“Educational Testing: Just Another Job” by David Hoppe – selection #50 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠7♠ Seven of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short, Indiana-related non-fiction works.

The Selection: “Educational Testing: Just Another Job” from collection of essays titled “Personal Indianapolis.” This is the fourth piece from this book that I’ve read for this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge.

The Author: David Hoppe –An Indianapolis writer who has labored for Indy’s “Alternative Weekly” Nuvo Magazine since 1998.

 

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 postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster 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. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Educational Testing: Just Another Job

“In test-scoring centers, dozens of scorers sit in rows, staring at computer screens where students’ papers appear… each scorer is expected to read hundreds of papers. So for all the months of preparation and the dozens of hours of class time spent writing practice essays, a student’s writing probably will be processed and scored in about a minute.”

I struggled with this piece, which was my least favorite of those that I’ve read thus far in Hoppe’s book, Personal Indianapolis. I have no children in school so perhaps lack a good vantage point of the issues the essay covered, but I have followed news stories about standardized tests for years, and have frequently been amazed at how big the time gap between testing and receiving results is. I also naively hadn’t realized that the standardized testing included a writing sample from the students (i.e. something that can’t be scored in an automated fashion). I had just been picturing a multiple choice, computer scored exam like many we used to have even way back when I was in school.

Hoppe had come across an article in the Monthly Review by Dan DiMaggio titled “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Test Scorer.” (linked here if you’d like to read it) and kinda jumps on the bandwagon of condemnation regarding the process. While I agree there seems to be much that should be condemned, I felt Hoppe’s piece was superfluous once I had read the “source” article. It’s frankly a little sloppy too, as an instance of ‘bad math’ had me in an uproar pretty early in the essay:

“DiMaggio, who lives in the Twin Cities, says he has personally read tens of thousands of papers, for which he has been paid at a rate of 30 to 70 cents per paper. That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12 an hour”

Wait. It only means that if the rate is at the bottom of that scale. What about the 70 cent rate?  At the top of the scale it would be $28 an hour, right? Shouldn’t it read something more like “scoring forty papers every sixty minutes might only earn him $12 an hour,” or even “That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12-$28 an hour”? My loyalty as a reader goes out the window pretty fast when I feel I’m being manipulated by partial truths, whether they are intentional or not.

Overall, though, this piece and the DiMaggio article that inspired it, left me disappointed in “the system” once more and even glad I don’t have kids that are being “taught to pass tests” that people who often are not even educators themselves are scoring in an assembly line fashion.

What about you?  Any teachers out there reading this?  What are your thoughts about standardized tests and their value?  I’d love to hear more from the front lines on this issue.

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “Murder on Indiana Avenue” by Andrea Smith

P.S. Yes, I’m even getting a little bit ahead of schedule now, as I’m hoping to be done by Indiana’s ACTUAL bicentennial date of 12/11/16 rather than the end of the year.  We’ll see if I can make it.🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite Authors Read for the First Time in 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a vastly popular weekly meme sponsored by the good folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s assignment: Top Ten “new to us” authors  we read for the first time in 2016.  I’m all about discovering new authors so this seemed like a perfect week to  participate.🙂

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I have a mix of old and new; in no particular order, here goes:

 

10. Ernie Pyle – famous *Hoosier* war correspondent in World War Two. I’ve read several entries in his book “Final Chapter” and also bought another book of his (Home Front) and have ordered a biography on him too. I must like him.

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9. Susan Wallace – wife of General Lew Wallace, who you may of heard of, she wrote the book “The Storied Sea,” which I read and enjoyed in hopes of attending a book club meeting but sadly couldn’t make it when the date came around.

