Deal Me In 2015 – Week 16 Wrap Up

The weeks are flying by and we are getting close to being 1/3 of the way through our Deal Me In decks. Are you still with us? Have you fallen behind? Don’t despair – with short stories, it doesn’t take long to catch up. I’d rather not admit how far I was behind at one point in my inaugural year of this challenge. :-)  AND I know several participants are keeping pace but not necessarily posting about the stories they read (which is fine – as the “rules” of Deal Me In emphasize); I invite them to comment on a weekly wrap up post or two, though, to let us know how they are doing. Living vicariously through others’ reading and blogging is a big part of DMI!  Below are links to new posts since last week’s update:

Randall at Time Enough at Last shares his thoughts on “Proper Library” by Carolyn Ferrell http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/04/deal-me-in-week-16-proper-library-by.html

Katherine at The Writerly Reader steps back into the ring with “Long Odds” by Stuart Kaminsky https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/deal-me-in-week-16-long-odds/

Dale of Mirror With Clouds posts about “Hell-Heaven” by Jhumpa Lahiri  https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/jhumpa-lahiri-hell-heaven/ DMI’ers may also want to heck out his Bradbury of the Month post on the story “The Wildernesshttps://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/bradbury-of-the-month-april-the-wilderness/

Jason at Literature Frenzy tackles the Joyce Carol Oates classic “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/04/deal-me-in-challenge-where-are-you.html

“o” at Behold The Stars read Samuel Johnson’s essay “Why Pastorals Delighthttp://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-reasons-why-pastorals-delight-by.html

That leaves me (Jay at Bibliophilopolis!) and I maintain my fanboy status with author Katherine Vaz, via her story “The Journey of The Eyeballhttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/the-journey-of-the-eyeball-by-katherine-vaz/

sam johnson(Even the great Samuel Johnson occasionally fell behind doing the Deal Me In challenge, and could often be seen in cafes around London frantically reading from one of his many short story anthologies – as in the famous portrait above.)

“The Journey of the Eyeball” by Katherine Vaz

(Ace of hearts image above from the video game “Fallout: New Vegas”)

Katherine Vaz was one of my favorite new to me authors last year, which earned her a “recurring role” in my Deal Me In challenge for this year as the Ace of Hearts on my story roster. I’m slowly working my way through the tales in her collection “Fado and Other Stories,” and this is the sixth one I’ve read. Last year, I posted about “Undressing the Vanity Dolls”  and “Fado,”  both of which I enjoyed immensely.

A cutesy way to summarize this story would be “Kind of a Nikolai Gogol rewrites “The Nose” using an eyeball while assisted by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” You see, Jose is in love with Ana. Ana is married but they have a secret place where they meet at regular intervals. Jose – or “Ze” to his friends – yearns for more and cherishes opportunities to see and observe her outside of their routine. One such opportunity presents itself in “The Day of Contests” in the valley where they live. Though Ana is in attendance with her husband, Ze decides that distinguishing himself by accumulating the most points in all the contests will further insure Ana’s devotion.

During the last of the contests he spots Ana in the crowd.

A short, stocky man was resting his hand against the back of her neck, where the tips of her blonde hair lay, always, neatly. She was laughing at something he was saying. Was it the laughing done by married people who did not love each other but wanted to reassure others that any fighting would be done at home…”

Ze is an over-analzyer of everything in his affair with Ana. Every expression, every laugh, every look, every word. It is during the final contest that he has spotted Ana and her husband. During this contest, he also realizes he’s over extended himself in his exertions in the prior ones, and he begins to slip into a sort of altered state of consciousness and then a prolonged hallucination or waking dream. In this dream, he is being punished by the people of the village in a sort of medieval “cucking chair” (pictured below), being lowered into a river and held there. During this procedure his eyes pop out of their sockets(!) and though one is “eaten by a fish” the other survives and takes us on a surreal journey through the town in search of his Ana.

I have to admit this story wasn’t one that grabbed me right away, but the further I read the more fascinated I became with the new form of protagonist of the story. Its “observations” we’re unique and often quite humorous. I was reminded, too, how poetic Vaz’s writing is. At one point the eyeball is accidentally kicked by a passerby:

The kick left the eye’s vision blurred, and in the dimness it wonders if it were a boy again in the Azores, seeing the women in their doorways doing their embroidery in the last light of day – God’s light – because electricity was too expensive.”

