Deal Me In – Week 37 Wrap Up

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Sorry for not getting this post up yesterday. I’ll blame the National Football League. :-) Below are links to new posts this week. If I’ve missed someone, please don’t hesitate to put a link in the comments. If a participant has been inactive for a while, I may not check his/her blog every week to look for activity to link to.

Dale read Graham Greene’s “Dream of a Strange Land” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/graham-greene-dream-of-a-strange-land/

Randall read George William Curtiss’s “Titbottom’s Spectacles” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/09/titbottoms-spectacles-by-george-william.html

Katherine read Janet Berliner’s “Indigo Moon” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/deal-me-in-week-37-indigo-moon-by-janet-berliner/

I read Mark Helprin’s “Perfection” http://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/perfection-by-mark-helprin/. This story was another DMI2014 “twin” as Dale posted about it also this year. If you want to revisit his take on it, it may be found at http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/perfection-by-mark-helprin/

I wanted to mention also that Randall is using the “Deal Me In machinery” to help him participate in the Ninth Annual R.I.P. Challenge. See his post at http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/08/readers-imbibing-peril-rip-ix.html for the details.

That’s it for this week. Until next time, happy reading!

 

“Perfection” by Mark Helprin

“Perfection” by Mark Helprin

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For week 37 of Deal Me In 2014 (click here for details on the “Deal Me In challenge”), I drew the five of diamonds, which corresponded to the longest “short story” on my roster. At 62 pages in my copy, I think it’s in that limbo world between short story and novella. But no matter. I enjoyed the story, which was also my first introduction to Helprin’s writing.

Perfection is the tale of Roger Reveszhe, a young boy in post- World War II New York City being raised and educated by the Rabbi’s of his community. He is a Hasidic Jew and a holocaust survivor, with particularly terrible (even in the backdrop of those events) memories. He is clearly a special boy who thinks deeply about things and is beginning to chafe against the rigor and routines of an “orthodox education.” For me, the theme that intellectual curiosity cannot be contained – it will ’find a way’ to gain expression – made the story quite enjoyable. Having led a hitherto sheltered life, when Roger learns from friends that a radio is a window to the outside world. Naturally, he seeks and finds a radio, not getting what he wanted or expected, but finding something he likes nonetheless. I this way, he first discovers that, “Evidently, the rabbis kept certain things from their students. Wonderful things. Exciting things.”

Roger finds the radio at the shop of a butcher, Mr. Schnaiper, who listens “religiously” to broadcasts of New York Yankee baseball games. The Butcher’s understanding of the game, however – gleaned solely from the audio – is incomplete and at times his misinterpretations are hilarious. He calls them the “Yenkiss” and believes they are led by a superstar named, “Mickey Mental.

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(Yankee great, Mickey Mental, er… “Mantle”)

When Roger hears Yankee Stadium referred to as “The House that Ruth Built” he immediately thinks of the Ruth of the bible, leading to more humorous situations. Roger has a young friend Luba who, not wishing to appear ignorant, bluffs about knowing what the house that Ruth built looks like, conjuring up fantastical images. When Roger sees it finally, he realizes it’s different, but “it’s close.”

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In the latter part of the story, Roger learns that the Yankees are going through a difficult seasons and, upon hearing that “Kansas City is going to kill them,” he decides to go on a sort of pilgrimage to help “Mickey Mental” save them. The story does drift into grounds a little too philosophical and supernatural for my tastes, but it was still an enjoyable ride – even if it was my first story this year that I wasn’t able to finish “in one sitting” (which is one of my favorite definitions of a short story).

I own this story as part of the collection, “The Pacific and Other Stories.”

What about you? Have you read anything by this author? What do you think of him? I have had his novel “Winter’s Tale” on my TBR list for quite a while now. Will this story finally stir me to action and make me pick it up…?

