R.I.P. – Peril of the Short Story

rip-xi

This year is the eleventh “R.I.P. Challenge” (Readers Imbibing Peril) at Stainless Steel Droppings. So… time to create another short story reading list for myself! I’m a little late getting started, but this will be my fourth year participating. Last year for the annual R.I.P. challenge I read 13 short stories, employing the “Deal Me In” approaching of assigning them to playing cards and determining the order I read them randomly via “the luck of the draw.”  This year, I’ll again be doing the “Peril of the Short Story” version of the challenge, and I’m feeling more ambitious so am reading 24 stories, assigning them to the cards in a euchre deck.  I have until 10/31 to complete the reading, so it’s very do-able.  The cards I’m using are from a new deck in my collection, the Bicycle “Celtic Myth” edition.  Pretty cool, huh?🙂

♥♥Hearts♥♥

♥9♥Ballroom Blitz” by Vernoica Schandes (from “Some of the Best From Tor.com” anthology)

♥10♥Black Hole Sun” by Alethea Kontis & Kelli Owen (from “Dark Futures: Tales of Dystopian SF”)

♥Q♥Blood and Fire” by Desmond Riddick (from “The End Was Not the End” anthology)

♥K♥Blood of the Hunting Moon” by S.M. Harding (from the “Decades of Dirt” anthology)

♥A♥How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gonles” by Lond Dunstan (from “The Weird” anthology)

♥J♥Blood Allies” by Josh Green (from “Dirtyville Rhapsodies”)

♦♦Diamonds♦♦


♦9♦I Am Become Death” by Franklin Thatcher (from “Strange New Worlds II”)

♦10♦In the Greenwood” by Mari Ness (from “Some of the Best of Tor.com”)

♦Q♦Mastodon” by Erin Fortinberry (from “Midwestern Gothic” magazine)

♦K♦Nightmare” by Shirley Jackson (from the “Just An Ordinary Day” collection) read 9/20

♦A♦One Eye, Two Eyes and Three Eyes” by Unknown (from “Grimm’s Fairy Tales)

♦J♦Schroedinger’s Gun” by Ray Wood (from “Some of the Best of Tor.com”) read 9/16

♣♣Clubs♣♣


♣9♣ “Scradni Vashka” by Saki (from “The Weird” anthology)

♣10♣ “Stewwelpeter” by Glenn Hirshberg (from the collection “The Two Sams”)

♣Q♣ “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers” by Unknown (from “Grimm’s Fairy Tales) – read 9/23

♣K♣ “The Halls of War” by DeeDee Davies (from “The End was Not the End” anthology)

♣A♣ “The Jellyfish” by Clint Smith (from the “Indiana Science Fiction 2012” anthology) read 9/23

♣J♣ “The Spider” by Hans Heinz Ewers (from “The Weird” anthology)

♠♠Spades♠♠


♠9♠ “The Too Clever Fox” by Leigh Bardugo (from “Some of the Best of Tor.com”)

♠10♠ “The Very Hot Sun in Bermuda” by Shirley Jackson (from “Just An Ordinary Day”)

♠Q♠ “Tin Cans” by Ekaterina Sedia (from the “Haunted Legends” anthology)

♠K♠ “Torching the Dusties” by Margaret Atwood (from the collection,”Stone Mattress”)

♠A♠ “What We Kept of Charlie” by R.M. Cooper (from “Midwestern Gothic” magazine) read 9/19

♠J♠ “Wicked Witch for Hire” by Katherine Nabity (from “Bounded in a Nutshell”)

I admittedly didn’t put a lot of thought into picking these, simply going through my kindle & nook apps and picking some from every applicable anthology I could find.  I did pick a few because I was familiar with the authors from prior short story challenges, but the rest I picked because the title sounded intriguing.  I also included a couple of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, of which I have a recent edition.  Of course, my old standby anthology, “The Weird,” makes a few appearances as well.  The suit assignments are random. What do you think of my selections?

Related blog posts by all the R.I.P. participants are available at the review site.  As of this posting there are already 43 for this popular challenge. So, what about you? Are YOU participating in the R.I.P. challenge this year?  Is this your first time, or, if not, how many times have you participated?