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8. Paul Beatty – My awesomely named “Book Club II: Son of Book Club” read his book “The Sellout”this year. Confirming our gift for being trendsetters, it later was awarded the Man Booker Prize.🙂

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7. Lu Cixin – His “The Three Body Problem” was also read by the same Book Club as #8. This was our first book read after we reformed following a long hiatus. It was picked because I lost a bet on a football game to the person who was the instigator of our reforming. The winner of the bet got to impose a reading assignment to the loser, so he also made it our book club’s choice. It was one of my favorite books of the year! Almost sounds like I got off easy with that bet…

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6. Meredith Nicholson – a writer from “The Golden Age” of Indiana literature, I found his novel “The House of a Thousand Candles” a real delight. So much so that I bought and read a biography of him a month later.

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5. Sarah Layden – Another local author who I’ve also had the good fortune of meeting a few times at local events. Her book “Trip Through Your Wires,” which I read back in February, is getting some great reviews.

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4. Maurice Thompson – another author from Indiana’s “Golden Age” he may be my favorite discovery this year. I’m working my way through his collection of stories titled “Hoosier Mosaics”

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3. James Baldwin – technically not totally new to me, as I had read a short story by him, but I finally got around to reading his famous “Go Tell it On the Mountain” and was quite impressed.

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2. Lauren Ann Bolton – I read a story of hers from Butler University’s “Booth” literary journal and it (“The Man in Carnivorous Plants”) was one of the stories that made me think the most this year. Always a plus for me. Sorry, couldn’t find a pic in my cursory search.

1. Mark Haddon – I finally got around to his famous novel, “The Curious Incident of the Dog N the Night-time” last month for another book club. It led to one of my favorite discussions we’ve ever had with that group.

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Well, those are some of my favorite new to me Authors discovered in 2016. What are yours? I’m working on my reading plans for 2017 now, so suggestions would be most welcome.🙂

“Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” by Michael Martone – selection #49 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦A♦ Ace of Diamonds

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Diamonds is my suit for Contemporary Indiana Authors

The Selection: “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” from the short story collection of the same name (with the subtitle: “Indiana Stories”).  I own a paperback copy, and another of its contents, “Schliemann in Indianapolis” made an earlier appearance in this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge.

The Author: Michael Martone (his picture at left (that’s an Indiana flag shirt!) found at http://www.erinpringle.com/2014/07/2014-summer-library-series-four.html ). Last year I was quite impressed with “Winesburg, Indiana: A Fork River Anthology” which he edited, and I had heard of this volume through the grapevine so it found a place on my Deal Me “IN” roster. He was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is currently a professor at the University of Alabama.

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 postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster 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. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List

“During the war, the top hemisphere of the streetlight globes were painted with a black opaque glaze. They stayed that way after the war. No one seems to mind. Parts of dead insects show in the lower half of the globe. There’s more and more of them in there summer after summer.”

What list?  Why Fort Wayne? Is there any truth in this? These are all questions I asked myself when I first heard of this story. Perhaps reading it would provide some answers…

Perhaps not, though. Other research indicates that Fort Wayne was potentially a prime target during World War II – due to industrial production, etc. – whether or not it was really on a list is a bit unclear.  This “story” (it felt more to me like I was reading a prose poem) is about a city that was once on ‘high alert’ during wartime, and centers around the narrator’s grandfather who lived in those times.

It tells of times where the city would practice blackouts – one particularly vivid episode was when the grandfather (he was a “block warden” because “everyone remembered the way he’d kept calm during The War of the Worlds.”) participated in a demonstration to emphasize the importance of absolute dark. “Grandfather said that the (Civil Defense) man lit a match when the rest of the city was all dark. He said that you could see the whole park and the faces of everyone in the park… The man blew out the match with one breath. The people went home in the dark. Were they wishing they could do something about the stars.”

It also seems that the grandfather never quite fully exited the “war footing” mentality and even decades later would still see and feel things about the city in that context and through the lens of a slight paranoia.  This gave the story a haunting quality.

I enjoyed this piece less than the other one I read for Deal Me “IN,” but it was still quite good and I’d like to once again recommend the book Martone edited “Winesburg, Indiana.” Which is full of great, short vignettes about the people of a fictional Indiana town.

