Beyond Castle Frankenstein by Paula Cappa

As my regular readers (both of them) know, I’m fond of observing coincidences in my reading and in life generally. I don’t believe in them, but I enjoy them. Every now and then in my reading I seem to hit a pocket where themes recur over the course of a few weeks or a stretch of books and stories. The latest has been a spate of Shelley/Frankenstein-related reading, including one book club which just read the “original, uncensored” version of that classic, and a friend who just randomly last week “finally” returned my copy of “The Sufferings of Young Werther” after having it for quite awhile. (That book was one of the three fortuitously found by Frankenstein’s Monster in that “leathern portmanteau” in the woods.) Then, for the Fenruary meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library book club, we read a collection of his WNYC radio pieces (“God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian) where he “interviews” people in heaven. Who do you think was one of them? Mary Shelley, of course. Add to that, a fellow DMI’er (at Behold the Stars) recently posted about a Percy Shelley poem.

When I drew the two of spades – a wild card – for this week’s Deal Me In read, I thought I may as well continue the trend and chose to read Paula Cappa’s short story “Beyond Castle Frankenstein,” which I own via an e-copy.  I’ve followed Paula’s excellent blog for a few years now, and her weekly “Tuesday’s Tale of Terror” has provided me with many great introductions to hitherto unknown to me stories and authors. Paula is also a published author herself, and I have one other story of hers (“The Magic of the Loons”) already assigned in my 2015 Deal Me In roster.

 

Below: the “Casa Magni” on the coast of Italy – once the home of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley.

Beyond Castle Frankenstein

This tale is sort of a story within a story. We have a modern day narrator who describes a visit to a location where a painting of the Casa Magni once resided. He articulates that “I had come here to observe the ghost of an old painting that once lived here. There are such things as phantoms of paintings.” An interesting concept, and one I’ve never given much thought. Do you think there are such things as phantoms of paintings?

The meat of the story, however, is a different treasure within the painting. Literally. The narrator had purchased the piece and was committed to restoring it after years of normal though significant depreciation. In preparation, he notes that it has a rare double backing and in between the backings he finds “a thinly folded yellowed handwritten letter.” The narrator believes he has found “the soul of the painting,” and indeed he may have. What the letter proves to be is a missive written by Mary Shelley to the ghost of her husband (Percy Bysshe Shelley)!

The letter was written in 1850 – 28 years after the poet’s death by drowning, which was a sensational news story of its day. Mary Shelley at one point confides in the letter that “of late something has loosened in my brain” and the letter is largely an unburdening of guilt that she possesses over the death of Percy’s first wife Harriet, from whom the young Mary seduced the poet away. Perhaps she is right about the “loosening,” as she writes seeking some kind of a reunion with her love, saying “I have come to believe that a force between the living and the dead can manifest if both are willing. Please, come to me, as a shadow or a dusty light. I must see you one final time before my own death. One more embrace? You do still love me?”

Was her written entreaty read or heard by Percy’s ghost? By anyone?

I enjoyed the story – as much for itself as for knowing that it will lead me into further interesting reading… There is some mystery Surrounding the death of Percy Shelley and much speculation that he may have been suicidal. There are also stories that his heart was preserved and its calcified remnants were kept by Mary until her death (wow). With the very limited ‘research’ I’ve done so far I don’t know if this latter is true, but I‘d certainly like to read more about the Shelleys.

Above: an artist’s imagining of the burning of Shelley’s body on the Italian beach where he washed shore after drowning.

This story – and others which I plan to use for future editions of Deal Me In – may be found in “Journals of Horror: Found Fiction” edited by Terry West. As of this writing, it’s only $3.99 in the Kindle version, which may be found at http://www.amazon.com/Journals-Horror-Fiction-Todd-Keisling-ebook/dp/B00MTB67GY

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 9 Wrap Up

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Yeah, I’m a little slow again this round.  I was hoping to finish my own post in time to include in this update, but alas – you’ll have to wait a little longer for that. :-)

From the department of good news: we have a new participant joining us.   Jason at Literature Frenzy! has picked up the Deal Me In 2015 gauntlet.  His roster of stories may be found at http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/02/deal-me-in-challenge-2015.html  If you can, please take a moment to check out his list and welcome him to the group!

