#24in48 Readathon – Final Check-in

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.:-)

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(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(?)

Group #4

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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)

Group Five

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(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.

#24in48 Readathon – 2nd Check-in

A really fun day of reading is winding down for me in my #24in48 efforts. So far I’ve read 15 of my 24 planned short stories and am more or less on pace to finish 24 by tomorrow evening. I’ve discovered some great new authors and been really blown away by two of the stories. For now, though, I’m here to update you on my second group of stories. So here goes…

Card #5 ♥10♥ ten of hearts – “The Dissection” by George Heym

Actually a very powerful story even though it was quite short. Written in 1913, it explores the question of how quickly ones “soul” or essence leaves one’s physical body after death. It graphically follows a team of autopsy-doers as they get busy with their work: “From their white cabinets they took out dissecting instruments, white crates full of hammers, saws with sharp teeth, files, hideous sets of tweezers, tiny knives with large needles like vultures’ crooked beaks forever screaming for flesh.” My rating: Left Bower (=4 stars)

Card #6: ♥J♥ Jack of Hearts – “Salamander” by Mercè Rodoreda

Kind of interesting story about a woman whose affair with a married man in her village leads to the unexpected backlash of her being labeled a witch by the townsfolk. Burning at the stake, transmogrification – this story had it all, but I never quite connected with it. Reminded me a little of the (superior) Katherine Vaz story, Journey of the Eyeball. My rating: King (=3 stars)

Card #7 ♦A♦ Ace of Diamonds –  “That Baby” by Lindsay Hunter

Quite the disturbing macabre story of a baby that grows at an “accelerated” rate and surely must be evil. Wasn’t the story I was in the mood for when I read it this morning, but as a representative of the horror genre, it got the job done. My rating: Ace (=3.5 stars)


Card #8 ♣A♣ Ace of Clubs –  “Vanka” by Anton Chekhov

One of my least favorite of all the Chekhov stories that I’ve read, this is the heartbreaking story of the orphan, Vanka, who seizes the opportunity of his “master” being gone to write a letter to his grandfather pleading – no, BEGGING – to allow him to come live with with him and be delivered from his horrible existence. Seems to me there is a key flaw in his plan, however… I particularly enjoyed Chekhovs description of the Grandfather’s dog: “Viun was an unusually friendly and civil dog, looking as kindly at strangers as his master’s, but he was not to be trusted. Beneath his deference and humbleness was hid the most inquisitorial maliciousness. No one knew better than he how to sneak up and take a bite at a leg.” My rating: Ace

Card #9 ♦10♦  ten of diamonds –  “The Etiquette of Homicide” by Tara Laskowski

Another brief story, this one from The New Black anthology. It presents a clinical, almost “Employee Handbook-like” view of the guidelines for a hit man. I appreciated the concept bu didn’t really connect with this one either. My rating: King


(I know I should try to find some connection between the quoted lyrics on the cards and the stories I assigned them to, but I’m too tired tonight. Maybe tomorrow.)

How about YOU? How is your #24in48 reading coming along? Are you following the 24in48 hashtag on Twitter? That’s been one of the most entertaining parts of my day.:-)

#24in48 Readathon – 1st Check-in

I started the Readathon late last night and made it through my first four stories. If you read my last post, you know my goal this year is to not (necessarily) read 24 HOURS but to read 24 short stories in the 48 hours. I’ve assigned each story to a card in a euchre deck of cards (not familiar with euchre? See here: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/the-basics-of-playing-euchre.html ) My list of stories and suit themes may be found in my last post too.

I’ll try to do my twentyfour stories in five groups. One of four (corresponding to the “widow” in euchre) and then four groups of five, corresponding to the four players’ hands in a hand of euchre. Let’s get started with the widow:

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(Above: I’m using my legends of Rock-n-Roll playing cards for this Readathon. How appropriate I got started on this crazy train with Ozzy Osborne…)

First card (turned up at the start of the game): ♥A♥ Ace of Hearts.