And once, when the eyeball is “picked up cautiously” by a dog:

“…in a mouth that was fragrant like rotting straw. The tongue was velvet, with those bumps that put everything eaten onto a pedestal of sorts before it is consumed.”

Overall, an interesting read and one which has likely ‘earned’ this author a spot in next year’s DMI roster as well. :-)

Below: the author at an appearance at CUNY.  The link below the picture also includes a brief video of her speaking about her writing, etc.  Worth a watch – it’s only a few minutes long.

http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/wsas/academics/journalism/Vaz.htm

“Triple” Jeopardy!

Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading two books written by former contestants of the TV game show “Jeopardy!” They are both books I’d be likely to read anyway, but since I actually had an in-person audition(!) looming on my calendar (now since completed “without incident” – I’m in the contestant pool again, this time until September, 2016. Doesn’t mean they’ll call me, but I’ve gone as far as I can in the tryouts process. :-) ) , I was also reading them to hopefully gain a little insight or some pointers. brendan dubois book

The first was Brendan DuBois’ “My Short, Happy Life in Jeopardy,” where he describes his history trying to get on the show and his eventual appearance, where he experienced a modest level of success. The second was the more recognizable (to Jeopardy! fans, anyway) Bob Harris’s “Prisoner of Trebekistan.” How did I learn of these books? Well, I’ve been a lurker on the Jeopardy! (“JBoard”) message board where fans of – and often former contestants on – the show discuss the games that are broadcast (and other matters, but I’m mostly interested in what they think of the games and clues). It’s basically a message board full of monday morning quarterbacks, and they can be ruthless if contestants wager illogically or commit other faux pas. Author Brendan DuBois is a frequent commenter there and his sign off had a link to his book so I risked my $2.99 (or $3.99, I can’t remember now) and ordered his book. Bob Harris’s book is mentioned by Mr. DuBois, so I soon got that one as well. I more or less enjoyed both books, the DuBois book mostly for his story as I must sadly report it was rife with typos and errors (e.g. Jane Austin, Dave “Groul” of the Foo Fighters (twice!) and numerous other typos and errors). This is made more shocking by the fact that DuBois is already a published, “award-winning” Mystery writer. The e-book I purchased was poorly edited – maybe it was a rush job to cash in on his appearance on the show?  One thing I did take away from the DuBois book was that – if I am fortunate enough to get the call to appear on the show – I’m going out there to try and WIN, not just to be star-struck and “enjoy the experience” (which I would certainly do – but how much more enjoyable would it be if one were to win too?)

prisoner-of-trebekistan-a-decade-in The second book was great. Regular watchers of the show may remember Bob Harris and his unique personality. A former comedian, his wit is prevalent throughout his book, “Prisoner of Trebekistan” and even though at times it got a little tiring, remained generally fresh throughout. Mr. Harris was in the game to WIN it. If he were to lose, it wouldn’t be through lack of preparation or effort. Harris’s success on the show came more through rote memorization and “training” than most top Jeopardy! players – a fact he freely admits and realizes may be a liability, as when he describes going up against Jeopardy! titan, Dan Melia: “But I’m starting to realize that Dan has actually read all the books whose titles I have merely memorized. This is not going to make my life easy.”

Don’t remember Bob Harris? Here’s an interview that may refresh your memory

There also some great Jeopardy! stratagems in Harris’s book, including one I’ve always thought about but haven’t heard many mention “…by attacking your weakest category immediately, you’ll probably get the hardest clues off the board with the least possible amount of money at stake. If there’s a Daily Double in the weak category, it will barely matter, while hitting it late puts you in a difficult betting situation.” He also warns against the danger of guessing, saying you should treat the signaling device like the gun in a game of Russian Roulette. “Keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re damn sure you know what’s in the chamber.” He also pointed out that if you miss a clue – even if no one else gets it, you lose ground against both by the value of the clue. If someone else DOES get it, you’ve lost twice the value of the clue vs. that player which, plus the value you lost against the other is a net loss of THREE TIMES the value. That’s a big risk. That said, I wonder how hard it would be under game situation pressure to not make an educated guess. You see people do it on the show all the time. Like the two unfortunates pictured below, who will probably never live it down that in their appearance on the show, neither even got to stick around for Final Jeopardy. (I know, here I am not helping matters either…)

Anyway, this was a great book, chock full of helpful info for Jeopardy! hopefuls.