New posts by the rest of us since the last update:

Randall at Time Enough at Last read Joyce Carol Oates’ story “Upon the Sweeping Flood” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/02/deal-me-in-week-9-upon-sweeping-flood.html

Katherine at The Writerly Reader writes about “The Tears of Squonk” by Glen David Gold https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/deal-me-in-week-9-the-tears-of-squonk/

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself read Michael Pallon’s “Power Steer” http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/03/power-steer-michael-pollan.html

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Ernest Hemingway’s “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/ernest-hemingway-god-rest-you-merry-gentlemen/

Cleo at Classical Carousel shares with us “The Ides of April” by Mary Ray http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/02/the-ides-of-april.html

Tracy at a Bitter Tea and Mystery read “Marie: Blue Cadillac” by Michael Malone http://bitterteaandmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/deal-me-in-2015-story-4-marie-blue.html

“o” at Behold the Stars read Samuel Johnson’s “The New Realistic Novel” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-new-realistic-novel-by-samuel.html

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews summarizes her February DMI reading, which included “The Grey Woman” by Elizabeth Gaskell, “At Five O’Clock in the Morning” by L.M. Montgomery, “Mr. Cosway and the Landlady” by Wilkie Collins, and “A Day at Niagara” by Mark Twain. http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2015/02/february-short-stories.html

I read Paula Cappa’s story “Beyond Castle Frankenstein” and hope to finish up my post later tonight…

See you next week!

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 8 Wrap Up

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Welcome to the week 8 round up of Deal Me In posts.  We’re almost two months into the challenge, and we have a fresh batch of new and interesting reading covered this week.  Take a moment to visit or comment on your fellow DMI-er’s posts listed below.

“o” at behold the stars read Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “To a Skylark” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/to-skylark-by-percy-bysshe-shelley.html

Debra read George Saunders’ powerful story “The Semplica Girl Diaries” https://debrabooks.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/the-banality-of-postmodern-evil-george-saunderss-semplica-girl-diaries/

Cleo at Classical Carousel read “Dr. marigold” by Charles Dickens http://cleoclassical.blogspot.com/2015/02/doctor-marigold-by-charles-dickens.html

James at James Reads Books posted about Jessica Mitford “Trial by Headline” and Ursula LeGuin’s “The Bones of the Earth” http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2015/02/20/jessica-mitford-vs-ursula-k-le-guin-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/

Jen at Military History posted about two stories “As Told by the Schoolmaster” by John Galsworthy https://wisepursuits.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/deal-me-in-2015-week-8-told-by-the-schoolmaster/ and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Affair of Outposts” https://wisepursuits.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/deal-me-in-2015-week-7-an-affair-of-outposts/

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Steven Millhauser’s “The Wizard of West Orange” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/steven-millhauser-the-wizard-of-west-orange

Marian at Tanglewood read the classic detective tale “Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe http://tangle-wood.blogspot.com/2015/02/8-murders-in-rue-morgue.html

Katherine of The Writerly Reader also dealt herself an Edgar Allan Poe story this week, “The Man of the Crowd” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/deal-me-in-week-8-the-man-of-the-crowd/

Randall at a Time Enough at Last shares two stories with us: Stuart Dybek’s “We Didn’t” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/02/deal-me-in-week-8-we-didnt-by-stuart.html and Barry Hannah’s “Nicodemus Bluff” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/02/deal-me-in-week-7-nicodemus-bluff-by.html

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself wrote about “The Black Sites” by Jane Mayer http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/02/the-black-sites-jane-mayer.html

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) “read local” again, posting about Angela Brown-Jackson’s story “Anna’s Wings” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/annas-wings-a-short-story-by-angela-jackson-brown/

That’s it for this week – except for a short story trivia picture.  Which of this week’s DMI posts should the photo below call to mind…?

