"Darling Melisande," the Rom said tenderly, "if flesh can stop feeling, can't metal begin to feel? If anything feels, can anything else not feel? Didn't you know that the stars love and hate, that a nova is a passion, and that a dead star is just like a dead human or a dead machine? The trees have their lusts, and I have heard the drunken laughter of buildings, the urgent demands of highways..."
— from "Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?," in Store of the Worlds, by Robert Sheckley.
(That story was originally published in Playboy, and yes, the title means what you think it does.)
I've been reading the stories of Robert Sheckley since early summer. This collection, issued by NYRB Classics, has been my go-to book when I needed something short or witty or thoughtful, as a palate cleanser between books, sometimes during other books, or just because.
As I've mentioned before, the stories have a very Twilight Zone-y feel. Some of the details are dated (for example, references to Fuller Brush salesmen), but the ideas themselves are not. Some may call the prose naive, but I find it refreshingly straightforward.
I'm sorry to have finished this collection. I wish only that there might be another to get me through next year.