The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles by Margaret St. Clair

A truly creepy story (appropriately found in The Weird anthology) where most of the work is left to the reader himself. What/Who exactly are the Gnoles? Why do they have need of “cordage” and why do they have “fattening pens” in their cellar? Early in the story we are told that, “In the cellars from time to time someone would scream.” My rating: King (=3 stars)

Next ♣9♣ (nine of clubs) The Revolutionist by Mikhail Artzybashev
Gabriel Anderson is a teacher who, on an early spring morning walk, stumbles onto a military patrol about to perform an execution of three of its detachment. Anderson ducks for cover before he is seen, but the event scars him and leads to his later becoming a “revolutionist” himself. Beautiful writing in this one, especially when describing the Russian springtime as it encroaches on the landscape after the ravages of winter. My rating: Ace (=3.5 stars)

Third Card: ♥K♥ King of Hearts – Genius Loci by Ashton Smith
My first (noticed) coincidence. Just like last year’s #24in48, with Margaret Atwood’s story “Lusus Naturae”  I learn a new Latin term. Genius Loci refers to “the prevailing character or atmosphere of a place”. Do you believe a certain spot can have an evil character? This story’s narrator didn’t at first, but, by the end of the story… My rating: King (3 stars)

Fourth Card: ♣10♣ ten of clubs – Hide and Seek – Fyodor Sologub

My favorite of this first “round.” A doting young mother, neglected by a cold an unemotional husband, obsesses with playing hide and seek with her young child, Lelechka. An old peasant woman tells the child’s nurse that it’s a bad omen the child loves to play hide and seek so much: “She’ll hide, and hide, and hide away…” said Agathya in a mysterious whisper. This story didn’t head quite the way I expected it to at first, but boy did it pack an emotional wallop. My rating: Left Bower (=4 stars)

Well, that’s where I am as of almost 9am Saturday morning. How is your #24in48 progressing along? Any great discoveries so far?

Another Challenging Weekend Ahead: #24in48 meets Deal Me In (Part II)

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I had such fun with my twist for last year’s #24in48 Readathon that I’ve decided to repeat my approach this year. My goal is to read 24 stories in 48 hours rather than read an actual 24 hours out of the 48 (although I may try to do this too as I have some required book club reading that is looming large…)

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As the host of the annual Deal Me In short story challenge, I’m going to let the luck of the draw again decide the order in which I read my 24 stories. I’ll be using a euchre deck and, also like last year, will be rating my stories not with a number of “stars” but with the rank of trump in a game of euchre e.g. a “right bower” rating is a five-star read. I probably explained this method better last year, so take a peek HERE if you want to see that.:-)

Here are my suits and stories:

Clubs – Russian Stories (I devoted clubs to Russian stories once in a prior year’s Deal Me In Challenge and it was one of the best decisions I ever made)

♣9♣- The Revolutionist – Mikhail Artzybashev

♣10♣- Hide and Seek – Fyodor Sologub

♣Q♣- The Servant – S.T. Semyonov

♣K♣- The Signal – Vsevolod Garshin

♣A♣- Vanka – Anton Chekhov

♣J♣- How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials – M.Y. Saltykov

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Spades – Tales from The Arabian Nights (I’ve always wanted to read more of Scheherazade’s tales and this is a good excuse)

♠9♠- The Hunchback’s Tale -Arabian Nights

♠10♠- The Tale of the Three Apples

♠Q♠- The Hermits

♠K♠- The Man Whole Stole the Dish of Gold Wherein the Dog Ate

♠A♠- The Caliph Omar Bin Al-Kattab and the Young Badawi

♠J♠- the Prior Who Became a Moslem

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Hearts – Tales from The Weird anthology (a repeat of one of my suits from last year. This anthology does not disappoint, and I still have a lot of stories from it to go before I finish)

♥9♥– The Discovery of Telenapota – Premendra Mitra

♥10♥– The Dissection – Georg Heym

♥Q♥– The Vegetable Man – Luigi Ugolini

♥K♥– Genius Loci Clark – Ashton Smith

♥A♥– The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles – Margaret St. Clair

♥J♥ – The Salamander – Mercè Rodoreda

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Diamonds – From The New Black Anthology (a great modern day anthology from which I’ve featured several stories on Bibliophilopolis before. I think this wraps up the volume for me.)