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“Anna’s Wings” a short story by Angela Jackson-Brown

2015/02/img_54081.jpg(For week 8 of the Deal Me In 2015 short story reading challenge, I drew the queen of diamonds. In addition to being part of my short story reading challenge, this post is another “reading local” post for me. In 2015, I’m trying to increase my reading of local authors and/or books set in my home state of… Indiana.)

 

“I’m disappearing, Leo,” she had said once Leo got her settled in his car. “I’m not going to let you disappear, Anna,” he had said, stroking Anna’s damp hair. But if the truth be known, Anna was disappearing and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Little by little, piece by piece, segments of Anna’s personality were slipping away, like birds during the onset of winter. ”

“Anna’s Wings” is a gently poignant story about a man, Leo, and his wife, Anna, who is suffering from mental illness and in rapid decline. Maybe “fading fast” would be a better description, as it fits in with her notion of “disappearing” in the passage quoted above. However you decide to describe it, the horror of watching a loved one – or at least watching that part of a loved one that makes her unique – disappear is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Anna’s illness manifests itself in several ways: Forgetting where she is or where she is going, forgetting to pay for goods at the Winn-Dixie (fortunately Leo is the town sheriff and can make things right in the latter case), and a fascination with a family of ducks that has settled in a pond Leo and Anna’s property. Leo can find her “somewhere near the ducks” most days when he comes home. Since the ducks seem to make Anna happy, and since Leo fears the potential impact their flying away might have on her condition, he clips their wings as a pragmatic – if temporary – way to “treat” her symptoms. Anna’s not so far gone, however, as to not notice that the ducks never seem to fly any more and learns what Leo has done:

“How could you, Leo? How could you clip their wings?” she had cried hysterically, pounding her fists against his chest. “I didn’t want them to fly away from you Anna,” Leo had said to her, as he’d tried to pull her close to him, but she jerked away. “What about me, Leo? Is that what you’ll do to me?” she exclaimed, her eyes shining brightly with tears. “When it’s my time to fly away, will you clip my wings too? Will you? Will you, Leo.”

Will he? You’ll have to read the story to find out…

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Above: American Wigeons (the ducks featured in this story) – picture from website (with more info about them if you’re interested) http://www.birdsasart.com/bn188.htm

I own this story as part of the Indy Writes Books anthology (order online at http://www.indyreads.org/indy-writes-books/ ) – a local project of which Bibliophilopolis is happily a “first edition sponsor.”

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(For my Deal Me In 2015 short story reading challenge, I’ve reserved my diamonds suit for the short stories included in this volume, but it also includes poems and non-fiction pieces and even a puzzle or two. My complete list of stories I’ll be reading for Deal Me In this year is here. Many other bloggers are doing a form of the Deal Me In challenge this year, and links to participants’ blog’s may be found on my sidebar.)

 

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The above picture (taken by me, thus explaining the poor focus and quality) is of the author reading from this story at the book’s launch party at the Indy Reads Books bookstore in downtown Indy last fall. Angela Jackson-Brown teaches English at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She also writes an excellent blog which may be found at http://www.angelajacksonbrown.com/

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 7 Wrap Up

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Happy Presidents Day (one of the great days to work in the banking industry!) to everyone. And happy birthday to Dale – the pen behind Mirror With Clouds – even though he is not a president. :-) Below are links to new posts since the last update:

“o” at Behold the Stars read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/aurora-leigh-by-elizabeth-barrett.html

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery read Ruth Rendell’s “The Case of the Shaggy Caps” http://bitterteaandmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/deal-me-in-2015-story-3-case-of-shaggy.html

Cleo at Classical Carousel read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Friendshiphttp://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/02/friendship-by-ralph-waldo-emerson.html

Dale at Mirror With Clouds posted about Sherwood Anderson’s “The Strength of God” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/sherwood-anderson-the-strength-of-god/

Marian at Tanglewood was dealt a “valentine story” by Deal Me In “The Beauty and the Beast” by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont http://tangle-wood.blogspot.com/2015/02/10-beauty-and-beast.html

