well. Better than I know her now.

“You know that summer house my father, your grandfather, used to take us to? The one with the dock and that lake that looked gorgeous any time of the year? Really picturesque, I’ve heard it called. You remember? I’m sure there’s a picture around here somewhere.”

“I think you’ve mentioned it.”

Well, one of those times, I was out fishing. I was a little thing, so I wasn’t really thinking things through when I took out the rod that morning…”

Two fish this time.

Margaret Chen, BFR Staff

In supplication the queen and king had knelt at the bottom of the steps, their foreheads pressed against the cold floor. But now their heads were lifted, their necks cranked back. The queen’s heavy crown sagged into her nest of dark hair, her face appearing all the more ashen. In the king’s arms, the baby shifted sleepily to the side. Below the statues of gods, the priest stood in his ivory robes between two columns of billowing curtains, as silent as the rest.

The frieze held for no longer than a second. Having no part in the prophesy, the queen moved first, extending her graceful arms to tear past the space between her and her husband, to grab at her child. The king turned away on instinct, and the queen collapsed at his feet, anchoring herself to his leg. Her sobs echoed the hallowed room.

Ceremonial blankets shrouded the baby’s young frame. The king parted the fabric where it covered the young, squirming creature’s face and then watched it with some morbid fascination, as one would stare at a fly caught in a web. The queen’s pleas he ignored, perhaps thought them to be a crow’s call. When she clawed at his thighs and gouged out flesh, he did not flinch.

Of course, the king looked and felt disgust at the existence of such a creature. Meat wrapped in bone, more liquid than bones—human children were such soft beings. One slip of the hand: one splotch on the ground. It would not be difficult to do, not at all—the man could feel his own grip slacken then, no doubt, to a point where he could not stop the child from falling even if he tried—give in, let temptation take him by the hand, let gravity guide it to its course—let this small sacrifice secure his own mortality—

The baby must have been feeling quite chilly at this point, because it cried. The wail stuttered at first, then lengthened, piercing through the infected air. It would be surprise, more than anything, that forced the king—clean, smooth-faced, and beardless; altogether shockingly young—to wind his large hands around the baby’s delicate waist. To hold the little thing, gently, against his own chest. To listen to the boy’s screaming declaration of his own life. To feel his son’s small chest flutter with his first intakes of the world. To continue himself of this little soul’s continued existence.

Then, gone.

Then, the queen rocking the baby to her chest clear against the other side of the room—mother and son, both, sobbing blindly. Her fingers shone, wet and red, and bloody little ovals dotted all over the baby’s blanket.

Shame battered the king to the floor; he sank into his pile of white robe. The corrugated curtains above them twisted and sashayed like the dresses of those mad maidens who lived their days in the ancient legends. Together, the humans in this house of the gods breathed, in and out, in and out.

Jenna Mohl, BFR Staff

Mr. John Crumpet and Mrs. Victoria Crumpet were in the middle of breakfast on a dreary Saturday morning. Mrs. Crumpet was regaling her husband with delightful tales of social scandal, while Mr. Crumpet read the paper, tugging on his whiskers whenever he read something that vexed him, which was often.

“And then she spilled wine all down the front of Mrs. Butterston’s white dress! Isn’t that quite shocking?”

“Hmmm…yes. Indeed, dear. Quite shocking” answered Mr. Crumpet, without looking up. “Damn idiots, the lot of them” he muttered under his breath, in response to a particularly offensive article.

Mrs. Crumpet smiled as she buttered a piece of toast. “I daresay she won’t be invited to another one of their parties, which is really no loss in my opinion. She’s terribly dull.”

“Indeed, dear.” Mr. Crumpet attempted to eat a bite of egg but, as he was not looking at the table, completely missed his plate. He let out of a hum of surprise when he raised the fork into his mouth and it yielded no delicious results.

Mrs. Crumpet, taking note of her husband’s inattention, watched him over the top of her teacup. She daintily wiped her mouth with her napkin, before saying, “It all has worked out quite splendidly actually. I didn’t invite her to our party next week and was beginning to feel rather bad about it.”

Mr. Crumpet nodded his head, muttered a few “indeeds”, and took a sip of tea.

However, suddenly he began to choke. Coughing, Mr. Crumpet put down his paper and sputtered, “What do you mean our party?”

But Mrs. Crumpet, who had become very interested in the appearance of a snag in her lovely lace tablecloth, was conveniently prevented from answering by the arrival of their maid, Matilda. Matilda had served Mrs. Crumpet for years and was utterly devoted to her.