Have you read anything by Michael Martone?  What did you think of him?  What are some of your favorite literary depictions of the “Home Front” during the war?  One I can think of is the excellent “Under the Apple Tree” by Indiana author Dan Wakefield.

Deal Me In Bonus: Trivia question:  Which iconic 1968 cinematic space traveler hailed from Fort Wayne, Indiana?

Below (from Trip Advisor) Fort Wayne, Indiana

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“The Beautiful Lady” by Booth Tarkington – selection #48 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣9♣ Nine of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “Legendary” Indiana Authors

The Selection: “The Beautiful Lady” (actually more of a novella than a short story, but it was too late to change now! J

The Author:  Booth Tarkington of Indianapolis.  One of the standard bearers of The Golden Age of Indiana Literature. He also won the Pulitzer Prize. Twice.

 

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 postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Beautiful Lady

“To fall in love must one behold a face? Yes; at thirty. At twenty, when one is something of a poet No: it is sufficient to see a grey pongee skirt! At fifty, when one is a philosopher No: it is enough to perceive a soul! I had done both; I had seen the skirt; I had perceived the soul.”

Just the quotation above should be enough to let you know what kind of story this will be, but I will drone on a little more about it… The narrator of the story is a man of twenty-four who is down on his luck in Paris. He has a half-brother who is seemingly a villain. He had a “full” brother who is now dead and whose two children the narrator tries his best to support and pay for their schooling at a nunnery. The beginning of the story finds him so penniless (franc-less?) that he has accepted a humiliating job for the term of a week. The job is to be a living advertisement for a theater and consists of him having to shave his head bald, allowing an advertisement to be painted on the top of his head, then to sit at the venue with his eyes pointing to his lap so passersby will see the ad and perhaps be curious enough to buy a ticket. He hates it. You probably would too.

One solace he has is that the act of shaving his head bald adds years to his appearance, making him seem as if “a man of forty.”  He hopes this will lead to no one recognizing him on the street to observe his humiliation. One day, the appearance “upon the lid of my lowered eyelid” of a beautiful grey pongee skirt (yeah, I had to look that up) is what sets this story ablaze. The wearer of the Pongee skirt (the Beautiful Lady of the story’s title, naturally) is accompanied by a young man who pauses to laugh at the narrator. She is shocked and sympathetic. “Ah!” she cried. “The poor man!” Her voice:

“…was North-American. Ah, what a voice! Sweet as the mandolins of Sorento! Clear as the bells of Capri! To hear it, was like coming upon sight of the almond-blossoms of Sicily for the first time, or the tulip-fields of Holland. Never before was such a voice.”

The narrator doesn’t see the lady during this “encounter” but perhaps will again during his next “job.” For my part, I loved this story. It was a bit predictable in its plot twists, which honestly stretched credibility to its seams, and also in its saccharine sweetness, which makes my admission of liking it something of a guilty pleasure, I suppose. It made me think of times in my own life where things weren’t going as I hoped or maybe when I was “ashamed” of a current employment or living status, and doesn’t it always seem to work out that you run into people you haven’t seen in a long time when you’re looking – or at – your worst? I believe Tarkington captures this phenomenon nearly perfectly in this story, which is one of my favorites of Deal Me “IN” this year.

What have you read by Tarkington? The Magnificent Ambersons? Alice Adams?  Some of his shorter works? I’d love to hear about your encounters with this author.

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: Selection #49: “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” by Michael Martone. (I’ve been wondering all year what this story is about…)

“The Pedagogue” by Maurice Thompson – selection #47 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣7♣ Seven of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “Legendary” Indiana Authors

The Selection: “The Pedagogue” from Hoosier Mosaics, published in 1875, I own an electronic copy (Kindle Version)  Deal Me “IN” 2016 featured one other story from this collection, “The Legend of Potato Creek” covered in week 8, way back in February.