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Deal Me In – Week 36 Wrap Up

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New Deal Me In Posts This Week:

Randall shares a funny(!) tale from Edgar Allan Poe, “The Angel of the Odd” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-angel-of-odd-by-edgar-allan-poe.html

James reads Haruki Murakami’s “The Year of Spaghetti” and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Arrangers of Marriage”http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/09/02/haruki-murakami-vs-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie/

Dale tries on Junot Diaz for the first time, with that author’s story, “Edison, New Jerseyhttp://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/junot-diaz-edison-new-jersey/

Katherine read Raymond Feitz’s “Geroldo’s Incredible Trick” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/deal-me-in-week-36-geroldos-incredible-trick/

I read Nikolai Gogol’s signature story, “The Cloak

https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/the-cloak-by-nikolai-gogol/

Other Short Story-related links:

Are short stories “annoying buzzing insects set upon this world” to distract writers from longer works? Interesting article. http://www.locusmag.com/Roundtable/2014/09/anton-strout-guest-post-the-eternal-epic-struggle-of-novels-vs-short-stories/

Nice interview with Margaret Atwood (I love her) and her new short story collection. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/qa-margaret-atwood-on-her-new-collection-stone-mattress-maddaddam-and-how-to-kill-a-man-in-the-arctic/article20375640/?page=all

I particularly liked the following quote from her:

“I talk about money and artistic excellence and there’s only four forms: There’s a good book that makes money, there’s a bad book that makes money, there’s a good book that doesn’t make money, and there’s a bad book that doesn’t make money. So of those four, the first three I can live with.” :-)

Margaret Atwood

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Another review of the upcoming Atwood release is at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-stone-mattress-by-margaret-atwood-book-review-these-short-stories-are-razor-sharp-9700477.html

I’m a big fan of this series and it has contributed many stories to my Deal Me In short story decks. The 2014 edition comes out next month. http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/review-best-american-short-stories-2014-exhibits-writing-storytelling-best-blog-entry-1.1923816

The Cloak by Nikolai Gogol

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(A Russian card for a Russian story)

I may have pulled a muscle in my arm this weekend from patting myself on the back for my decision, when putting together my roster for Deal Me In 2014, to dedicate the clubs suit to “stories by Russian authors.” :-) After drawing the Ace of Clubs this week, I’m now 9 out of 9 in picking great stories from that suit!

This was only the second work by Nikolai Gogol (below) that I’ve read. (I tackled his story, “St. John’s Eve” back in May. https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/st-johns-eve-by-nikolai-gogol/

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I knew of this story, The Cloak, by reputation but knew nothing of the plot. It reminded me a little of Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” in that its protagonist, Akakiy Akakievitch Bashmatchkin, is a minor official/apparatchik in the Russian government, whose primary duty is to copy letters and other official documents. Already rendered vulnerable by fate’s having allotted him a timid nature and now a low-paying job, he seems primed to be toppled by the next blow that the great forces of the world decide to deal him…

Gogol writes: “There exists in St. Petersburg a foe of all who receive a salary of four-hundred rubles a year, or there-abouts. This foe is no other than the Northern cold, although it is said to be very healthy.”

You see, Akakiy’s old and humble cloak has become threadbare and his daily journeys to and from his office are taking their toll on his nearly exposed back and shoulders. A tailor refuses to mend it “there’s nothing to sew a patch to…” and a new coat is beyond his means. The story takes many twists and turns as Akakiy tries to resolve his situation. I’m afraid it is a sad story, but it has its share of surprises and is thick with quotable lines and dialogue. If you’d like to read it yourself, it’s available online at http://www.classicreader.com/book/2026/1

(The story’s title is often translated as The Overcoat. This title makes more sense to me)

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Have you read any of Gogol’s stories? Which are your favorites?

Top Ten Tuesday – Who’s at Your Lunch Table?

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Top Ten Tuesday is a popular meme hosted by the readers blog, “The Broke and the Bookish.” This week’s theme, in honor of it being ‘back to school season’ in most parts, is “Top ten book characters that would be sitting at my lunch table.” It’s an interesting list to ponder – who would be in your clique? For economy’s sake, I limited my choices to books I’ve read the past couple years. I’ve also kept it evenly distributed, gender-wise, and have a “boy-girl-boy-girl” format. I’ve also skewed my list to the relative outcasts, yet outcasts with great potential or of great inner strength. I’ve also imagined these characters as high-school aged, even if they weren’t so in the books where I met them. Here goes.