 

 

“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut – selection 36 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♣4♣ Four of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, clubs is my suit for “Stories by Legendary Hoosier Authors”

The Selection: “Harrison Bergeron” originally published in 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, I own it as part of the author’s excellent short story collection “Welcome to the Monkey House.”

The Author: Kurt Vonnegut. If you haven’t heard of him, you may be a newcomer to this blog, since I’ve featured him often. A native of Indianapolis, the city is also home to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and museum. The library has a book club that I’ve been attending pretty regularly for over five years now. Vonnegut is most famous for his anti-war novel Slaughterhouse Five, loosely based on his own experiences in World War II, where he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge before being shipped off to the city of Dresden as a P.O.W.

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

Harrison Bergeron

“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was quicker or stronger than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”

Harrison Bergeron is fourteen years old and “a genius and athlete, and under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.” He is the son of George and Hazel Bergeron, and they all live in a future where everyone is made to be equal. How this is accomplished is that gifted people are forced to wear specific “handicaps” based on their gifts in order to drag them back down to the norm. George, for instance, is above average intelligence so he has a radio transmitter attached to his ear that intermittently gives off distracting blasts of random sounds (automobile collisions, ball-peen hammers striking milk bottles, and so on) in order to disrupt George’s “unfair ability” to concentrate better than others. He also has to wear a bag containing “forty-seven pounds of birdshot” around his neck in order to counteract his superior strength. Ballerinas in this future world are similarly handicapped by heavy “saddlebags” around their waists. If your vision is above the normal, you are forced to wear thick, wavy-lenses glasses. Well, I’m sure you’re beginning to get the picture.

The head of the U.S. Office of the Handicapper General, one “Diana Moon Clampers” – one of my all-time favorite names in fiction – has legions of “H-G men” who continually think up new and improved handicaps to attach to those who are “unfairly gifted,” but they can hardly keep up with the exceptional Harrison Bergeron, who now stands seven feet tall and is outgrowing handicaps faster than they can come up with them. As this story commences, he has broken free from the authorities trying to “keep him normal,” and George and Hazel learn of his escape via news bulletins that interrupt their tv watching.
In the climax of the story, Harrison briefly takes over the television station, declaring himself “emperor,” ripping off his multitude of handicaps and those of one of the ballerinas. They dance as none must have danced since the onset of the Office of Handicapper General, enjoying some brief moments of existence as normal – THEIR normal anyway. Such a display cannot continue in this future dystopia, of course, and Diana Moon Clampers herself arrives on the scene to once again “equalize” things.

♫Personal Notes: Thankfully I haven’t experienced much close to this dystopia Vonnegut describes, but occasionally I am reminded of this story by events in our current culture, many of which are new developments that weren’t around in my youth, like “participation trophies” and the like (if everyone gets a trophy, isn’t that about the same as no one getting a trophy?). Recently at work, I got a “first place” ribbon for our Fitbit challenge. In our online group, I think I was actually 16th place or something. I guess management wasn’t comfortable singling out real winners. That could’ve hurt somebody’s feelings… I’ve noticed in education too how things are different now compared to when I went to school. I hear “horror stories” (to me anyway) of students being allowed to take a test multiple times, or with an open book, etc. Maybe not everyone’s strictly “equal,” but everyone passes. Eventually anyway. Hats off to Vonnegut for “seeing this coming” and appropriately lampooning it in this story.


Handicapper general seal from goodreads.com


(One artist’s illustration of Harrison and his ballerina; found at http://prosencons.tumblr.com/post/47152229853/harrison-bergeron)

“The Circle Effect” by Diana Catt – Selection #35 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♦6♦ Six of Diamonds

The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “Stories by Contemporary Indiana Writers”

The Selection: “The Circle Effect” from Decades of Dirt: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem from the Crossroads of Crime”, the fourth anthology produced by the “Speed City, Indiana” chapter of Sisters in Crime.

The Author: Diana Catt. I’ve actually read a story of hers for Deal Me In before, tackling “The Art of the Game” from Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks in 2015. See her website (from where the photo at left was found) at hoosier-hoops-and-hijinkshttp://dianacatt.com/ The “author notes” in Decades of Dirt tell me she’s an environmental microbiologist in her day job. Pretty cool.🙂 of coincidental note is that Deal Me IN’s notorious hand of fate led me to draw the card for her story on the week of her birthday…

 

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

 

The Circle Effect

“‘I wish you hadn’t been the one to find the body, son.’ I wholeheartedly agreed.”