Having knocked out these two books, I thought it might be nice to complete a literary hat trick and read a third Jeopardy!-related item, David Foster Wallace’s short story “Little Expressionless Animals.” I have this story in a collection from that author on loan from one of my Vonnegut Library Book Club colleagues, Dave, whose work as the stalwart scribe of that club’s meetings may be found at its blog site.  Wallace’s story was a humorous speculation about a seemingly invincible Jeopardy! champion.

david foster wallace

A young woman (whose learning came from a set of encyclopedias that she read while watching over her autistic brother during a tough childhood; unbeknownst to her, the little brother is memorizng them as well…) begins a longer than one-year reign as champion and, though odd, charms many at the show, even Alex Trebek (who’s offer to join him for a soda at the Sony Television cafeteria is shot down, however).  She actually ends up dating the daughter of one of the show’s staff, which leads to complications, naturally. Of the main character, we learn that “…she believes lovers go through three different stages in getting really to know one another. First they exchange anecdotes and inclinations. Then each tells the other what she believes. Then each observes the relation between what the other says she believes and what she in fact does.”  She’s also described in this way: “She has a way with data. To see her with an answer… Is there such a thing as an intellectual caress?”

Similar to Ken Jennings’ run on the show in real life (which I believe this story actually pre-dates) what first was a fun and exciting curiosity eventually becomes tedious and there is a backlash to seeing the same champion over and over AND OVER again. Eventually, the show – now desperate for a new champion – enlists the one person they think may be able to stop her: (Yep – you guessed it) Her younger brother.

There’s a lot of great humor in the story, too, as – in one example of gamesmanship, one contestant convinces another that, if she finishes in the read, she’ll have to pay Jeopardy! the amount of negative money on the board before they’ll let her leave the set. There’s also behind the scenes shenanigans between Alex and Pat Sajak, who are apparently are at “war.” For example, Alex pranks Sajak by manipulating the applause sign during Wheel of Fortune, leading the audience to cheer when contestants hit bankrupt or “lose a spin”, etc. – ha ha ha.

What about you?  Do watch the show, “Jeopardy!” or have you read anything about it? (Ken Jennings’ “Brainiac” was also good – but I read that long ago, in my non-blogging days).  Have you ever tried out or auditioned for the show?  There are actually on line Jeopardy! tests the next couple nights so it’s not too late to register!  :-) I’ve shared a sample of a prior test in a previous blog post if you’d like to see what kind of questions were on it that time.  Good luck if you do!

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 15 Wrap Up

Below are links to new posts I found during the past week. I encourage you to visit any that strike your interest or fancy. :-)

“o” at Behold the Stars read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-lady-of-shalott-by-alfred-lord.html

Murder’s back on the menu for Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery, as she posts about Nedra Tyre’s “Recipe for a Happy Marriage” http://bitterteaandmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/recipe-for-happy-marriage-by-nedra-tyre.html

Cleo at Classical Carousel read Wendell Berry’s essay “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/04/christianity-and-survival-of-creation.html she also posts about G.K. Chesterton’s “The Worst Crime in the World” http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/04/father-brown-worst-crime-in-world-by-gk.html

Jason at Literature Frenzy read “Let Me Promise You” by Morley Callaghan http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/04/deal-me-in-challenge-let-me-promise-you.html

Dale at Mirror With Clouds shares his thoughts on Herman Melville’s “A Paradise of Bachelors and a Tartarus of Maids” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/herman-melville-a-paradise-of-bachelors-and-a-tartarus-of-maids/

Elsie at The Book Drum posted about William Wordsworth’s poem “Most Sweet it Is With Unuplifted Eyes” https://thebookdrum.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/most-sweet-it-is-with-unuplifted-eyes/ and also some brief comments on other poems she’s read for the challenge at https://thebookdrum.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/playing-catch-up/

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read “Electrification” by Mikhail Zoshchenko https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/deal-me-in-week-15-electrification/ Is this our first “twin” in Deal Me In 2015? Candiss also posted about this story back in January.

It’s party time at Time Enough at Last as Randall posts about Shirley Jackson’s “Birthday Party” I’ll make a wish that you check out his post at http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/04/deal-me-in-week-15-birthday-party-by.html

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (hey, that’s me!) read Daphne Du Maurier’s story “Don’t Look Nowhttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/dont-look-now-by-daphne-du-maurier/

See you next week!