 

1. Diggory Venn (of Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy)
Bonus points if you recognize this name, one of the great underrated characters of classic literature. He would be a loyal table-mate and the rest of us could help him through his pining over some other girl in school that is unattainable (like he did for Thomasin Yeobright in Return of the Native)

(below: actor Steven Mackintosh as Diggory Venn (aka “The Reddleman”)  in the Hallmark Channel’s adaptation of “Return of the Native”)

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2. Dellarobia Turnbow (from Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior”)
Dellarobia would add an edginess to our table, and I also suspect I would secretly like her but be afraid to tell her. She would also be a bridge between our table and cool kids’ tables. Some the cool boys would chase after her, but she would likely not give the the time of day.
3. John Eames (from Anthony Trollope’s “The Small House at Allington”
Bonus points again if you’ve heard of this character. A quintessential, good-hearted nerd (or “hobbledehoy” as Trollope describes him), we’d welcome him to our group.
4. Nao (from Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the a Time Being)
Nao and John would be a standard-bearers for the tables nerd quotient. I think Nao might occasionally bring cookies or some other treat from her Grandmother that she would share with the table. I hope she would, anyway.
5. Henry Tilney (from Jane Auaten’s Northanger Abbey”) We’ve got to have some popular kid representation at our table too. And he’s very well-read, so we’d have great discussions,
6. Cinder (from Marissa Myers’ “Lunar Chronicles”
Hey, our table is an equal opportunity table. Cyborgs are welcome too! (Although you quickly forget that she’s a cyborg when you get to know her)
7. Tyrion Lannister (from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series)
Duh! Tyrion would make an awesome table-mate, and would I’m sure add a healthy component of mischief to our group’s activities. Plus he would keep us in stitches with his sense of humor, and I suspect he would also know how to get us alcohol on the weekends. He’s a reader too!

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8. Lettie Hempstock (from Neil Gaiman’s “Ocean at the End of the Lane”)
With so many “outcasts” at our table we’re sure to encounter an occasional “attempted bullying” or two. They’d be no match for Lettie and her “powers.”
9. Tertius Lydgate (from George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” which I’m currently reading)
“Mr. Lydgate” (I suspect even in high school we might call him this) would be the one in our group thinking about the future and helping us to keep our “eyes on the prize.”
10. Juliette (from Hugh Howey’s “Wool”)
I’m sure our cell-phones and other gadgets would occasionally go on the fritz. Thankfully, Juliette could probably fix any technical problems during the space of a forty-minute lunch period. :-)

That’s my table. What about yours? Is it all the way on the other side of the cafeteria? Do any of table-mates share some of their time at your table? Who do we have in common?

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Deal Me In – Week 35 Wrap Up

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Greetings to all as we pass the 2/3rds-way point of Deal Me In 2014. I hope everyone is continuing to enjoy the one story per week habit!

NEW DEAL ME IN POSTS

Dale returns to Herman Melville, reading his story (actually more of a novella) “Benito Cerenohttp://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/herman-melville-benito-cereno/

Randall’s three of diamonds led him to Alice Walker’s story, “Everyday Use” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/08/everyday-use-by-alice-walker.html

Katherine read Neil Gaiman’s “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” and shares with us a video of “the artist’s dream illusion http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/deal-me-in-week-35-the-goldfish-pool-and-other-stories/

I read Annie Proulx’s “The Half-Skinned Steer” and posted about it here yesterday.

Other links of possible interest:

Interesting article about the commercial viability of the short story in MacLean’s. And I see Margaret Atwood has a new collection coming out next month! Yippee! :-)

http://www.macleans.ca/culture/books/short-stories-are-beautiful-but-will-they-sell/

A new collection of Neil Gaiman stories is coming out in early 2015 http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/376972/lifestyle/literature/neil-gaiman-to-release-third-short-story-collection-in-early-2015

Two short story collections made the Daily News’ “ten books to pack for Labor Day” list: http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/packing-labor-day-10-greatest-books-time-bring-blog-entry-1.1917681

The Half-Skinned Steer by Annie Proulx

For week 35 of Deal Me In 2014, I drew the queen of spades from my short story deck.

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Not one of my favorite stories of this year’s Deal Me In, this story deals with the return “home” (to Wyoming) of an 83-year old man, Mero. The purpose of his journey? To attend his brother Rollo’s funeral. Mero grew up on a ranch which has since been transformed to “The Outback in Wyoming” featuring animals from Australia including, unfortunately for Mero’s deceased brother, Emus.