Elsie at The Book Drum provides some brief updates on the Wordsworth poems she’s read, including “It is a Beauteous a Evening, Calm and Free”, “We Are Seven”, “When to the Attractions of the Busy World”, “Goody Blake and Harry Gill”, and “Ode to Duty Anecdote to Fathers” https://thebookdrum.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/on-dry-spells-poems-ive-read/

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself read Pete Hamill’s “The Revolt of the White Lower Middle Class” http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/02/the-revolt-of-white-lower-middle-class.html John-Paul has also started doing a Deal Me In Music challenge (album reviews) check it out at http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/p/deal-me-in-music.html I particularly enjoyed his piece on INXS’s “Kick” http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/02/kick-inxs.html

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read “The Sandman” by E.T.A. Hoffman https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/deal-me-in-week-7-the-sandman/

I posted about Jeffrey Eugenides’s “Extreme Solitudehttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/extreme-solitude-by-jeffrey-eugenides/ and also Junot Diaz’s “Monstrohttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/monstro-by-junot-diaz/

See you next week!

“Monstro” by Junot Diaz

Monstro” (story 7 of Deal Me In* 2015)

(*At the beginning of the year, I come up with a list of fifty-two short stories to read and assign them each to a playing card. Throughout the year, I draw a card a week to randomize my reading order of the stories. This week I drew the seven of clubs. My list is here. The sign up post for The Deal Me In Challenge (with a more detailed explanation of the challenge) is here. To see what other participants in the challenge are reading, see their blogs linked in my sidebar.)

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Read “Monstro” online at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/04/monstro

This was my first experience reading Junot Diaz, who I’d heard many great things about. It is a really strange story, set on the island of Hispaniola (that’s the Caribbean one that includes Haiti and The Dominican Republic) that I’m finding it hard to summarize, so I’ll let the author do it. :-)

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How did Diaz describe the story (part of a planned sci-fi novel) in an interview?

Wired: So tell us about your story, “Monstro.” What was that about?
Díaz: It’s actually part of a novel I’m working on. I’ve been working on this insane novel about a strange invader virus-type thing that takes root in the poorest, hottest places in the world in the near future, and of course one of those places is going to be Haiti. I write most specifically about the Dominican Republic and that island. So I had this crazy idea to write a near-future story where these virused-up 40-foot monstrosities are going around eating people, and taking it from there. I’m only at the first part of the novel, so I haven’t really gotten down to the eating, and I’ve got to eat a couple cities before I think the thing will really get going.”

(Read this interview at http://www.wired.com/2012/10/geeks-guide-junot-diaz/all/)

It took me a little while to get used to Diaz’s writing style too, as he “used a lot of words I didn’t know.” I think a lot of them weren’t real words either, just neologisms specific to this story. But that’s okay. It kind of helped me stay UNgrounded in an unfamiliar setting. I did like the idea of this strange virus that is at first underestimated or not taken seriously enough because those who are being infected are not the most highly valued members of the world community.

What have you read by Junot Diaz? What would you recommend for further reading for me?

(Image below from Zazzle.com) For next year, Maybe I should buy the whole set of t-shirts and take them out of the drawer at random to pick my stories?)

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Below: author Junot Diaz (he looks just like this one IT guy in my office. Kinda freaks me out a little bit.)

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Extreme Solitude – by Jeffrey Eugenides

Week six of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge brought the six of clubs and with it the Jeffrey Eugenides story, Extreme Solitude, first published in 2010 in The New Yorker magazine. I own a digital subscription to TNY, but this story may also be read online at their url http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/07/extreme-solitude

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(An explanation of the Deal Me In Challenge may be found here. The complete list of stories I will be reading is here. For links to other participants’ story rosters, see the week 1 post here. If you’d like to explore other blogs that are participating in the Deal Me In challenge, see the participant links on my sidebar.)