♦9♦– His Footsteps are Made of Soot – Nik Korpon

♦10♦– The Etiquette of Homicide -Tara Laskowski

♦Q♦ – Sunshine for Adrienne – Antonia Crane

♦K♦ – Rust and Blne – Craig Davidson

♦A♦– That Baby – Lindsay Hunter

♦J♦– Christopher Hitchens – Vanessa Veselka

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I’m excited that I have never read almost ALL of the authors of these stories before and am looking forward to getting immersed in them over the weekend. I wonder what new favorite writers and stories I shall discover…

What about you?  Are you doing the #24in48 Challenge this time?  What is on your schedule for reading?  I’d particularly like to hear from others who might read short stories during this event.:-)  Cheers, and good luck to all the participants.

Next Door by Kurt Vonnegut – Selection 23 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

 

img_7504The Card: ♣J♣  Jack of Clubs

The Suit: For 2016, Clubs is my suit for “Legendary Indiana authors”

The Selection: “Next Door” from the short story collection “Welcome to the Monkey House”; it was originally published in the April, 1995 issue of Cosmopolitan. It was also made into a short film in 1975 – I was unaware of this prior to my “research” for this post.

The Author: Kurt Vonnegut. Hopefully he needs no introduction, but he is perhaps most famous for his novels Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle. Indianapolis was his home town, and today the city is home to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, which has a book club. Yes, of course, I am a member.:-) Vonnegut was also a frequent contributor of short stories in the great era when “The Slicks” – several prominent national magazines – were still regularly publishing short fiction.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Next Door

Young Paul Leonard, though only eight years old, is no longer “a baby” and is, the evening of this story, being evaluated by his parents to determine whether or not he’s old enough to be left “home alone” while they enjoy a brief night out to see a movie. Paul probably is old enough, if the night of being home alone would have stayed true to his original plan of “just looking through my microscope I guess.” Instead, his time gazing through a lens at “hair, sugar, pepper – stuff like that” is interrupted by an escalating domestic donnybrook between his neighbors next door, Mr. & Mrs. Harger.

The Hargers’ default strategy when domestically quarrelling is to just turn up the radio (coincidentally the same strategy I used to use when my car started making strange noises) to drown themselves out in consideration of the Leonards or anyone else who might be overhearing. This time the radio’s volume is insufficient to prevent Paul from hearing them shouting “awful, unbelievable” things. The radio, though, tuned to “All Night Sam’s” call-in request show, gives Paul an idea…

This also allows Vonnegut to introduce us to All Night Sam, one of those great characters you sometimes meet in a short story and wonder how, in such a brief time, you get such a complete and perfect image of them. Sam takes his job of dedicating songs from one lover to another quite seriously, and even waxes philosophic when Paul calls in and requests a dedication from “Mr. Lemuel Harger to Mrs. Harger: I love you. Let’s make up and start over again.” Sam is moved by the request and assumes Paul is the Hargers’ son. He goes into a whole spiel about love and marriage and how folks might better be able to stick together, etc. It almost had me getting a little misty-eyed for a minute too, but at the end we’re brought back to reality with “And here’s Eartha Kitt, and ‘Somebody Bad Stole the Wedding Bell!'”* (He is a disc jockey after all).

It wouldn’t be a great Vonnegut story, though, if Kurt didn’t spring a mousetrap on us by the end. All is not as young Paul assumes, you see, and he – and his parents – are in for quite a surprise before the night is over.

It was a real pleasure to revisit this story, which I first read back in 2011. In fact, the collection “Welcome to the Monkey House” ended up being one of my favorites of the books I read that year. I have one other Vonnegut story waiting to be drawn in this year’s Deal Me IN: the classic “Harrison Bergeron.” I hope I enjoy that re-read as much as I did this one.:-)

*I had to look this one up, but want to hear Eartha Kitt “Somebody Bad Stole the Wedding Bell?”  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YmpRvGZ80r4

The Embellished Movie Quote Challenge (name the film): Sally Kellerman “Whoever did write this blog post doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!”