The Author: Maurice Thompson Maurice (pronounced like “Morris”) Thompson (1844-1901), born in Fairfield, Indiana, is one from the “Golden Age” of Indiana literature. He’s also a member of the archery(!) Hall of Fame. In his honor, I include in the “mosaic” at left the scorecard for “bow poker”🙂

legacy project seal of approval 2What 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 ofimg_6202cards/storyroster 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Pedagogue

“He was in love with learning. He considered the matter of imparting knowledge a mere question of effort, in which the physical element preponderated. If he couldn’t talk or read it into one he took a stick and mauled it into him. This mauling method, though somewhat distasteful to the subject, always had a charming result – red eyes, a few blubbers and a good lesson. The technical name of this method was “Warming the jacket.””

The word Pedagogue has always conjured up negative images for me. I am reminded of the sadistic schoolteacher in 1941’s great film, “How Green Was My Valley” or perhaps that one episode of the tv series “Little House on the Prairie,” when the town votes to bring in a “disciplinarian” (Mr. Applewood) when they fear poor, sweet “Miss Beadle” can’t handle some of the rowdier boys. I fortunately don’t have too much personal experience with Padagogery, but what little I have experienced was indeed quite distasteful enough to lead me to be on guard against it in those instances where I’ve been called upon to instruct or train others.

(above: big – and small – screen pedagogues who learnt their lesson)

Thompson’s pedagogue, however, lives rather without too much stigma. It was a different age in which he lived, one where “pedagoguery” was an accepted practice in the education of our nation’s children. The above quotation notwithstanding, this story – thankfully – is not all about just an abusive schoolmaster. It’s about the collision of two men who both think they should be the unchallenged intellectual authority of the county. Blodgett, the pedagogue, registered his claim first. Though he was only the latest in a long string of pedagogues, he was already in town when an upstart printer shows up to start his own paper. Add to this perfect storm of 19th century conflict that, just before the editor appears, so does a young lady, Miss Holland, who, naturally, Blodgett makes a play for.( He is, after all, the most learned man in the countryside…) The editor has his own plans:

“One of two things must be done. Blodgett must be vanquished or his influence secured. He must be prevailed on to endorse the Star (the new paper), or the Star must attack and destroy him at once.”

Thompson goes on to explain that “…when nations wish to fight it is easy to find a pretext for war. So with individuals. So with the editor and Blodgett. They soon came to open hostilities and raised the black flag. What an uproar it did make in the county!”

They have an argument in the press (home field advantage for the editor!) over, of all things, the best translation of the Latin phrase “Nil de mortuis nisi bonum” (roughly ‘say nothing but good of the dead). Their exchange of editorials in the paper becomes comical and eventual, one prevails by laying a clever trap for the other, who is judged by “a professor at Wabash College” (Hey, that’s my alma mater!) to be “certainly crazy or woefully illiterate; no doubt the latter.”

So ends the career of one of these men. You can read the story for yourself at several places on line, like this one.  I liked this story a lot, and at a few points it reminded me a little of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and the collision course it contains as Ichabod and Brom Bones compete for the affections of Katrina. In that story, I remember that Ichabod is said to have “read several books quite through” which grants him intellectual standing in that literary town.

What about you? Are you familiar with Maurice Thompson? I wasn’t until about a year ago and am so glad I “discovered” him.  I’m planning to read a couple more of his stories for next year’s Deal Me In challenge as well.  Also – have you had any encounters of the pedagogic kind in your education journey? Or know of any great ones in literature or the arts? I’d love to hear of them.

Profiles in Survival: James Duckworth by John Shivley – selection #46 in Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠9♠  Nine of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short, Indiana-related non fiction works

The Selection: “Profiles in Survival (James Duckworth)” a collection of true stories of Indiana POWs who served in the Philippines in World War II.

The Author: John Shivley is a practicing physician who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is also the author of The Last Lieutenant: A Foxhole View of the Epic Battle for Iwo Jima.