“I have a letter for you, ma’am.”

“Oh, thank you, Matilda!” Mrs. Crumpet clapped her hands upon receiving it. “Look John!” She flashed the letter towards him in such a way that would have made it impossible for anybody to actually ‘look’. Mr. Crumpet, unfortunately, could not have looked even if he wanted to, as he was still choking on his tea.

Mrs. Crumpet took no notice of the hacking coming from the other end of the table. “It’s from Lady Garda!” She opened the seal and scanned the contents of the letter, with Matilda standing just behind her chair.

Mr. Crumpet, by this time having fully recovered from his coughing fit, ventured to try again, “What do you mean—” Mrs. Crumpet held up a finger as she continued to read and Matilda shot him a silencing look.

Incredible, thought Mr. Crumpet. I am to be subject to the glares of a servant! However, worried that Matilda might see his face and know his thoughts (for though Mr. Crumpet would never admit it, he harbored a fear of his wife’s maid), Mr. Crumpet lowered his gaze and focused on a piece of bacon.

Mrs. Crumpet finished the letter and placed it next to her plate. “What does it say, ma’am?” said Matilda, at the same time Mr. Crumpet demanded, “What party?”

Mrs. Crumpet ignored the query of the latter and said “Oh! It’s wonderful news, Matilda! Lady Garda is coming and she’s bringing her two nieces with her!”

Mr. Crumpet tried to follow. “Bringing them where? Here? When?”

Matilda shared in her mistress’s excitement. “Yes, but I’m afraid we shall be short on gentlemen then, ma’am.”

“Quite right, Matilda. Perhaps I could send an invitation to the…”

Mr. Crumpet’s mouth opened and closed, like that of a fish; he watched helplessly as the conversation (and his money, for, knowing his wife, it would be no small affair) flitted further and further away from him.

Finally, he slammed his hands down on the table and thundered “Victoria!”

Matilda and Mrs. Crumpet ceased their chatter. Mrs. Crumpet waved Matilda out of the room. As she closed the door, Matilda gave Mr. Crumpet a reproachful look.

“You should not shout so, dear. It’s bad for your health,” said Mrs. Crumpet, once they were alone.

Mr. Crumpet took a breath and with effort, lowered his voice and spoke very slowly. “Victoria, my sweet, what is going on at this house— our house— next week?”

Mrs. Crumpet laughed gaily, as though this were the most hilarious question in the world. “Why, we are having guests over for dinner and dancing.”

Mr. Crumpet gave his wife a look of utter indignation and began to tug at his whiskers. “Am I to find out this way about a social gathering in my own home? A mere after thought?”

Mrs. Crumpet rolled her eyes. “Oh don’t be silly, dear. I told you about it weeks ago.”

“You most certainly did not!”

“I most certainly did!” said Mrs. Crumpet, color rising to her cheeks.

Mr. Crumpet leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms with the utmost dignity. “I heard nothing of the sort.”

Mimicking his stature and air of nonchalance, Mrs. Crumpet raised her eyebrows. “Do your ears not work? I’ve heard that’s common as one gets older.” Mr. Crumpet, as his wife well knew, was incredibly sensitive about his age.

Taking the bait, his eyes widened and he sprang forward in his chair. “I beg your pardon, Madam!”

“I said—”

“I heard very well what you said!” said Mr. Crumpet, brandishing his piece of bacon.

“Do not take that tone with me, Mr. Crumpet!” said Mrs. Crumpet, who was also now leaning forward in her chair. “It is not my fault if your ears are defective!”

“Defective you say!” Mr. Crumpet suddenly stood up, as if he were addressing an angry crowd, rather than one person. “I’ll have you know that no human ever possessed a pair of ears superior to these!” As he spoke, Mr. Crumpet alternated between gesticulating wildly with his piece of bacon and pulling his ears out on the side of his head in a manner that brought to mind a monkey. “These ears are a masterpiece of creation!”

Mrs. Crumpet narrowed her eyes at this display and curling her lip, said “Well, if your hearing is an impeccable as you seem to believe, then you should recall my informing you about this party two weeks ago!”

With a vein pulsing in his forehead, Mr. Crumpet put his hand to his head and clenched his eyes shut. “Madam, if I listened to every single trivial thing you said, I should have no time to do anything else!”

There was complete silence for half a heart beat, then hysterical sobbing as Mrs. Crumpet threw herself, face down onto the sofa in the corner.