Extreme Solitude is the story of an unhappy love affair between Madeleine (our protagonist) and Leonard. They meet in college in a Semiotics class (yeah, even though I’ve read The Da Vinci Code, I had to look that word up again) after Madeleine has spent a relatively romance-free couple years as an underclassman (the description of this period was juxtaposed quite humorously by Eugenides via the inclusion of a stereotypically promiscuous roommate). It’s not a happy story, as the affair with Leonard begins to disintegrate and lose its freshness. This, and Leonard’s callousness lead to one of the payoff passages of the story:

And it was during this period that Madeleine truly understood how the lover’s discourse was of an extreme solitude. The solitude was extreme because it wasn’t physical. It was extreme because you felt it while in the company of the person you loved. It was extreme because it was in your head, that most solitary of places.”

This story also comprises part of the later novel, The Marriage Plot.

Below: Jeffrey Eugenides (from Goodreads.com)

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A few other quotations that I liked from the story:

What made Madeleine sit up in bed was something closer to the reason she read books in the first place and had always loved them. Here was a sign that she wasn’t alone.”

Listening to Leonard, Madeleine felt impoverished by her happy childhood.”

He started finishing Madeleine’s sentences. As if her mind were too slow.

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Above – photo from “A Tree Falling” blog “Lake Solitude” in Rocky Mountain National Park.
I remember in 2002, prior to a summer trip to Colorado, poring over a topographic map of Rocky Mountain National Park – a location I’d already visited several times before – looking for new places to “explore.” I saw an isolated mountain lake with the name “solitude.” I had grand dreams of packing a lunch and going off-trail to find it some day during my visit and thus spending some time in “pure” solitude, but I chickened out and stayed on the maintained trails when I actually got to the park. Typical.

I’m also a big fan of the word “solitude.” Somehow it sounds musical to me. Maybe because certain musical works are called “preludes” or “etudes,” which rhyme with solitude. I’m also a fan of the concept of solitude in general and probably need to spend more time in that state than normal people. I suspect many readers feel the same way?

Magnificent Obsession – a novel by Lloyd C. Douglas

2015/02/img_5408.jpg(A “READING LOCAL*” post)

*One of my reading goals for 2015 was to read more works with a local connection, written by Indiana authors or maybe written about or taking place in (or near) my home state. I thus peppered my annual Deal Me In short story reading challenge’s roster with Indiana authors and also have in mind several novels as well. I was pointed to many of these longer works by Dan Wakefield’s introduction to the Indy Writes Books anthology, which I posted about in early January. This novel was one of those. It’s now an early favorite for my favorite book of the year.

**some spoilers follow**

“(I) hope this youngster will be able to realize how valuable a person he is,” said Dr. Bliss… “now that he has had his life handed back to him at such a price.”

Published in 1929, Magnificent Obsession was a refreshing break (from reading more contemporary authors) for me and recalled to my mind several other classic works. In brief, it’s the story of Robert Merrick, whose early life mimics that of countless other children of privilege. His grandfather – a great character who I loved – was a self-made millionaire, and the success of his company, Axion Motors, assures that no one in his family need “work” for a living again. “Bobby” is in full possession of this knowledge and behaves accordingly. For a while. Things change when he is injured in a boating accident and saved by a breathing apparatus borrowed from the house of a Dr. Hudson. What’s remarkable about that? Well, as the apparatus is being used to save Merrick’s life, the doctor himself is fatally stricken and could have been saved if HIS apparatus were not being used elsewhere.

(below: the edition I own)

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Dr. Hudson was also the head of a neuro-surgical hospital – the same hospital that Merrick is taken to for treatment. The doctor was much loved and the staff of hospital naturally harbor some resentment of their young patient, whose life had been saved at the cost of their beloved colleague and friend. The staff behaves professionally, however, and keeps this information from him as long as possible, but he can sense something is wrong and eventually learns the truth from Nancy Ashford (another great character!), Dr. Hudson’s ultra efficient and matronly – though still relatively young – assistant who pretty much ran the business of the hospital. A long talk with Nancy leads Merrick to decide to dedicate his life to becoming a doctor himself in an effort to repay what he’d stolen from the world via Hudson’s death. This becomes the “magnificent obsession” in the title. Or at least one magnificent obsession.