“Don’t Look Now” by Daphne du Maurier

Read for: week 15 of Deal Me In 2015 – a short story reading challenge

Card drawn: Jack of Hearts

My source for the story: “The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Tales”

See my roster of Deal Me In stories here.

My other experience with Daphne du Maurier: I’ve read “Rebecca” of course (haven’t we all? :-) ) and a lesser novel “The Flight of the Falcon” and have watched the movie adaptation of her short story, “The Birds.” She was a very prolific writer and I have admitted only scratched the surface of her work.

Don’t Look Now”

Have you ever noticed someone apparently staring at you? I mean someone you don’t even know? What is your reaction? Do you assume they are taken with your good looks or perhaps your sartorial splendor? Do you assume it’s an indicator of a romantic interest? Do you (guys) check and make sure you’re zipped up? Do you think they are being rude and consider starting a fight with them? Do you look behind you to see what they’re really staring at? Probably most of us have used one or more of these approaches at some point in our lives. This situation is what begins the story that I read for this week’s Deal Me In.

John and Laura are a young couple vacationing in Italy, and they encounter a “starer” – as John tips off his wife at the start of this tale by saying “Don’t look now, but there are a couple of old girls two tables away who are trying to hypnotise me.” Actually, the old girls are twins, one of whom is blind and doing the “staring.” It turns out she has “psychic powers” and can see the couple’s recently deceased daughter sitting with them. That’s enough for a great story right there, isn’t it?

Under the surface of the weirdness of the tale, however, is the ongoing stress of the couple trying to come to grips with their loss. John is constantly concerned with Laura and whether or not she is “getting over it” – at least to the degree possible after such a tragic loss. How they cope with this stress and John’s increasing anxiety of what impact this new element (meeting the twin sisters) will have on Laura’s recovery drive the rest of this weird and thrilling tale.

Sadly, an admittedly brief search I performed failed to find this story available anywhere on-line. I own it as part of the anthology, “The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories,” from which I have drawn frequenty for the past few years of the Deal Me In challenge. I highly recommend it.

What is your reading experience with Daphne du Maurier?  Were you aware (as I wasn’t until relatively recently) that she wrote the short story that the Hitchcock film, The Birds, was based upon?

Picture of Du Maurier and family from The Independent

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 14 Wrap Up

Hello! Below are links to new Deal Me In posts that I’ve found since the last update. If you’ve written a DMI post this week that I missed, let me know in the comments and I will circle back and update this wrap-up post.

I’m still enjoying the wide variety of stories and other short works that everyone is sharing. Keep up the good work, Deal Me In-ers! :-) Hope you enjoyed the Easter Weekend, which I’ll use as an excuse to share a picture of my Mom’s Easter egg tree for the second time on this blog. :-)

Randall at Time Enough At Last posted about the Robert Penn Warren story “Have You See Sukie?”  http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/04/deal-me-in-week-14-have-you-seen-sukie.html

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read Mikhail Lermontov’s “The Fatalist” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/deal-me-in-week-14-the-fatalist/ …AND it was a full moon this weekend so her Lunar Extra story was Mary Shelley’s “The Invisible Girl” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/deal-me-in-lunar-extra-the-invisible-girl/

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Ring Lardner’s “The Golden Honeymoon”  https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/ring-lardner-the-golden-honeymoon/ Dale also did a series of posts last week featuring stories by Joyce Carol Oates that are worth checking out – especially if you’re a fan of that author.

“o” at Classical Carousel read “Sonnet XXIX” by Garcilaso de la Vega  http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/04/sonnet-xxix-by-garcilaso-de-la-vega.html

Cleo at Behold the Stars posts about Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/hedda-gabler-by-henrick-ibsen.html

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (hey, that’s me!) read Frank Bill’s “A Coon Hunter’s Noir” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/a-coon-hunters-noir-by-frank-bill/

See you next week!

“A Coon Hunter’s Noir” by Frank Bill

I’ve never been on a raccoon hunt. I do, however, fondly recall that several of the many tales my granddad used to tell – as my brothers and I crowded around his chair pleading, “Tell us a story!” – involved coon hunting adventures in his youth (Yes, I’m sure only slightly embellished :-) ) I was pleased, though, when I drew the King of Spades for week 14 of Deal Me In which I had assigned to this story from the acclaimed collection “Crimes in Southern Indiana.” Author Frank Bill is an Indiana writer from the town Corydon, just north of the Ohio River. (A little known trivia fact is that Corydon was the first capital of my home state, serving in that capacity from 1816 until 1825.) All this means I’m counting this as another “Reading Local” post at Bibliopohilopolis!