In Indianapolis, we even have a Kurt Vonnegut mural!  Located, appropriately on Mass Ave downtown in the heart of the city’s Arts District.


Actually, just a couple weeks ago I was walking north (away from the mural) on Mass Ave, and passed a couple of young women who were walking south. One was saying to the other, “Is that Albert Einstein?” Her friend replied, “No. It’s Kurt Vonnegut. He’s an author.” The first one said,”Oh. He looks like Albert Einstein, though, right?”:-)
Playing card image from http://ovdiyenko.com

Vonnegut mural pic from http://www.herron.iupui.edu/blog/10112011/pamela-bliss-paints-larger-life-vonnegut-teach-spring-2012-class

The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon by Frank Bill – selection #22 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦3♦ Three of Diamonds

The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “Contemporary Writers with an Indiana Connection”

The Selection: “The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon” from the 2011 short story collection Crimes in Southern Indiana.

The Author: Frank Bill. I don’t see much recent activity on his blog, but he’s active on Twitter if you would like to follow him there at @HouseofGrit

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon

“After all these damn years of running, you gotta trot in here and turn yourself in.” Mac looked Scoot dead in his eyes and told him, “Guilt’s a heavy package for a man to carry. It’s wrapped by all the wrongs a man’ll do, which are really lessons he learns by living life so he don’t do them no more.”

This was a good story. Like the other stories by Frank Bill I’ve blogged about (This Bitter Pill, A Coon Hunter’s Noir, and Amphetamine Twitch), it’s gritty, visceral, and… somewhat disturbing. Out title character, Scoot McCutcheon, doesn’t go by that name any more.  He’s been a fugitive from the law for years.  He’s now just “Deets” but, in a flashback, we learn of his crime, perpetrated in the small town of Corydon (once the Indiana State Capital).  He walked in on another man and his wife. I won’t spoil the story by revealing the extenuating circumstances of that encounter, but will say they enable the reader to sympathize with Deets.

He’s spent the past five years wandering from town to town, down “as far south as Greenville, Alabama,” and west to Missouri. Part of his routine when visiting a town would be to check the post office, and pull wanted posters of “a man who haunted him.” (himself, of course)  These were evidence of “an identity that wouldn’t let him forget. That wouldn’t let him start over.”  As you can see by the opening quotation, Scoot does eventually turn himself in, because, as Mac (a sheriff) tells him, guilt really is a heavy load to bear.

The story is available as part of the author’s collection “Crimes in Southern Indiana” which, as noted above, has made several appearances in my annual Deal Me In challenges, and I doubt that I’m done with it yet.  It’s available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004YD6GM0/

What about you?  Can you think of any favorite literature you’ve read where guilt plays a major role? Did YOU know that Indianapolis wasn’t always the capital of Indiana?:-)

Above pic from my Kindle App reader; Author pic in header photo from Writers Digest

“Politics and Poetry – John Milton Hay” – Selection #21 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♠Ten♠ of Spades

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “short Indiana-related non fiction works”

The Selection: “Politics and Poetry. John Milton Hay” from the 2009 book, Forgotten Hoosiers: Profiles from Indiana’s Hidden History.

The Author: Fred Cavinder (pictured below from The Southside Times), who has written several Indiana-themed books, also worked for the Indianapolis Star for 37 years, serving in many positions, from reporter to feature writer to editor.

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What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Politics and Poetry – John Milton Hay

I had heard the name John Milton Hay before reading this profile, but was quite impressed with the resume of this Indiana-born politician/statesman, diplomat and man of letters. He is actually the third Indiana writer I’ve read about this year who also spent time in the diplomatic service (the others being Lew Wallace and Meredith Nicholson). I had no idea that granting diplomatic posts to writers was such a “thing” – although Hay’s accomplishments in the political world would certainly warrant an appointment if he’d never written a literary word.