The novel includes a tortured and convoluted – yet somehow still quite functional – plot that I think even Thomas Hardy would have been pleased to count among his own. It includes Hudson’s daughter, Joyce, a “wild child” herself who knew and had been interested in Merrick off and on before the accident. There’s Hudson’s young widow, Helen, who Merrick meets – not knowing immediately who she is to him – and “rescues” from driving her car off the road into a ditch (& I never cease to be amazed how charming and beautiful – and unattached! – women are unfailingly cast into the paths of literary protagonists. If only real life were so accommodating!). Douglas’s narration of their initial meeting in this way was one of my favorite passages of the book. Just as important, there’s Dr. Hudson’s “secret journal” discovered by Mrs. Ashford and Merrick. Written in cypher, it is slowly decoded and reveals Dr. Hudson’s “secret of success” – a kind of “pay it forward” approach to life based on the gospel of Matthew (chapter 6, verses 1-4).

“Take heed that Ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have the glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”

Worth noting is that Douglas began writing novels later than most, after spending time working as a minister. Though a bit of a heathen myself, I do like the sentiment of giving in secret. It seems too often philanthropy is engaged in as much for the recognition as to help those in need. I wish more people would understand that “verily” good deeds have their reward.

The book reminded me a little of 1918’s The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (another Indiana writer) in that involved the emerging automotive industry and the redemption of a formerly idly rich protagonist. It also called to mind the literary classic “Pride and Prejudice” in how Merrick, with his bottomless wallet, was continually putting things right in a Mr. Darcy-esque way – all in service of the lovely Helen Hudson, who liked him initially – until SHE found out who HE was to her. I’ll also admit that some of the books plot turns and twists were a little too convenient to be believable – which usually draws my ire as a reader – but somehow that never really bothered me in this book.

(below: an older edition – apparently the cover artist thought Robert Merrick must look like Tony Curtis…)

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Have you read Magnificent Obsession? Or anything else by Douglas? I think I may give “The Robe” a try this year too – maybe it and “Ben Hur” would be a good Easter time reading mini-project. We’ll see.  Maybe you’ve seen the blockbuster movie version of Magnificent Obsession, starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman? After reading up a bit on it, it sounds like it has some major differences compared to the book. Should I give it a try?

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 6 Wrap Up

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Below are links to new Deal Me In posts since the last wrap up. Most of us are on week six (some of us – including your host [cough, cough] – are temporarily behind…)

Randall at Time Enough at last posts about Ethan Canin’s “Star Food” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/02/deal-me-in-week-6-star-food-by-ethan.html

Katherine at The Writerly Reader reads a story of one of the masters: Leo Tolstoy’s “God Sees the Truth but Waits” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/deal-me-in-week-6-god-sees-the-truth-but-waits/

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself shares Mark Jacobson’s “From Beyond the Grave” http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/02/the-voice-from-beyond-grave-mark.html

Marian at Tanglewood covers two stories this week: Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Old Manse.” Find her post at http://tangle-wood.blogspot.com/2015/02/4-mystery-of-marie-roget-the-old-manse.html

Dale at Mirror with Clouds read “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/willa-cather-pauls-case/

Jen at Military History – “on assignment” last week at the Harry Potter convention/celebration/experience – catches up with two posts, one on “Encirclement” by Tamas Dobozyhttps://wisepursuits.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/deal-me-in-week-5-the-encirclement-by-tamas-dobozy/ and “England” by Edward John moreton Draxx Plunkett (Lord Dunstan) https://wisepursuits.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/deal-me-in-2015-week-6-england/

James at James Reads Books compares two essays this week Joan Didion’s “Marrying Absurd” and H.L. Mencken’s “On Ambrose Bierce” http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2015/02/02/h-l-mencken-vs-joan-didion-a-deal-me-in-short-story-non-fiction-edition/

Cleo at Classical Carouael read Juan de la Cruz’s poem “Song II: The Dark Night” http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/02/song-ii-dark-night-by-san-juan-de-la.html

Juliana at Cedar Station posted about two stories Herman Melville’s “The Lightning Rod Man” and Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” https://cedarstation.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/deal-me-in-weeks-4-5-the-lightning-rod-man-by-herman-melville-and-a-sound-of-thunder-by-ray-bradbury/