This story is the fictional first person account of a murder that occurs during the construction of Indianapolis’s famous downtown Soldiers & Sailors Monument (or, as many call it these days, simply the Circle Monument). The time frame of the story is historically accurate, it’s just the details and the murder which are fictional. Construction of this monument lasted thirteen years and bridged the turn of the 20th century, being dedicated in 1902. When construction began, many veterans of the U.S. Civil War were still living, and The Circle Effect is the story of how long grudges may sometimes be held before they can be properly resolved or avenged.

The young narrator – I believe he’s unnamed – is the son of a small group of benefactors who are leading citizens and guiding the logistics of the monument’s construction. A benefit of his position is that he has “the run of” the construction site and watches and interacts with many of the workers. One of these is the one-eyed, scarred, and mysterious “Mr. Singleton.” The narrator asks how he got the scar “after knowing him just a few hours.”

“Bayonet, boy. Hand to hand combat. Damn Reb had thirty pounds on me and a powerful swing. Last thing I ever saw with this eye was that blade slicing down.”

Whether all the stories Singleton tells the young boy are true or not is subject to debate, but one thing that is true, and that, not surprisingly, he has kept to himself, is that he once served as a guard at the notorious Andersonville prison. It was there that he wronged one man of a close circle of comrades-at-arms, other members of which just happen to now be in Indianapolis at the time he finds employment in the monument’s construction…

(below: The Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the center of Indianapolis)


The story is also, in a way, a coming of age story, as the young narrator’s accidental involvement in the unfolding events lead him to realize that trusted adults may not always be everything you’ve assumed them to be. I also loved the multiple meanings of the final sentence. “The circle was now complete.”

♫ Personal Notes: I worked in downtown Indy for many years, a lot of which were just one block east of Monument Circle, where I, among hundreds of other downtown workers, would often sit on the steps and eat our lunch, watching the world go by in our brief respite from the daily grind. I’ve been inside the monument itself only once, many years ago and climbed the steps to the top, which as you’d imagine offers an interesting view of downtown. The monument is also home to the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War museum. Lilly is the eponymous founder of a drug company you may have heard of….

“Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann)” by Fred Cavinder – selection #34 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♠A♠  Ace of Spades

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “Short, Indiana-related works of Nonfiction”

The Selection: “Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann)” from Forgotten Hoosiers: Profiles from Indiana’s Hidden History  (more info on the book at https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781596297463)

The Author: Fred Cavinder. He has written several Indiana-themed books and was a long time reporter for the Indianapolis Star newspaper.  I’ve featured two other pieces by him in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts” and “Politics and Poetry

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

Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann)

“I am washing myself clean,” he said during one stay at Turkey Run (State Park), “of the mental dust of the city.”

turkey run.jpg

(Turkey Run State Park image above from visitindiana.com)

Learning about Hoosier Max Ehrmann has been one of the “great discoveries” of my 2016 Deal Me In project thus far.  If you’re like me, you may not recognize the name, but I’d almost guarantee that, at some point in your life, you’ve read – and appreciated – something he wrote. He’s particularly known for a prose poem titled “Desiderata.” Now, does that title ring a bell?  It’s pretty short so I’m going to include it below:

desiderata.jpg(Desiderata poem picture from: quotesgram.com)

Can you confirm whether or not you’ve seen this before? I’m guessing you have.  I’d never thought much about its origin until today, though, and what do you know, it was written by a Hoosier!🙂  Anyway, I’ve always thought those were pretty good words to live by, even if I’ll admit it is often difficult to follow all the poem’s directives.  Ehrmann, however, seemed to have done so in his own life.

After reading this piece, I’ve decided Ehrmann was a man after my own heart, and he and I aren’t that much different (well, except for the fact that he was extremely talented, of course!).  His time spent working in more ‘traditional’ business (rather than arts and letters) were not times he enjoyed.  E.g. “His heart wasn’t in it. ‘Had it not been for some other enterprise of the mind in leisure hours, I should have died,’ he wrote.”  He also spent much of his time at home “surrounded by books, busts of Dante and Shakespeare and a bronze paperweight of Buddha.” and “A grade school teacher named Louis Peters inspired him to read. As an adult , his rooms in Terre Haute overflowed with books.”  And, finally, “He never quarreled with the need to earn a living, just the ‘brutal business world’ that it involved.” Yes, he sounds like a guy I would have liked to hang out with!

