Yeah, I was too lazy to stop reading and post a few more check-ins or updates yesterday, but this did allow me to finish my 24 stories. I’ll try to do some ultra-brief summaries of the last fifteen and some overall thoughts. As you may recall from my last few posts, I’m applying the “deal me in” apparatus to randomize my reading order of the stories, and since there were 24, I used a euchre deck. I also rated them by the ranks of trump in a game of euchre, corresponding to #of stars in traditional reviewing.
(I love these cards)
Story #10. ♣J♣ Jack of Clubs How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials – M.Y. Saltykov
Nice bit of satire from another Russian author I hadn’t read before. Two snooty “officials” find themselves somehow stranded on an island and realize they have no idea how to take care of themselves without the supporting apparatus of the state. Fortunately for them, they find a Muzhik (peasant) and are able to fall back to their old idle ways. My rating: Ace (=3.5 stars)
Story #11 ♦K♦ King of Diamonds – Rust and Bone – Craig Davidson
This story was the “find” of the Readathon at the time I read it. An aging boxer tells us the story of how his life came to this. Just a great story well told and great writing, like the following, when a younger version of the fighter is driving south of the border for an “underground” fight: “June bugs hammered the windshield, exoskeletons shattering with a high tensile sound, bodies bursting in pale yellow riots.” My rating: Right Bower (=5 stars)
Story #12 ♦J♦ Jack of Diamonds – Christopher Hitchens – Vanessa Veselka
Not my favorite. An exploration of hunanity’s addiction to faith and whether or not it might be “cured” somehow. My rating: Queen (=2.5 stars)
Story #13 ♠10♠ Ten of Spades – The Tale of the Three Apples Finally a story from The Arabian Nights! The hand of fate had teased me thus far in not drawing any “spades.” This tale (an early one, told during the 19th night of the Thousand and one) had plenty of classic folk/fairy tale characteristics – multiple misunderstandings, some acted upon quickly and without mercy. E.g. someone you don’t know tells a tale that implacates your wife? Better kill her and cut her into 19 pieces. Don’t give her a chance to explain herself or verify the story! Not a bad start for spades. My rating: Ace
Story #14 ♦9♦ Nine of Diamonds – His Footsteps are Made of Soot – Nik Korpon
Largely incomprehensible (to me) story to me. Maybe I read it at the wrong time. A surgical assistant of some kind in a run-down future world(?) tries to improve his station and that of his invalid mother(?)
Story #15 ♥9♥ Nine of Hearts – The Discovery of Telenapota – Premendra Mitra
Saturday afternoon I had to get out of the house and ended end up reading for awhile at the Central Library in downtown Indy, then headed over to “The Tap” for a bite to eat and a couple beers. I was by myself so had my kindle with me and got some more reading in. Maybe it was the atmosphere or an incipient buzz from my high %ABV beer selections but this story blew me away and actually moved me (rare for me). This story (and author) was the discovery of the Readathon for me. I even reread it I mmediately upon finishing. “Finding Telenapota is not all that easy… From your familiar world you will enter another. An unknown mist-clad universe, bereft of all feeling. Time will stop dead in its tracks.” And “Ruins of deserted palaces will gleam in the phantom moonlight. Lone colonnades, broken arches, the debris of courtyard walls. A ruined temple somewhere further down. They will stand like litigants, waiting in the futile hope, for the recording of some evidence in the court of time. You will try to sit up. A strange sensation will once again make you feel as if you have left behind the world of the living and entered a phantom universe peopled only by memories. The night will be far gone. It will seem an endless dark in which everything lies stilled, without genesis or end. Like extinct animals preserved in museums for all time.” And I thought stories told in the second person weren’t supposed to be any good… My rating: Easily a right bower (=5 stars!)
Story #16 ♠Q♠ Queen of Spades – The Hermits
My second Arabian Nights (from the 148th night) tale, and not as good as the first one. These stories seem full of Allah testing and tempting his followers. This time with a beautiful woman, “Go out from me, O woman deceitful and perfidious! I will not incline to thee or approach thee. I want not thine company or wish for union with thee; he who coveted hthe coming life renounceth thee, for thou seduceth mankind, Those of past time and those of present time.” Gee whiz. Misogyny anyone? My rating: Queen.