Hay’s initial career options were “between law and the ministry.” He explained why he chose the former in the following:

“I could not do as a Methodist preacher, for I am a poor horseman. I would not suit the Baptists, for I dislike water. I would fail as an Episcopalian for I am no ladies man.”

Thus “limited,” he served, remarkably, in government under every president from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt, and not without distinction. His later duties included that of Secretary of State – often a stepping stone to the presidency, but he seemed not to have those aspirations. Somewhere in there he found time to be a writer as well, and much of his poetry appeared in Harper’s Weekly. Here’s an example – a sweet one about a doubt-plagued love:

DREAMS – John Milton Hay

“I love a woman tenderly,

But cannot know if she loves me.

I press her hand, her lips I kiss,

But still love’s full assurance miss.

Our waking life forever seems

Cleft by a veil of doubt and dreams.

But love and night and sleep combine

In dreams to make her wholly mine.

A sure love lights her eyes’ deep blue,

Her hands and lips are warm and true.

Always the fact unreal seems,

And truth I find alone in dreams”

You can read other John Milton Hay poems at http://www.poemhunter.com/john-hay/
So, what about you? Are you familiar with John Milton Hay, either as a politician or a writer? I wonder how many recent Secretaries of State have written poetry…
Ten of spades image from https://playingcardcollector.net/2013/06/27/piatnik-jugendstil-art-nouveau-playing-cards/
John Milton Hay image from Wikipedia

“Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants” by Lauren Boulton – selection #20 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card:  ♥A♥ Ace of Hearts

The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for “stories from Indiana-related literary magazines and literary journals”

The Selection: “Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants” from  Butler University’s “Booth” journal’s archive. Lots of short works available there if you’d like to explore.

The Author: Lauren Boulton, a “recent graduate of the MFA program at Bowling Green State University.”  She has a tumbler account at http://laboulton.tumblr.com/ if you’d like to learn more about her.

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What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

(below: everybody’s all-star of carnivorous plants – a Venus Fly-Trap)

venus fly trap

Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants

Here I go, picking stories/works based solely on their titles.  This one sounded irresistible and, having read the classic H.G. Wells short story, “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid” years ago, I wondered if I would find a modern retelling of the (not-so-)classic “Man vs. hungry Plant” literary theme.  This piece wasn’t anything along those lines at all.  It wasn’t even fiction, as it turns out.  Rather, it’s a kind of “open letter” to a sleazeball who has left a lewd photograph of himself tucked into a library book, presumably so he can enjoy a kind of perverse thrill whenever he wishes to remember his act and imagine what unsuspecting young co-ed found his “contribution” to the library.

“String-haired man, flannel-coated man. What was it about Carnivorous Plants that made you so frantically move your hand above your open-flyed jean-crotch so quickly that it blurred in the photograph? Before I discovered your photo, I’d leafed through the first pages ofCarnivorous Plants, found images of less threatening things—illustrations of people swallowed by pitcher plants, the staggered teeth of a Venus flytrap closing over a human body. The text explained that these things were myths. They were not real, just the product of legend.”

The author of the letter goes on to speculate about the “Man in Carnivorous Plants” and relates how his act is less uncommon than many think, or would like to think.  I was reminded myself of how – in the days before social media’s omnipresence – blissfully unaware I was of how badly some men – or people – behaved. It’s discouraging, frankly, but sadly also not surprising.

‘This kind of threat seems to follow me, but I am starting to feel that it is an across-the-board phenomenon, that there are people like you in every town and city and rural unincorporated area. In the Ohio town that (you and?) I call home, earlier this year, a man exposed his penis in a Subway restaurant, demanding a blowjob and then a sandwich. It could have been you. It probably wasn’t. Some people don’t believe people like you exist. They need personal stuff as evidence, and sometimes they still don’t want to think you are real. How many times, walking home from class, have I been threatened and evaluated and made a sexual object in broad daylight? How many times has a man yelled something rapey and violent from the safety of his pickup truck?’