He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, and later become president of the Terre Haute Literary Club.  He seems to have been universally admired and liked by the people of that city (not surprising, if he did indeed follow the dictums of the Desiderata).  His other most famous work was a poem called simply “A Prayer” It may be read online here.

max-ehrmann-650x370.jpg

(above sculpture of “Terre Haute Treasure” Ehrmann  found at Wabash and 7th in that fair city. photo from wthitv.com)

Ehrmann is someone I’ll definitely be reading more of – and about – after my Bicentennial reading project has long since finished.  Cavinder sums up Ehrmann quite well in the following:

“In a sense, Ehrmann was a candidate to be forgotten. By all accounts, he was a man who lived austerely and simply. He never wanted fame or money, associates said. He shunned publicity and did not care for “things.” The stuff of philosophy and the soul were his palette.”

Thanks to Fred Cavinder for writing this book and for bringing this man to my attention. Mr. Ehrmann, it was nice to meet you, sir.

So, what about YOU, dear reader?  Are you familiar with the Desiderata?  Are you old enough to remember  a musical adaptation of it that was done in the ’70s?  I <cough, cough> might be…🙂

(Below [photo from the book]: Ehrmann was also an archery enthusiast, something I’m sure fellow Hoosier literary giant Maurice Thompson would have approved of!)

ehrmann2

 

 

 

“Everything Strange and Unknown” by Joe Meno – selection #33 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♥3♥ Three of Hearts

The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for “Stories from Indiana magazines and Literary Journals”

The Selection: “Everything Strange and Unknown” from “Booth” a journal published by Butler University in Indianapolis. (this story is from October 2015)  You can read the story online at http://booth.butler.edu/2015/10/09/everything-strange-and-unknown/

The Author: Joe Meno (picture from Wikipedia) is based out of Chicago, visit http://www.joemeno.com/ for more info on his writing.

 

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

 

Everything Strange and Unknown

“Everything becomes hilarious after my wife, Samantha, says she’s in love with a ping-pong player. Suddenly, everything seems like a joke.”

This story is the first person narrative of Paul, a young man whose wife – as you know from the quotation above – has left him for a “ping-pong” player.  Not even a “table tennis” player, as practitioners of that game as a sport prefer to be called. The reader also quickly learns how clueless Paul is now that his wife has left him. For instance, he tells us he has “three or four” kids (what?!  which is it?) and that “The hardest thing is their schedules. All these children have these places to go, at these different times of the day.  Some of them go to school, some don’t, but who can keep track?  Let’s be honest; mistakes have been made.”

After a bit, it seems Paul may actually “find love again” when he meets one of his kids’ music teacher, Nicole. Frankly, she’s not that much more on the ball than he is. She has delusions of grandeur involving starting her own business as an entertainer at children’s parties – specifically for children who are afraid of clowns, and the extent of her preparation has been to have 1,000 business cards printed. Somehow the two hit it off and go on an absurdly funny date.

Well, there’s not a lot more to this very short story than Paul’s  painful-to-read attempts to adjust to his new life. And Nicole, in my opinion, is probably his best shot at finding love again, but he’s well on his way to blowing that by the time the story ends.

li-xiaoxia-table-tennis-olympics.jpg

♫ Personal Notes:  You don’t get too many opportunities to see serious table tennis on television, but the recent Olympiad was one of those rare times, and I did catch a little of it.  Also, my dad was serious player and even had a rating at one time in the USTTA.  Growing up, we had a “ping pong” table in the basement, and later a folding one we kept in the garage and periodically wheeled out into the back yard. My brothers and I had many spirited competitions, but the most memorable games to me were the doubles matches we’d play against my mom and dad.  Mom wasn’t as serious a player as the rest of us, and with my dad being clearly better than ALL of us, those teams made a doubles match a fairly even contest. Although the story above might not have been my favorite of this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge, I am thankful that it led me to resurrect these memories of playing table tennis in the back yard growing up.🙂

As my 2016 Deal Me In entries have gone so far, this may be the funniest one yet (though, honestly, I think this has been the only one thus far for which that was the primary intent. Vonnegut’s “Next Door” and Marian Allen’s “It Came from Burr County” are two others that come to mind that have made me laugh.🙂. This was also the last of my 2016 stories coming from  Butler’s “Booth” journal.