Story #17 ♦Q♦ Queen of diamonds – Sunshine for Adrienne – Antonia Crane
There was nothing sunny about this story, from The New Black anthology. featuring a woman with a traumatic past and a drug-addicted present, it illustrates that, even though misfortune may befall those who once harmed you, that does not necessarily clear a path for you to recovery. My rating: King
Story #18 ♣Q♣ Queen of clubs – The Servant – S.T. Semyonov
Another solid entry from the Russian writers. “Gerasim” is a man out of work and becoming desperate. He begs a shady friend of his to find him a position in his master’s household. How far is he willing to go to get a job? Will he take one at the expense of someone else? Is he that desperate yet? My rating: Ace
Story #19 ♣K♣ King of Clubs – The Signal – Vsevolod Garshin
The struggles of our Russian protagonists to find work continue in this story. Two laborers, though they have basically the same job for the railroad, view their lots in life differently. One is disgruntled, the other happy. Will the happy one be able to keep the other out of trouble or for causing harm to innocents? Maybe not,but in the end he receives help from an unexpected quarter. My rating: Left Bower (4 stars)
(above: interesting that the “Deal Me In Gods” put Lennon & McCartney together…)
Card #20 ♠A♠ Ace of Spades – The Caliph Omar Bin Al-Kattab and the Young Badawi
Pretty forgettable tale from night #396 out of 1,001. At least it had a good ’moral of the story’: “Who doth kindness to men shall be paid again; ne’er is kindness lost betwixt God and men.” My rating: King
Card #21 ♠K♠ King of Spades – The Man Whole Stole the Dish of Gold Wherein the Dog Ate
The jobless, poor, and panhandling have migrated from my Russian stories to Arabia. This protagonist benefits from the kindness of one of the dogs owned by a rich man, and his fortune turns around when the dog gives him a golden bowl. His ascendancy runs concurrently with the fall from fortune of the rich man. Not bad, but nothing too special. My rating: King
Card #22 ♥Q♥ Queen of Hearts – The Vegetable Man – Luigi Ugolini
My last entry from “The Weird” anthology. The title says it all, a man is “bitten” by a plant in Brazil’s Mato Grosso, and begins to change into something more to a herbivore’s tastes… My rating: King
Card #23 ♠9♠ Nine of Spades – The Hunchback’s Tale -Arabian Nights
Probably the best of my Arabian Nights stories. a farce worthy of any of the more modern writers in that style. A man invites a hunchback/dwarf (?) into his home, and his guest dies an “accidental” death, choking on a piece of fish (though his host is really to blame, as it seems to amuse him to try to cram the food down the poor man’s throat(!)) Anyway, fearing trouble with the law, he leaves the dwarf at the house of a doctor, who stumbles into the body at the top of some stairs, sending it tumbling down and leading HIM to think HE has killed him, the poor corpse makes a couple more stops before his journey mercifully ends. My rating: Ace
Card #24 ♠J♠ Jack of Spades – The Prior Who Became a Moslem
Seems conversion in the days of the Arabian Nights is only as good as the latest “miracle” you’ve seen. Oh, and I used the “moslem” spelling from the Richard Burton translation that I read. Better than Musselman which I’ve seen used in other older translation.
GENERAL THOUGHTS ON MY 2016 #24in48 READATHON EXPERIENCE
I’m afraid the only way I’m going to be able to read for a lot of hours in a short time is if I can switch things up fairly often, and reading short stories allows me to do this. I kind of felt this readathon was like “Speed Dating for Readers/Authors” – spend a little time with one, note some impressions and move on. After it’s over, look back and “let them know” which authors you might like to see again and hope “they felt the same way about me” too. For this batch, I definitely want to read more by Premendra Mitra and Craig Davidson. I also want to continue my exploration of The Arabian Nights, and I suspect my subconscious is already working on some type of challenge/reading order randomization based on the night (of the 1,001) that the tales were told. You may not have heard the last from me on this. My confidence in the Russian writers was also reaffirmed and I was happy to read five authors this time that I hadn’t read before. Vsevolod Garshin’s The Signal made me want to seek out other work by him. Thanks to the #24in48 readathon, I’ve now finished up two anthologies, both of which I heartily recommend: “The New Black” and “Best Russian Short Stories” compiled and edited by Thomas Seltzer. You could do a lot worse than these two if you’re looking for some great short story reads.
Well, that wraps things up for me. I hope everyone enjoyed the #24in48 readathon as much as I did. How did YOU do with your reading? Did you follow along on Twitter too? I enjoyed the chatter there marked with the 24in48 hashtag. Can’t wait for the next readathon.