Mero’s trek across the country (in his Cadillac!) presents much opportunity for retrospection and self-examination for a man nearing the end of life. By the time he reaches Wyoming, he’s on his second Cadillac (there was a traffic mishap in Iowa) and has encountered a nasty snowstorm. One gets the feeling this might not end well for Mero.

(Below: Illustration from The Atlantic Monthly, where this story was first published)

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Interwoven with the current day story is a flashback to the story of a half-skinned steer, which adds a supernatural element to the tale. If you’ve gotta know the truth, I didn’t quite get the deeper meaning of this story within the story. In my post-reading research I learned that the story of the half-skinned steer is adapted from an Icelandic folktale called “Porgeir’s Bull,” which among its themes includes the concept of revenge of nature against man. This story makes more sense in that light.

Annie Proulx – perhaps now most known for her work, “Brokeback Mountain” – is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and another of her stories (“Heart Song”) was featured in a post by fellow Deal Me In participant Hanne back in January. http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/heart-songs-by-annie-proulx/

This story is available to read online at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/11/the-half-skinned-steer/306168/?single_page=true

(Below Annie Proulx in 2009 )

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Deal Me In – Week 34 Wrap Up

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Since tomorrow is the “regularly scheduled” wrap up post for week 35, I guess I’d better finally post week 34’s… :-). (Sorry, I’ve had a really busy week)

Links to week 34 Deal Me In Posts:

Bellezza takes us to Japan with the story Rashomn by Ryunosuke Akutagawa http://www.dolcebellezza.net/2014/08/roshomon-by-ryunosuke-akutagawa.html

Dale read Conrad Aiken’s “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” and shares his thoughts at http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/conrad-aiken-silent-snow-secret-snow/

Randall tackled Stephen Leacock’s “Who Do you Think Did It” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/08/who-do-you-think-did-it-by-stephen.html

Katherine read “The N Auntie” by Anne McCaffrey http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/deal-me-in-week-34-the-n-auntie/

I read Andre Gide’s “Return of the Prodigal Son” (recommend by HKatz of Sill of the World) but haven’t finished a post on it yet.

Some Other Short Story Links

This one might interest Dale and James and other Capote readers: http://heavenali.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/truman-capote-a-summer-readathon-six-short-stories-2/

YA short story recommendations: http://odearylibrary.com/book-lists/great-ya-short-stories/

Deal Me In – Week 33 Wrap Up

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THIS WEEK’S DEAL ME IN POSTS:

Following are links to our group’s postings this week:

James reads Raymond Chandler’s “Trouble is My Business” and George Orwell’s essay “Marrakech” his post is at http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/08/13/george-orwell-vs-raymond-chandler-2/

Dale shares with us a lesser know story from the creator of Walter Mitty, posting about James Thurber’s “University Days” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/james-thurber-university-days/

Randall’s finally heads south, posting about Carson McCullers’ “Sucker” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/08/sucker-by-carson-mccullers.html

Katherine visits The Barnum Museum once more, sharing the penultimate remaining Steven Millhauser story in her deck, “Alice, Fallinghttp://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/deal-me-in-week-33-alice-falling/

I wrote about two stories, “Class of 1990″ by Rebecca Emin and “The Bell in the Fog” by Gertrude Atherton. I’m going to stop linking to my own posts since you can “just scroll down” and you’re already at my blog. :-)

My use of the word “penultimate” above reminded me of one of my favorite cartoons, that I think first appeared in The New Yorker. Any excuse to share…

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IN OTHER SHORT STORY NEWS:

George R.R. Martin a short story writer? http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/game-of-thrones-author-george-rr-martin-reveals-hes-tempted-to-publish-neverbeforeseen-writing-9674262.html

Though not a Deal Me In post, regular DMI contributor James’s following entry is certainly worth a look: http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/08/15/a-short-story-review-anthology-hemingway-williams-babel-alexie-cunningham-paley-murakami-kinsella/

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe (now 25) stars in the series “A Young Doctor’s Notebook” – an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s short stories http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/television/gail-pennington/daniel-radcliffe-wizard-poet-doctor-actor/article_cd739684-53b3-5a52-b2d0-8eb2a895152a.html