Bill has the surprising “distinction” of having three stories in my 2015 Deal Me In roster – the only author this year with three spots. (I’m reading two of his stories in the “Indy Writes Books” anthology, and this story was the last one I added to round out my “darker stories” spades suit. Bill’s writing style is certainly “suit”able for that honor.

J. W. Duke, the protagonist of the story, lives – not surprisingly – in Sourhern Indiana and is fond of coon hunting, but his real talent is in breeding dogs that will become good coon hounds. The story begins with his prize hound, “Blondie” turning up missing. This is alarming because, as we also learn, “…some shady son of a bitch has been stealing folk’s top-of-the-bloodline hounds for months” in the region. J. W. goes on the warpath to recover his hounds. He finds more than he bargained for on this quest, however, and the betrayal-revealing climax is one of edge-of-your seat anticipation.

Coon Hunting is a bigger deal than probably many people realize. At least those who don’t subscribe to American Cooner magazine…

I must say I enjoy the style in which Bill delivers quick characterizations or descriptions of the people who populate his stories. One example from this one is what we read when J.W. sneaks up on his enemy, Combs, and peeks inside his window:

“The bastard’s seated at a table littered with newspapers and magazines. Calm as a crustacean. That harelip smirk he postures as a stupid smile. Having his last breakfast. Shoveling chunks of egg into his mouth. Yolk cobwebbing down his thorny beard of a chin.”

“Calm as a crustacean.” I love it. A front runner for my Simile of the Year awards. :-) Have you read anything by this author? I covered another of his stories in last year’s Deal Me In challenge (“Amphetamine Twitch” which I posted about at https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/amphetamine-twitch-a-short-story-by-frank-bill/ )

Finally, in honor of the upcoming return of HBO’s Game Of Thrones – now just a week away! – I thought I’d share this Ned Stark King of spades from http://graphiccontent-design.tumblr.com/post/23169279176/ned

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 13 Wrap Up

Well, we’re at the quarter post (Is that a horse racing term? It should be if it isn’t, and since we have a story this week called “The Discovery of Kentucky” it ’feels’ appropriate too.) Of Deal Me In 2015 and to celebrate we may have a record number of stories posted about this week – even more if we count the multiple stories in Jason’s J.G. Ballard post individually. You all are wearing me out this week collecting all the links. I like it, though, :-)

What are your thoughts about DMI 2015 now that we’re a quarter in? Would you like to file a “quarterly report” in the comments to this wrap up post? I’d love to hear how everyone is doing, especially those new to the challenge this year.

Here are this week’s links:

“o” at Behold the Stars posts about Virginia Woolf’s “The Patron and the Crocus” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-patron-and-crocus-by-virginia-woolf.html

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery posted about Eric Wright’s story “The Duke” http://bitterteaandmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-duke-by-eric-wright.html

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews has a nice wrap up of her March short stories – “The Story of the Bad Little Boy” by Mark Twain, “Six Weeks at Heppenheim” by Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain, “An Adventure on Island Rock” by L.M. Montgomery, and “Second Chance” by Orson Scott Card  http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2015/03/march-short-stories.html

Cleo at Classical Carousel read John Keats’ poem “Ode to a Nightengale” http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/03/ode-to-nightingale-by-john-keats.html

Jason at Literature Frenzy shared his thoughts on many stories since our last update “Ray” by Guy Vanderhaeghe  http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/03/deal-me-in-challenge-ray-by-guy.html Theodore Sturgeons “Microcosmic God” http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/03/deal-me-in-challenge-microcosmic-god-by.html “The Passenger” by Vladimir Nabokov http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/03/deal-me-in-challenge-passenger-by.html “A & P” by John Updike http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/03/deal-me-in-challenge-by-john-updike.html and he also covers a bunch of stories in the collection “The Complete Stories J.G. Ballard” http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/03/deal-me-in-challenge-jg-ballard-part-i.html A busy week for Jason!