Near the end of the “letter” she makes us realize yet another level to the magnitude of his act:

“I may never know, Carnivorous Plants man, exactly what secrets were held for me in Carnivorous Plants. Like so many men before you, you set out to make a place unsafe for me and my kind. Just—damn you for making it a book. I thought I could be safe, inside a book, and I was wrong.

A powerful, if short, piece of writing. One that really makes the reader, especially a male reader, think. Writing that does that always gets high marks from me.

Read “Letter to the man in Carnivorous Plants” online at http://booth.butler.edu/2015/11/06/letter-to-the-man-in-carnivorous-plants/

Personal note: Were you aware that some carnivorous plants are native to Indiana, or did you think – like I did once – that they were only found in exotic tropical or jungle locales? I learned otherwise during an Ecology class at Wabash College.  One of the field trips we went on with our excellent professor, Dr. David Krohne, was to an acidic peat bog an hour or so north of our campus. If memory serves, it was home to pitcher plants (pictured below). What I most remember about the trip, though, was how that bog was such an eerie place, and what an odd feeling it left me with.  I remember we had to kind of “check in” with the owner of the property, a strange and seemingly mentally disturbed man who didn’t appear to be happy about our presence, either.

pitcher plant
(below: the beautiful campus of Butler University in Indianapolis.  That’s the Holcomb Observatory in top center, which used to host chess tournaments in which I often participated back in the mid-late ’80s)

butler university

“Siddhartha” by Abe Aamidor – selection #19 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card:  ♥2♥ Two of Hearts – a wild card

The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for “stories from Indiana-related literary magazines and literary journals”

The Selection: “Siddhartha” from the Autumn 2014 issue of The Gettysburg Review. I know, not an Indiana journal, but the story is written by a Hoosier.:-)

The Author: Abe Aamidor, who lives in Indianapolis and has worked stints at The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, The (Champaign-Urbana) News Gazette, and The Indianapolis Star.

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What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.


For most of the years that I’ve done the Deal Me In challenge, I’ve left the “deuces wild” in each suit to allow at least a little room for ad hoc short story reading that presents itself during the year. Back in March, I went to a book club discussion at Indy’s “Bookmama’s Bookstore” for the book, “Monastery of Writers,” by Abe Aamidor. I found that discussion interesting for two reasons: one was that this was an established nonfiction author who has now ventured into writing fiction as well, the other was that he was remarkably candid about the things he probably still needed to fine tune in his fiction work, a few of which were questioned by the members attendance – e.g., I don’t think any of us liked the main character in Monastery of Writers, something he said editors had cautioned him about as well.


So, anyway, Aamidor mentioned that he now had had several short stories published so naturally asked him which was his favorite if he had to recommend just one. He said “Siddhartha, in the Gettysburg Review” So after I got home I did a little searching online and found the issue and ordered a copy.

“Siddhartha”

“Don’t do it. Don’t take him back,” Mrs. McCarver said. “Men are no good.”

“I know,” Chastity said. “Daddy left you because men are no good. And Oliver’s daddy left him because he wasn’t no good, either. But Jeremy will have a daddy.”

I suppose borrowing the title of a famous novel for a short story is a tricky business.  Will you be considered pretentious?  Will readers understand what the connection is?  Will they have even read the novel?  If they have (and liked it) will they be offended by a story appropriating its title?  For my part, I have read the Herman Hesse classic a couple of times, once fairly recently on an audio re-read that I listed to over several days while doing my walking (actually quite appropriate if you’ve read that book!) and could feel the connection right away.  Aamidor’s short story follows Oliver, a modern-day young man in Bloomington, Indiana, who sets out on his own Siddhartha-like journey, maybe not so much to seek enlightenment, but rather to escape the circumstances of his life, by which, frankly, he seems overmatched. Oliver’s a little slow-witted, and has had trouble keeping a job.  He has a wife and young child that he clearly cares for, he just doesn’t know how to cope with the responsibilities of adulthood and feels they may be better off without him.

abe martin

He’s at least planned out his escape to some degree, first parking his car at the Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park, and removing the plates to make identification take longer, then by taking off on foot and hiking south through the Hoosier National Forest.  He’s on his way to Kentucky, which is where he’s been told “his people” come from.