“You are cruel, John! So cruel—You don’t understand my pain: that my thoughts and impressions should be disregarded and scorned by the person I love most— it is almost too much to bear.”

Mr. Crumpet was dumbstruck, for he found himself confronted with the one-thing men fear above all else: a crying woman.

He hesitated before sitting down on the edge of the sofa. Knowing he should perform some act of comfort, he reached down to stroke Mrs. Crumpet’s hair. However upon noticing the intricate braids, he thought better of it. He tried again to pat her shoulder, but at the last moment remembered the bacon grease on his hands and wisely reasoned that getting bacon grease on his wife’s dress was unlikely to improve the situation.

Mr. Crumpet settled for awkwardly rubbing his wife’s arm with the back of his hand. “Darling, I apologize. I spoke in anger. You know I defer to your judgment in all things.”

Mrs. Crumpet, whose face was turned towards the couch, shook her head and sniffled. “I don’t believe you.”

Distraught, Mr. Crumpet entreated his wife again. “Truly darling. I love you and my sole reason for existence is to make you happy.”

At this incredibly romantic statement, Mrs. Crumpet sat up and kissed Mr. Crumpet on the cheek. “You are too good to me John. Thank you.”

Then, wiping her suspiciously dry eyes, Mrs. Crumpet leaped from the couch and sang out, “Matilda! I need your help with the guest list!”

Mr. Crumpet watched her go. He remained seated on the couch, with a look of utter bewilderment, which morphed into one of extreme concentration as he tried to figure out what had just happened.

Hannah Harrington, BFR Managing Editor

There were hors d’oeuvres to make, kids to feed, a pool to be cleaned. There was a husband to yell at, a party to plan, and a kitchen to scrub. How am I supposed to throw this party in this heat? Simone Selke took a long inhale, wiping a bead of sweat from her brow as she opened the kitchen window, trying to beckon a draft of cool breeze into her sauna of a home. She was exhausted from this weather, having spent the last night sleeplessly shifting positions to find the coolest spot on the bed. Her husband, radiating heat, had not helped her plight.

Her husband now fought the heat on the couch, legs up, dirty feet hanging over the side with a damp rag on his forehead, eyes gazing on the flat screen ahead. Their home team was losing.  Simone turned on the faucet in the kitchen, welcoming the cold water as she loudly clanked and scrubbed the dishes in the sink thoughtfully. She wondered where the kids had run off to, but the stillness of the heat forced her to stay at her station.

“Tom, could you go out and clean the pool, please? We have guests coming over soon,” she tried to sound as gentle as possible despite the red flush on her face.

“Honey, yeah, could you get me a glass of water? The Niner’s are down by seven,” Tom hadn’t looked up from the flat screen.

Simone took another long breath and walked out of the kitchen. She heard her children, finally, running up and down the staircase, giggling and chasing each other in tireless motion. Simone felt a drop of perspiration slowly crawl down her neck, and walked towards the front door, hoping for an outside oasis. She slowly turned the knob of the front door with great effort, listening to the hinges creak as it stubbornly allowed itself to be opened. Waiting, as if for a gust of air, she stood in the gateway, disappointed as she walked onto the shade of the front porch, greeted by a still stifling swelter.

Why didn’t I wear shoes out here? She thought, angry with herself as she looked at the blackness on her feet. Yet another thing I’ll have to clean up. She closed her eyes for a moment, wishing that she had hired a cleaning service to tidy the house before the party.

“I will just clean the pool myself,” she said in a voice loud enough for her husband to hear, and sauntered back into the house. The cool marble floor brought a second of relief to her feet, but it didn’t stop Simone from glaring at her husband as she gathered the nets, the telescoping pole, and the vacuum hose from the closet near the back door.

“Simone, they’re saying that the temperatures are record breaking today!” Tom happily informed her, oblivious to her frustration. He had switched the channels, at least. She ignored him, walking behind him to the front door.

Dreading the task ahead of her, she opened the sliding glass door and took a breath of humid air. She looked at the view of the valley past her home for a moment, taking in the beauty of the blue sky against the brown hills. Still looking in the distance, she set the net in the pool, mindlessly walking around its circular edges.

Suddenly, there was a tug at her net, causing her to look in the pool for the first time. There it was, a grizzly, rubbing the net in between its massive brown paws. Stupefied, Simone set the net down, backing away slowly as she watched the bear happily swim around.

Simone walked into the living room and stood at the front of the couch, her husband finally looking at her and smiling.