What are some funny short stories that YOU have read lately?

 

“The B-29s” by Ernie Pyle – selection #32 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♠8♠ Eight of Spades

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

The Selection: “The B-29s” from “Last Chapter” a collection of “dispatches” from late World War II, particularly from the Pacific.

The Author: Ernie Pyle should need no introduction. An incredibly popular reporter of the war from Dana, Indiana, it’s sad to think, while reading these reports, that he would be dead within a year of writing them. He was killed by a Japanese bullet on Iwo Jima in April , 1945.

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

(Above: a B-29 hard at work)

The B-29s

“I’ve always felt the great 500-mile auto race at Indianapolis was the most exciting event – in terms of human suspense – that I’ve ever known. The start of a B-29 mission to Tokyo, from the spectator’s standpoint, was almost the same as the Indianapolis race.” – Ernie Pyle

indy 500 1940

B-29s_of_the_462d_Bomb_Group_West_Field_Tinian_Mariana_Islands_1945.jpg

(above pictures from: https://www.dc3dakotahunter.com/blog/marianas-the-b-29s-fixed-aircraft-carrier/  and indystar.com)

I didn’t really know anything about B-29s before reading this piece. All of my “experience” from movies and television dealt with the B-17 “flying fortress” and not the B-29, whose nickname, by the way, was “Superfortress.” Pyle writes of it that it was “unquestionably a wonderful airplane. Outside of the famous old Douglas DC-3 workhorse, I’ve never heard of an airplane so unanimously praised by pilots.” His descriptions of the missions and especially his first-hand accounts of their Indy 500-like – and literal -“flying start” were thrilling and gave me a new appreciation for the crews and ground support of those planes.

The missions that he witnessed started at Marianas (also where the photo above was taken), where the writer happened to have a nephew stationed. Their primary target on the missions was Tokyo itself, which was about a 14-hour round trip. I found it particularly interesting when he related that this time during the mission when they were en route or returning was almost as challenging as the, relatively speaking, brief time over the target and when they were fighting off the enemy’s defending fighters and anti-aircraft. Often, planes were damaged and effectively “limping” home. How stressful must that long flight home have been, wondering if you could indeed make it back without having to “ditch” in the open Pacific.

Speaking of ditching, Pyle points out that it was a much more hazardous process there in the Pacific rather than in the English Channel, where it was more likely for rescue operations to be successful due to the relatively small size of that body of water. On the missions Pyle describes, a damaged plane, especially one whose damage caused it to lag behind the rest, would usually have a “buddy” plane assigned to help pinpoint the location if indeed they did end up having to ditch. The pilots and crew told Pyle that one of the hardest parts of flying missions was the helplessness they felt when one of the planes in their group was damaged. There wasn’t much they could do to assist, even though they were “right there” in the air next to them. It’s not like they could loan another plane one of their four perfectly functioning engines. As Pyle reminds us: “There is indeed a fraternalism in war that is hard for people at home to realize.”

One of my favorite passages dealt with the food the airmen ate and those who prepared it for them at their base. But Pyle also relates that “most of the boys got packages from home. One kid wrote and told his folks to slow up a little, that he was snowed under with packages. Jack (Pyle’s nephew) had two jars of Indiana fried chicken from my Aunt Mary. She cans it and seals it in Mason jars,and it’s wonderful. She sent me some in France, but I’d left before it got there. Jack took some of his fried chicken in his lunch over Tokyo one day. We Hoosiers sure do get around, even the chickens.”

I’m kind of sad that this is the final Ernie Pyle piece that I’ll read for Deal Me “IN” but, like I’ve said previously, I’ve now fortified my library with additional writing by Pyle, and a biography of him that I’m also looking forward to reading.

♫Personal Notes: One of my all-time favorite movies is the classic “Twelve O’clock High” starring a young Gregory Peck. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen it, and I was reminded of it while reading this week’s story. I think it did a good job of capturing the “anticipation” of those on the ground waiting for their comrades to return, and counting the planes as they got back, praying the same number returned that took off. Sadly, there were usually fewer planes landing than had originally taken off.

twelve-oclock-high-2

(above: At the end of the film, Gregory Peck sits “catatonic” the entire time the mission was in the air…)

“A Conversation with Tim O’Brien” by James Hanna – selection #31 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: 4♥4 Four of Hearts.