The reader finds himself sympathizing with Oliver, who seems to have a good heart, just not the intelligence or training to make his way on his own. He has interactions along his journey with a convenience store clerk, a couple motorists who give him lifts, personnel at a military base, and the managers of a homeless shelter. Each in their own way help to illuminate Oliver’s shortcomings. And, unlike Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, who had his friend Govinda, poor Oliver has no one to accompany him on his journey, and he eventually runs out of steam and meekly returns home to what fate might await him at the hands of his wife and mother-in-law…

I have enjoyed reading a sampling of works from various literary journals this year. There’s a lot of good work being done and published there. I do wonder how big a reading audience they garner, however. Anyone have any inside info on that?  And what about you? Have you read the Herman Hesse novel?  Do you subscribe to any literary journals?  Any you want to recommend?

Oh, and maybe you can have a laugh at my expense when I mention that, before hearing about the Gettysburg Review, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know Gettysburg College was an actual place, I had assumed it was only “made up” from its appearance in the great movie, Remember the Titans.:-)

gettysburg

 

“The Passeur” by E.E. Lyons – story #18 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥Nine of Hearts

The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for “stories from Indiana-related literary magazines and literary journals”

The Selection: “The Passeur” from the Winter 2015 issue of Indiana Review. This story was also the winner of The Indiana Review’s 2014 Fiction Prize.

The Author: E.E. Lyons lives in Washington D.C.  An interview with the author may be found here Author picture from Indiana Review.

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What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

“The Passeur”

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(above: generic airport security checkpoint. Photo from Forbes here)

In today’s world, almost all of us have gone through a security checkpoint, whether it’s at the airport prior to gaining access to the terminal, or as we’re entering a major public sporting event, or in many cases when entering a public building. The main feelings I can remember having in such cases are frustration and impatience. Never fear, though. Fear like the characters in this excellent story must experience on their trek from Kigali, Rwanda to Bokavu in the Democratice Republic of the Congo.

A pair of American medical professionals are on their way to a hospital in the far-eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their cargo includes both knowledge of a life-improving medical procedure and, more dangerously, some modern video camera equipment which will help them record conditions there to ’raise awareness’ in the west, something that the authorities in the DRC would not be happy about. Their journey includes two border checks, one when leaving Rwanda, which they awaited with the greater anxiety and a second when they enter the DRC, which they expected would be less perilous. It would have been so if it weren’t for one of the passengers, a Madame Engel, and her inability to keep her mouth shut and just “hold it” by waiting until they reached their final destination to use the restroom.

(Below: I’m not 100% sure, but this may be the ‘rickety’ bridge described in the story which the characters cross over from Rwanda to DRC. Photo found here.)


Their “native guide” – and driver of their Hyundai – is named Oudry and does his best to help them pass, ’negotiating’ on their behalf with the officer in charge on the DRC side. This officer is hard-hearted at first and tells Madame Engel that they have no restroom.  Then he sees her assistant in the car, who happens to just then be using her inhaler.  Suddenly he has a change of heart and offers her use of his restroom.  Quite relieved she asks which building it is in, but learns he means the restroom at his home, “just two kilometers” away, but a rugged 30 minute drive from the checkpoint…

Oudry, the most interesting character in the story, is frustrated with his passengers’ making things more difficult than they need be, and is not sure of the officer’s motives. At the officer’s house, Madame Engel’s assistant also finally is heard from:

“What’s happening? Does he want something from us?”

“I don’t know.” said Oudry.

“Are we in trouble?”

“I don’t know.”

This agitated her more.  “Do you know him?” she asked. “Did you plan this?”

“No.”

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(above: hey, my nine of hearts “Indiana” card features a bridge too – just like the story…)

The story does a great job of imparting the fear and the tension that the travelers are experiencing to the reader, and I even caught myself holding my breath at one point. I found it to be very effectively written, and I can see why this story was honored with a writing prize.

Curious about the literary journal “Indiana Review?’  Learn more about them at their website.

indiana review

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “Siddhartha” by Abe Amidor.

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