What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad img_5408you 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/storyroster 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

legacy project seal of approval 2

Profiles in Survival – James Duckworth

“We must impress the Japs that we are a well disciplined, smart-looking, smoothly functioning outfit. Their god is discipline. They begrudgingly admire it as much in others as they do in themselves. You must maintain your own self-respect. You must shave every day, keep your clothes washed and pressed, and your shoes shined. We’ve got plenty of soap and water. Use it. Salute your arms off, smart and snappy, especially when Nip inspection parties come through.”

The above was what the commander of the Twelfth Medical Regiment, James Duckworth, told those under his command once his post had been surrendered to the Japanese. When I read nonfiction stories like this I always start wondering how I would cope in such a situation, or indeed if I even would be able to cope at all. There seems to be little doubt that strong leadership of the POWs, such as that which James Duckworth clearly provided, greatly increased their chance for survival. Also, the treatment and care of wounded Japanese soldiers, in addition to Americans and Philipinos, under the command of Duckworth also helped mitigate the hostility of their capturing Japanese commanders. I wondered while reading how many people lived through their ordeal that wouldn’t have if someone of Duckworth’s mettle had not been in command.

For my part, I was spellbound by Duckworth’s story, which honestly was difficult to read at times, hearing of all the death and suffering that marked those times. I learned a lot as well, and some of what I learned I almost wish I could unlearn.  Like the Japanese-instituted concept of “shooting squads” in which all prisoners were put into groups of ten. If any of the group escaped, the other nine would be executed. Nice deterrent, huh?  I also read about the infamous “August 1 Kill-All Order” which addressed the “final disposition” of prisoners should POW camps be about to fall into American hands and be liberated.  Seems the Japanese were concerned that postwar testimony by the POWs, if left alive, might be damning in any war-crimes trials. Just such an order was carried out in what has become known as the Palawan Massacre, where nearly 150 American prisoners were burned to death. It was the knowledge of this massacre and the Kill-All order that eventually led to the daring raid that freed the prison camp that housed Duckworth at the end of his captivity.

I mentioned in my other Deal Me “IN” post from this book that I know I will read the rest of the stories in this volume, and I recommend the book to others as well.  One of the back cover “praises” for the book reads: “Profiles in Survival is a book that will break your heart. The Americans taken prisoner after the battle for the Philippines endured the nearly unendruable. But endure they did. Though many died in captivity, others survived with an uncommon dignity. They knew the cruelty of a war without mercy. John Shively is in our debt for giving us their tales.” (Randy Roberts, Purdue University Distinguished professor of history)

Personal Notes ♫  Reading this book has also made me want to watch the epic 1957 movie, Bridge on the River Kwai again (even though it was set in Burma) since it features American prisoners under Japanese command. I still vividly remember my Dad whistling the theme from this movie during countless hikes we went on out west during summer camping trips – another reason to watch the film again.

(Below: three of the Ranger company that freed the prisoners of the prison camp at Cabanatuan in what is referred to as “The Great Raid.” Heroes. Picture from CNN.com)

“The Boarded Window” by Ambrose Bierce – Selection #45 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣3♣ Three of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “legendary Indiana authors.”

The Selection: “The Boarded Window” which I own via a paperback copy of “Terror by Night: Classic Ghost & Horror Stories”

The Author: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914(?)) – his death and disappearance remain a mystery not wholly solved… Though born (in a log cabin) in Ohio, he grew up in Kosciusko County, Indiana. He served in the Union Army in the Civil War, as part of the 9th Indiana Infantry.

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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 legacy project seal of approval 2deck. 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/storyroster 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

The Boarded Window

“I penetrated to the place and ventured near enough to the ruined cabin to throw a stone against it, and ran away to avoid the ghost which every well-informed boy thereabout knew haunted the spot. But there is an earlier chapter – that supplied by my grandfather.”