“o” at Behold the Stars has I think set the record for the most “ancient” work ever covered in Deal Me In as she tackles “The Frogs” by Aristophanes http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-frogs-by-aristophanes.html

I posted about Alice Munro’s “Some Women” (actually my week five story) https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/some-women-by-alice-munro/

 

“Some Women” by Alice Munro

2015/02/img_5397.jpgIt was the queen of hearts for me for week 5 of Deal Me In 2015. This year, hearts are my suit dedicated to women authors and Alice Munro is one of the best short story writers out there, male or female. I own this one as part of her collection of stories “Too Much Happiness.” I’m slowly working my way through that volume, but the two Munro stories I included in last year’s Deal Me In edition (“Axis” and “Menesetung“) are not part of it. An explanation of the Deal Me In Challenge may be found here. The complete list of stories I will be reading is here. For links to other participants’ story rosters, see the week 1 post here. If you’d like to explore other blogs that are participating in the Deal Me In challenge, see the participant links on my sidebar.

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One thing many of my favorite stories seem to have in common is that they are told by a young narrator. Such is the case with Munro’s “Some Women,” which is told from the perspective of a thirteen year-old girl (albeit the story is present as recalled by her in her old age). I started wondering about what makes a young narrator so popular and pleasing to read, and perhaps the best reason is that it allows the author to avoid presenting the story from a jaded perspective. Some of the characters in this story would be immediately identifiable – to an adult narrator – as shallow and self-serving, but the young narrator is still of an age where she’s taking things people tell her at face value.

Another narrative approach this particular story uses is that of an unnamed narrator, which I’ve come to discover is quite common. Why is this? Perhaps one of my more learned readers can help me. Is it because it is easier for a reader to put himself in the shoes of an unnamed narrator? Does the repeated name of a narrator create an empidement to a reader’s empathy? What do you think?

The girl tells of her first job, hired by the wife and elderly mother of a man dying of cancer. The mother works a few nights a week, and the narrator is employed to help out. The relationship between the mother and wife is strained, and the narrator doesn’t quite understand it. Things become more complicated when a masseuse shows up (she has regularly scheduled appointments with the mother) and she begins to spend time with the man as well, ostensibly to “cheer him up.” Her name is Roxanne, which led to one of my favorite quotations from the story. When the man, Bruce, asks the masseuse if she knows “whose name that was?” Our unnamed narrator jumps into the conversation saying “It was Alexander the Great’s wife’s name,” and the narrator explains that her head “was a magpie’s nest filled with such bright scraps of information.”

Bruce tires of the extra attention, though, and enlists the narrator to aid him in a scheme to relieve himself of it. There are some tense moments for the reader, as we don’t know what exactly he plans, and the young girl’s unquestioning obedience to his wishes does not allow us a further glimpse into his scheme until the denouement.

After reading, I was still puzzling a bit over the title and who the phrase “some women” refers to. Is it because it is simply a story about some women? Surely its meaning is deeper than that. I tended to think it referred to Roxanne and her “type” but is it meant to be a derogatory term? I don’t necessarily think so. I found the Roxanne character not to be entirely unsympathetic, but whether or not that was the author’s intent, I don’t know. I think All the women in the story are basically dealing with the hands life has dealt them the best that they know how.

Maybe the reason I think “Some Girls” refers more to Roxanne than the others was the following passage about her. “I began to understand that there were certain talkers – certain girls – whom people liked to listen to, not because of what they, the girls, had to say, but because of the the delight they took in saying it. A delight in themselves, a shine on their faces, a conviction that whatever they were telling about was remarkable and that they themselves could not help but give pleasure.”

Have you read this story? What did you think of it? Who are the “some girls” of the story’s title?

(below: the lovely Alice Munro)

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I found a nice interview with Alice Munro at http://www.vqronline.org/authors/interview-alice-munro where this story is discussed briefly.

Next week’s Deal Me In selection: Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Extreme Solitude”

Below: the title of this story kept making me think of the similarly titled Rolling Stones album which was popular from the time in my youth when I was becoming musically self-aware.  Do you remember it?

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