The Suit: For 2016, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my suit for “Stories from Indiana-related Magazines and Literary Journals”

TheSelection: From 2014″A Conversation with Tim O’Brien” from Butler University’s “Booth” journal. I found this piece in the journal’s online archives, when I was specifically searching for selections to include in “Deal Me IN”  Read it for free online here.

The Author: James Allan Hanna, now a member of the English Faculty at Indianapolis’s Cathedral High School, teaching American Literature and Creative Writing. He’s also a former assistant editor of “Booth.”

 

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

“A Conversation with Tim O’Brien”

“These days, of course, vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are endlessly told, “Thank you for your service.” I suppose it’s meant to be a corrective to our understanding of the mistreatment of Vietnam vets. In fact, I hear those words myself quite often – “Thank you for your service.” But it gives me the creeps. I don’t want to be thanked for killing people, for participating in the deaths of three million Vietnamese. Moreover, the folks who say “Thank you for your service” – even with the kindest intentions – have not the slightest idea about what they’re thanking me for. And on top of that, they don’t want to know what they’re thanking me for. They don’t want to hear the ugly realities.” – Tim O’Brien

If you haven’t already heard of Tim O’Brien, you should probably go buy his famous book, The Things They Carried, and read it soon.  In fact, it’s way more important that you read that instead of this blog post so go ahead and come back later to read this; take as long as you need.

Done? Okay, welcome back.🙂  Though much of this interview was focused on questions about the writing process rather than the author’s published works, O’Brien’s anti-war sentiments still shine through pretty brightly.  One passage in particular that grabbed me was when he elaborated on the “utter waste” of it all:

“The older the get, the more I – I hated war to begin with, but I’m more and more that way now.  There’s so little worth killing people for. And Vietnam is a glaring example of the utter waste of it all. I mean, look, we lost that war.  And yet who in this country goes around forty-five years later thinking, “Oh dear, what a catastrophe! My life’s a nightmare! I’ve lost all my liberties! Dominoes toppled all across Asia! Communists landed in San Francisco! Nobody thinks such stuff. NOBODY!

and, later:

“Right now, at this instant, American tourists are bicycling up and down Highway One in Vietnam. American high school and college kids are eating noodle soup on the streets of Hanoi. American businessmen are cutting deals in Saigon. Three million dead Vietnamese, about 60,000 dead American boys, and now no one in this country devotes a waking thought to the fact that we lost that war. On a personal, daily basis no one actually cares. And if no once cares, why did we go through all that horror and brutality in the first place?  Three million dead people, and we don’t give it a thought.”

That’s a staggering perspective on the Vietnam War, isn’t it?  I’ve read The Things They Carried several times now and recommend it often when people pay me the compliment of asking if I have any ideas for “what they should read next.”  I usually describe it as a very powerful book. After hearing the author speak a couple times now and now reading this conversation, I think the word “powerful” still applies.

It’ll only take about 15 minutes to read this piece, and it would be time well spent. Just click the link in this post’s header to read it online.

♫Personal Notes: I’ve had the pleasure of briefly meeting author Tim O’Brien a couple of times myself, mainly due to his relationship with the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, of which I am a member and, through this blog, a supporter myself.  He’s not an imposing man physically, but his words carry a lot of weight, and his presence somehow commands respect.  Just last month, he was in Indiana to speak at an event as part of the “Vonnegut Sessions” series.  He was interviewed briefly by two local fellow wordsmiths, then fielded a bunch of questions from the audience. He was engaging and self-deprecating, admitting “he hates this” when referring to his speaking in front of an audience, saying “I’m a guy who spends most of my days sitting at home in my underwear in front of a computer,” and that “I own one suit, and you’re lookin’ at it!”

(below: O’Brien, in middle with cap, listens to a question from the audience at July 15th’s “Vonnegut Sessions” event at the WFYI studios. Photo by moi.)