Old Man Murlock was a widow who lived alone in remote cabin in an “immense and unbroken forest” near Cincinnati. He was a first generation pioneer but unlike many of his comrades of that ilk, did not get a second case of itchy foot and move further west.  Bierce tells us this story kind of second hand, the narrator used to cavort near the ‘haunted’ cabin in his youth, but was not a contemporary of Murlock and leaves the telling of that man’s story to a repetition of what was once told to him by his grandfather.

It seems one day in the distant past, while he was out hunting, Murlock’s wife was stricken ill from a fever “from which she never recovered” and which claimed her life. Her death hit Murlock hard:

“He had no experience in grief, his capacity had not been enlarged by use. His heart could not contain it all, nor his imagination rightly conceive it. He did not know he was so hard struck; that knowledge would come later, and never go. Grief is an artist of powers as various as the instruments upon which he plays his dirges for the dead, evoking form some the sharpest shrillest notes, from others the low, grave chords that throb recurrent like the slow beating of a distant drum. Some natures it startles, some it stupefies. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, stinging all the sensibilities to a keener life, to another as the blow of a bludgeon, which in crushing benumbs. We may conceive Murlock to have been that (latter) way affected…”

Murlock’s bludgeoning by grief and his preparations for his wife’s burial lead to the climax of the story, in which a giant panther plays a role and the supernatural (perhaps, anyway) makes an appearance as well. The final page of the story gave me chills.  It’s only five pages long and be read for free online at… http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/bordwind.html

Have you read Ambrose Bierce before? I find I really enjoy his writing style, and the passage I quoted above regarding grief really blew me away.  I’ve also been looking for a good biography of him for awhile – do you know if any exist?

“Profiles of Survival”(Eleanor Garen) by John Shively – selection#44 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠5♠  Five of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for Indiana-related short non-fiction works.

The Selection: Eleanor Garen from the book “Profiles in Survival” a collection of stories of Indiana POWs who served in the Philippines in World War II.

The Author: John C. Shively (pictured at left from his amazon.com author page at Utah Beach) is a practicing physician who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is also the author of The Last Lieutenant: A Foxhole View of the Epic Battle for Iwo Jima, published by Indiana University Press.


img_5408-1What 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/storyroster 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

legacy project seal of approval 2

Profiles in Survival – Eleanor Garen

“Garen was too busy to be frightened about what might happen when the Japanese arrived. She was ordered to burn her paper money. She still had a little camera with her. Since she did not want the Japanese to have it, she irreparably scratched the lens. After the war she wanted to make it very clear that it was not her idea to give up. She told a friend, ‘I wasn’t defeated, I was captured. I didn’t surrender – others surrendered me!'”

I found this book while on a huge pre-2016 Deal Me In buying spree at Bookmama’s Bookstore in Irvington (an Indianapolis eastside neighborhood). I was scrambling to find suitable “short” non-fiction material to include in my annual challenge.  When I found this book I thought it would be great to read a couple of the people’s stories it contained.  Though a bit longer than most of my short story reading, I’m glad I made the decision to buy it. My knowledge base of WWII history that occurred in the Pacific Theater – and especially in the Philippines – is shamefully light and this book helped me learn where Bataan and Corregidor actually were (other than just “in the Philippines”).  This book also makes a nice partner to some of the work by Ernie Pyle that I’ve read earlier in this year’s Deal Me In.

Garen’s story was the only one of a woman included in the book, so that – and admittedly because it was one of the shorter ones – helped secure its place in my 2016 roster. I learned also that Garen hailed from South Bend, Indiana, where one side of my family is from.  As I read I wondered if she ever encountered any of my family in South Bend. My grandpa, for example, worked for a time as a grocer, and I wonder if a young – or adult – Eleanor Garen ever may have handed him a few dollars across the counter to make a purchase. That’s one great thing about “reading locally” – you can sometimes amuse yourself with such speculations… Garen is pictured on the far right in the picture below, from the book, as you can see.🙂

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This was a longer story – about 45 pages – but it held my attention so well I read it straight through without a break, and I am a slow reader. I liked Garen right away – an otherwise ‘ordinary’ person faced with extraordinary circumstances. A patriot. One who was quietly fearless and devoted her career to helping others as a member of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. With the little background knowledge I have of this part of the war coming mostly from movies and television, I feared the worst when starting the story of a female P.O.W., but thankfully, she and the other nurses in her group were never subjected to the depravities I feared might be their fate at the hands of the Japanese.