“Honey, call your boss, the party’s off.”

Moira Peckham, BFR Editorial Staff

Ernest edged out of the field and onto the bare, cracked earth. The grass rustled behind him as he left it in his wake. The stone river stretched before him; the bank on the other side, shaded by poplars, shimmered under the summer sun. He put out a foot to test the water. Hot.

Too hot, really, Ernest mused. But unavoidable. The river wavered in front of his eyes. He squinted at it, shifting his head from left to right before stepping out onto it, bare feet crying at the heat.

Better be hasty. Ernest hated this part of the season. Every year the river had to be crossed, every year it was almost too hot to bear. His feet had been used to the cool earth by the pond and the shade of the grass, but now the pond was dry again and he had to cross the river. But the first step was always the hardest.

With the first step completed, Ernest felt his confidence blossom. Oh yes, he thought. This will be my fastest year yet. The sun radiated onto the skin of his back. He could feel it drying. Better be my fastest year yet. A few more steps and he trod across a particularly blistering patch of the river. The sensation made him jump. I can’t do it. I have to turn around. It’ s too much. I’m too old. His feet were growing increasingly uncomfortable now. Ernest’s breath quickened as his muscles told him to turn back. He was itching to obey. Ernest looked up to gaze at the poplars, who were sighing sweet things to him. No. No matter. I’m almost halfway there anyway.

It was true. Ernest could almost see through the poplars to where the land dipped down to the creek bed. He could almost smell the water. His skin shivered at the thought of the cool liquid. The whisper of the grass on the approaching bank invited him to move more quickly into their embrace.

Ernest complied, feet protesting as he hastened his stride. He was nearing the opposite bank. Only fifty more steps to go, he reckoned. Once he got to the other side he would be able to rest before continuing on to his spot by the creek. He almost wept at the thought. His eyes strained against the sun.

The edge of the river was fast approaching. Record time. The river shook. The river rumbled. Ernest paused and a shadow fell over him. His feet stopped hurting. The shadow moved away.


Cathy turned around in the front seat to see what had jostled under the truck, but they were already too far away to see.

“What d’you think that was?” she asked. Marcus glanced in the rear view mirror.

“I dunno. Bullfrog maybe.”

Cathy frowned, “What was it thinking? Crossing the road like that?”

“It’s a bullfrog, Cath. It wasn’t thinking anything.”

Moira Peckham, BFR Editorial Staff

I often find myself wondering why I’ve come to enjoy the things that I do. The literature that I prefer to consume occasionally has acknowledgeable intellectual or literary merit, but more often than not, it is not “capital L” literature. It’s very lowercase L. It probably has elves in it. Or spaceships. And I’m not even a little bit sorry.

I don’t know which powers-that-be decided what writing is to be valued in the modern zeitgeist, but I doubt they would approve of my choices. In my experience, the science fiction tomes that I hold so dear seldom make their way onto the shelves of classic canonical literature. There’s a strange cultural stigma surrounding the genre, the likes of which I have yet to see affect other schools of writing and their consumers in the same way. Science fiction lovers, however, are hardly the only readers to get funny looks for enjoying what they do.

It seems that no matter what one likes to consume, there will always be someone else telling them that they are incorrect for doing so. People who like sci-fi are told that there is no literary merit in their favorite genre (sometimes this is true, I won’t lie). Those who prefer to read the classics or postmodernist works are called pretentious (I have done this and I am sorry; I see the error of my ways).

And yet, although there seems to be no escaping the scorn of others when being true to your own taste, I say ignore those people who scoff at your favorite book. Don’t let others make you feel guilty or unintelligent for following your literary heart. In the long run, it’s far more fun and satisfying to accept the styles of writing that you like and roll with them than it is to consistently force yourself to consume literature that doesn’t interest you.

This being said, there is, of course, an undeniable intellectual benefit in expanding your horizons and taking in the kind of writing that you would otherwise pass by. For me this meant making myself read Jane Austen, the Brontës, and, on a particularly dark day, some James Joyce. And it’s a good thing I did too because I now know that I definitely do not like Emma but that I did enjoy Wuthering Heights. I’m still mulling over the Joyce. Go figure.

There are absolutely times in which I can feel the weight of the literary world on my shoulders, letting me know that what I’m reading doesn’t “qualify” as great writing or as something worth consuming, regardless of the intelligence or creativity that went into creating it. I choose to ignore this in favor of a more optimistic sentiment: read what you like and like what you read, regardless of who tells you not to.