P.S. I’ll be off-line almost all of next weekend (Indianapolis Open Chess Tournament – Nerd Alert!) so my week 34 wrap up post will certainly be delayed. :-)

Gertrude Atherton’s “The Bell in Fog”

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For week 31 of my Deal Me In short story challenge (yes, I’m playing a little catch-up), I selected the King of diamonds, which corresponded to this story. Atherton is one of several authors that I’ve learned of through Paula Cappa’s excellent blog and her weekly Tuesday’s Tale of Terror feature. I don’t think she’s covered this particular story, but Atherton has come up at least once that I remember Based on Paula’s preferred type of story, I was expecting my pick to be a supernatural delight. In that I was “disappointed” since there isn’t a major supernatural element in it. I also was left grumbling a little at its “unsatisfying” (to me, anyway) ending, but oh, the writing! Atherton is an author I’ll revisit time and again I’m sure.

(Below: Gertrude Atherton)

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***minor spoilers follow***
The Bell in the Fog is the story of Ralph Orth, an accomplished and much respected author, who inherits the English estate (Chillingsworth) of his great-aunt. He quickly becomes enamored of the newfound pleasures of life at this estate, and is particularly charmed by two old family portraits, a young boy and a young girl. The girl’s portrait enchanted him in particular:

“She was angelically fair, and, young as she was – she could not have been more than six years old – her dark-blue eyes had a beauty of mind which must have been remarkable twenty years later. Her pouting mouth was like a little scarlet serpent.”

He speculates about what must have become of the children. Of the girl, he muses:

“‘Did she live to grow up, I wonder?’ he thought. ‘She should have made a remarkable, even a famous woman, with those eyes and that brow, but – could the spirit within that ethereal frame stand the enlightenments of maturity? Would not that mind – purged, perhaps, in a long probation from the dross of other existences – flee in disgust from the commonplace problems of a woman’s life? Such perfect beings should die while they are still perfect.'”

His investigations into who the children were yield imperfect results, with one questioned sighing that “I’m afraid the painter was their only biographer.” It was upon Orth’s return from one of his investigations that I fell in love with Atherton’s writing:

“The next night, as his train travelled over the great wastes of Lancashire, a thousand chimneys were spouting forth columns of fire. Where the sky was not red it was black. The place looked like hell. Another time Orth’s imagination would have gathered immediate inspiration from this wildest region of England. The fair and peaceful counties of the south had nothing to compare in infernal grandeur with these acres of flaming columns. The chimneys were invisible in the lower darkness of the night; the fires might have leaped straight from the angry caldron of the earth.”

Surely this description was born of Atherton’s own experience during a nighttime rail trip in the region. I can almost picture her in my mind’s eye, gazing out the train window, observing and noting a scene that would find its way into her writing.

But, getting back to the story, Orth is also a writer, and a talented one might bring the children into existence again – in a way at least. He makes them the subject of a new novel, and finds new creative energy. He becomes rather obsessed with the portraits of the children and his imaginings of what they would be like. He begins to think of them as his own and occasionally it was only “with an effort that he sometimes humorously reminded himself that another man had fathered them,and that their little skeletons were under the choir of the chapel.”

After living “two months in his fool’s paradise” he begins to acknowledge to himself that he’s becoming a bit too obsessed, but then on one of his habitual, long daily walks (“England seems to cry out to be walked upon.”) he encounters a young girl who appears to be “the original of the portrait” with which he has become obsessed!

It turns out the girl he meets is no spirit, but a coincidentally similar-looking American girl, whose mother is visiting a local family. Orth’s obsession is transferred to the living girl for whom he wishes to provide “infinite opportunities” (thankfully his interest in her is seemingly platonic and not too “creepy” – “The paternal was all he had to give, but that was hers forever.”) and even wants to adopt her. Will he possibly be able to convince her mother to allow this?

Read this story online at: http://www.online-literature.com/gertrude-atherton/bell-in-the-fog/1/

Have you heard of or read anything by Gertrude Atherton? Do you care to share any recommendations? What great “tales of obsession” have you encountered in your literary travels? Do share…

Playing card image from playingcardcollector.net

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