Her Japanese captors, though, rarely missed a beat when it came to looting the nurses of their belongings:

“Most of this looting took place in broad daylight, but Garen was accosted one night while she slept. She was asleep on her cot when she became aware of a presence. Someone was at her side and she quickly realized it was a Japanese soldier. She was petrified, but remained perfectly still as he took her ring and removed her watch.  Other than this petty theft, the Japanese soldier did not molest her. Of the things stolen from her, she missed he watch the most. With it she had counted the pulse of many of her patients.”

That last sentence typified the type of character Garen had. It was all about the welfare of others and rarely about herself, even when late in captivity conditions and food supplies ran scarce, resulting in malnutrition and, in some cases, starvation.

I was on the edge of my seat reading the final dozen pages of her story, as the tide of the war was turning against the Japanese, though they often knew little of it, only garnering what news they could on a ‘contraband’ radio they hid well enough to avoid frequent searches for it by the Japanese. The fear that their captors would summarily execute the prisoners if their liberation became imminent was also a very real one, and had happened elsewhere. At one point, they searched her foot locker as part of their efforts to find the suspected radio:

“One night a Japanese soldier demanded she open her foot locker. She had an American flag inside, but when she pulled it out she told him it was a dress.  By the way she held it over herself, he did not recognize it as a flag and, not finding the radio he was looking for, moved on.”

Way to go Eleanor!🙂  I considered her story to be one of probably countless others experienced by the more ‘quiet heroes’ of World War II.  Though I’ve only assigned two of the stories in this book to my Deal Me In project, I know I will read the others as well.

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“Uncle Sack” by Murphy Edwards – selection #43 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦Q♦ Queen of Diamonds

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Diamonds is my suit for “Contemporary Writers with an Indiana Connection”

The Selection: “Uncle Sack” from the horror anthology “Terror Train 2”, published by James Ward Kirk fiction.

The Author: Murphy Edwards of Brookville, IN, who specializes in Horror fiction with the occasional venture into crime-related work.  I’ve featured one of his stories before on Bibliophilopolis, “Strunke City Derail”  which was actually a story from the first “Terror Train” anthology. The anthology containing “Uncle Sack” is available on Amazon.com for a mere 2.99. There’s also a Terror Train podcast at https://terrortrain.wordpress.com/ if you’re interested.

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/storyroster 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

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Uncle Sack

“So, The Sack Man, is he like the Boogey Man, or Yeti?” “Oh no,” said Manuel, erupting in laughter, “nothing like that. The Sack Man, he is much worse. Still, you must remember, what I am telling you is just a tale. Nothing has ever been proven.”

Too often in life, it seems that justice isn’t always meted out when and where it is needed. If there were only some supernatural force at work that would make sure this isn’t the case. Enter Portugal’s “Uncle Sack.”

Our protagonist, Cordell Harvey, is on one of Portugal’s regional trains. Seems a train trip through Portugal has been on his “bucket list” for a long time. The leg of his journey related by this story, however, is interrupted by two young “toughs” who are passing through the cars of the train and harassing passengers, including one feisty older lady who keeps yelling “O homem do saco!” back at them. Harvey inquires of Manuel, a fellow (local) passenger, what this means.  He feels she is cursing the thugs, but he learns she is trying to warn them.

“Uncle Sack is said to be Portugal’s great equalizer. When someone misbehaves, he steps in to set things straight… At the chosen moment, he transforms into a hideous creature; an insane, psychotic, vigilante murderer. He engulfs his prey and uses the sack to make them vanish.”  Harvey is somewhat disturbed by the tale, but is reassured “You have nothing to fear. He preys only on those who chose to disrupt society with their misbehavior.” (actually sounds like a handy kind of superhero to have around if you asked me!)