Risa at Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms read Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” https://mangoesandcherryblossoms.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/deal-me-in-a-worn-path/

Current Bluegrass State resident Dale at Mirror with Clouds read Wendell Berry’s “The Discovery of Kentucky” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/wendell-berry-the-discovery-of-kentucky/

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read another boxing-themed story, “You Don’t Even Feel It” by Lawrence Block https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/deal-me-in-week-13-you-dont-even-feel-it/

Randall at Time Enough at Last read Pat Conroy’s “Gossip” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/03/deal-me-in-week-13-gossip-by-frank.html

Me? I did read my story, David Foster Wallace’s “Backbone” but it didn’t inspire me, either positively or negatively, to write a blog post. It’s available online, though, if you’d like to see if you have better luck with it than I did. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/03/07/backbone

See you in the 2nd Quarter!

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 12 Wrap Up

Hello all!  Below are links to new posts since the last update.  See you next week!

“o” at Behold the Stars read The John Keats poem “Endymion” check out http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/endymion-by-john-keats.html#comment-form to discover if a thing of beauty really is a joy forever… :-)

Dale at Mirror With Clouds discovered Louisa May Alcott’s story “The Brothers” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/louisa-may-alcott-the-brothers/

I read my second story from the anthology “The New Black”, this one being Benjamin Percy’s excellent “Dial Tone” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/dial-tone-by-benjamin-percy/

Kay at Darling Books provides an update of cards drawn recently http://deadbookdarling.com/2015/03/monday-reading-march-16th-2015.html

James at James Reads Books posted about two non-fiction pieces by Joan Didion: “John Wayne: A Love Song” and “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2015/03/18/joan-didion-vs-joan-didion-john-wayne-a-love-song-and-slouching-towards-bethlehem/

Jason at Literature Frenzy read Haruki Murakami’s “Super Frog Saves Tokyo” http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/03/deal-me-in-challenge-super-frog-saves.html

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself drew the king of clubs and read  Thomas Wolfe’s “The Birth of New Journalism”  http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/03/the-birth-of-new-journalism-tom-wolfe.html

Katherine read “The Gentlemanfrom San Francisco” by Ivan Bunin https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/deal-me-in-week-2-the-gentleman-from-san-francisco/

Next up in the batting order for Randall at Time Enough at Last was “Batting Against Castro” by Jim Shephard http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/03/deal-me-in-week-12-batting-against.html

And an “extra” this week:

Exciting news about someone who knows a little about publishing short stories: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/18/stephen-king-writing-insights-bazaar-of-bad-dreams

“Dial Tone” by Benjamin Percy

This is my twelfth short story read for my annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge.  I drew the ten of spades from my short story deck  , which I had assinged to this story from the anthology “The New Black,” a collection of noir stories I first first heard of at Paula Cappa’s blog

Sometimes, when I go to work for yet another eight-hour shift or when I visit my parents for yet another casserole dinner, I want to be alone more than anything in the world. But once I’m alone, I feel I can’t stand another second of it. Everything is mixed up. This is why I pick up the phone sometimes and listen. There is something reassuring about a dial tone. That simple sound, a low purr, as constant and predictable as the sun’s path across the sky.”

Benjamin Percy’s story “Dial Tone,” features a troubled narrator, one who works a monotonous and soul-sucking job as a telemarketer. A job that sometimes leads him to a point of self-loathing that I’ve always thought telemarketers HAVE to feel. This narrator (not named, though he refers to himself as “C-5″ – his location in the “vast hive of cubicles” at work) is self-aware enough to realize he is close to “losing it” but he doesn’t change jobs, even though employee turnover at his company is about as high as one would expect.

“A jogger spotted the body hanging from the cell tower.” This was actually the first sentence of the story, and with an intro like that, the reader knows right away that this tale will not be a pleasant one, and it certainly isn’t. Where it gets you (or me at least), though, isn’t through raw violence, but an insidious evil that may be present anywhere, waiting to seize and control us at an opportune moment.

At one point, when looking from a elevated vantage point on highway traffic below, he muses that he:

“…could see the chains of light on Route 97 and Highway 100, each bright link belonging to a machine that carried inside it a man who could lose control in an instant, distracted by the radio or startled by a deer or overwhelmed by tiredness, careening off the asphalt and into the surrounding woods. It could happen to anyone.”

Has it happened to him?

You can actually read this story online (at least as of this posting) at https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/missouri_review/v030/30.2percy01.html

(Above: Author Benjamin Percy; picture from goodreads.com)

 

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