By this point in the story, an experienced reader will have realized that Harvey will have an opportunity to see Saco de Tio at work, but how will this come about? When he gets off the train in the town of “Porto” he may get the opportunity!

I don’t know if the legend of Uncle Sack exists in real world Portugal or only in the mind of the author, but in my opinion it’s a good one – as any would be that serves to discourage “misbehavior.” Porto (pictured below, from Wikipedia) is a real city, though, near the northern end of Portugal’s western coast. Though it’s not a bucket list item for me, I would also someday like to visit Portugal. I haven’t explored much Portuguese literature here at Bibliophilopolis either, with the exception of the exceptional writer, Katherine Vaz, whose work I was introduced to by some Portugeasan tourists who were visiting the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library a few years ago. See “the rest of the story” in this post about her story “Undressing the Vanity Dolls” here.

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Personal note: An inside joke at one of my book clubs is the fact that I have never been on a train trip in my life. Although this didn’t seem that odd to me, for some reason, it has become part of our monthly banter. I’ll have to report back to them that now at least I’m reading stories that take place on trains.   What about you?  Have you traveled by train? Can you recommend a trip? Can you think of any literary works that prominently feature trains, or rides on trains. (I can think of a few, but I’ll keep them to myself until people have had a chance to comment if they wish.)

“The Haunted Valley” by Ambrose Bierce – Selection #42 in Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣K♣ of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “Stories by ‘legendary’ Indiana authors”

The Selection: “The Haunted Valley” which may be read for free online.  It was actually Bierce’s first published story, seeing print in 1871.

The Author: Ambrose Bierce – though actually born in Ohio, Bierce served in an Indiana Regiment during the Civil War and went on to be one of the most famous writers of weird or ‘occult’ stories in the 19th century. I’ve blogged about a few of his stories in the past: Beyond the Wall, and The Man and the Snake to name a couple.

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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/story roster 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

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The Haunted Valley

“Looking in the same direction, I saw that the knothole in the wall had indeed become a human eye — a full, black eye, that glared into my own with an entire lack of expression more awful than the most devilish glitter.

This story is probably my least favorite of the Ambrose Bierce stories that I’ve read thus far, but it is certainly not without merit and, though the story line itself didn’t exactly grab me, the writing was up to his usual high standards. It’s a story I’ve “almost heard” several times before – a  narrator describes a road or route that he commonly travels that takes him through some eerie terrain (in this case a dark ravine) that gives him the impression of a lurking evil presence.

The unnamed narrator of this story goes on to give us a little of the backstory. It seems the valley was once inhabited by a “Jo. Dunfer,” a rather unlikable man who at one pointed hired “a Chinaman” to work as a laborer on his property, though he had virulently racist attitudes toward the Asian race, who he considered to be attacking the country like locusts.  At one point, he decides to build a cabin in the darkest part of the ravine and a dispute arises about how best to cut down the lumber required.  Apparently, the Chinaman, “Ah Wee”, instead of the traditional ‘chopping down’ method we use, fells trees by cutting in a shallow manner all around the circumference near the base of the tree.  For some reason, this method throws Mr. Dunfer into a rage.

Eventually, Ah Wee is killed by Dunfer, who more or less gets away with the crime, prejudice against Chinese immigrants being what it was in those days, yet there remains a haunting presence in the valley, particularly near the aborted construction site of the second cabin. When visiting the site years later, the narrator notes that, in addition to the trees that had been ‘worked on’ by Ah Wee, others were once partially felled in the more traditional manner. He notes that:

“It was as if the Old-World barbarism and the New-World civilization had reconciled their differences by the arbitration of an impartial decay — as is the way of civilizations.”

Dunfer has also since died and is buried next to the unfortunate Ah Wee at this location, which adds to its haunted-ness.  Have you read anything by Ambrose Bierce?  What are your favorites among his short stories?

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