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When the event ended, while chatting with some other audience members, I learned one of them had helped sponsor the event by being the high bidder on a “coffee and conversation” with O’Brien. (If I had known about that in advance, there may have been a different kind of war – a bidding war.🙂 ) Also, the person who was the top bidder was local artist Greg Perry (also a writer gpwrites.com), who created the famous Landmark for Peace sculpture commemorating Robert Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King was slain. (pictured below, from wikipedia)

Landmark_for_Peace_Memorial

The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley by Jason Roscoe – selection #30 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♥10♥ Ten of Hearts.

The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for stories from “Indiana-related Magazines and Literary Journals”

The Selection: “The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley” from Mythic Indy, an anthology of “New legends, fairy tales, and myths about Indianapolis.” I have a couple copies of this anthology, one signed by many of the authors, which I received since Bibliophilopolis was one of many sponsors of the project, and another, now more beat up copy that I carry around with me, reading a story here and there… The story may also be read online at Punchnel’s Magazine where it was originally published.

The Author: Jason Roscoe. This story is the first of his work that I’ve read, and I don’t know much about him, but he operates a website http://basementrejects.com that includes reviews of many tv series and movies. It is where I found the mysterious gas mask photo of him(?) above…

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

James_Whitcomb_Riley,_1913 (1)

The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley

“‘I must have my story.’

‘What happens if I refuse?’

‘Bad things. Very bad things.'”

Stories have power. That’s something I’ve come to appreciate more and more ever since I started blogging about them back in 2010.  Many authors have written or spoken about this as well. I remember in particular an author event at Bookmama’s Bookstore a few years back that featured Indiana author James Alexander Thom. He was there to talk about a book of his on the “art and craft” of writing historical fiction and talked about how stories around the campfire by ‘primitive man’ were the start of everything. Stories about what a hunter found ‘the next valley over’ (or whatever) were the birth of geography. Stories about certain plants that eased certain pain or injuries became the birth of medicine. And so on, and so on. I don’t want to spoil an upcoming Deal Me “IN” post, but I have on deck an interview with author Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried) where he shows a respect for the power of the story as well. James Whitcomb Riley had a reputation as one of the greatest storytellers of his time. A reputation that also made him known, in this story anwyay, to the Devil himself!

Shortly after his death in 1916, Riley’s spirit, “at rest in crown hill cemetery” is accosted by a strange voice, one that he knows, deep down, is that of the Devil.  The Devil demands that Riley entertain him with a story and, perhaps for the first time in his life – er, perhpas I should say “existence” – Riley’s “got nothing” and can’t quickly come up with one. The Devil gives him a year to come up with one and he does. Satisfied, the Devil decides to make this a recurring contract, one that Riley eventually tires of, prompting the interchange quoted above.  The year he refuses, 1945, something bad happens. Something very bad. Nuclear weapons are used for the first time in human history. Riley’s ghost blames himself and keeps his end of the bargain up going forward, but to what end?

It’s not clear, but to this reader – by the end of this story – Riley’s annual storytelling is perhaps beginning to have a “good influence” on the nature of the Devil himself. Now THAT is powerful indeed! Maybe the denouement is best captured by the final paragraph of this story:

“Next time you’re in Crown Hill Cemetery on a cool spring day and you think you catch something out of the corner of your eye – a shimmer or an old man – and you feel a chill down your spine, remain calm.  Just lie back on the grass, and know that you are safe in the hands of a master storyteller. Close your eyes and listen closely and perhaps you’ll even hear a story that could charm the Devil himself.”

This is the final story from “Mythic Indy” that I’ll be reading for this year’s short story project, but there remain several stories in the collection which I have yet to read “at large.” Maybe I’ll save some for a future year’s iteration of “Deal Me In.”  I recommend picking up a copy of this book check out http://www.secondstoryindy.org/2015/09/pre-order-mythic-indy-and-support-second-story/ online for details or maybe check at Indy Reads Books bookstore Next time you’re in downtown Indy.

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Above: The burial site of James Whitcomb Riley, at the top of Crown Hill cemetery.  It’s the highest point in Indianapolis (for you trivia fans out there).

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♫ Personal Notes: The Indianapolis home of James Whitcomb Riley (above, from Wikipedia) is now a museum, in the downtown”Lockerbie” neighborhood.  It’s just a few blocks away from the location where one of my book clubs meets (the Rathskeller – you should try it sometime if you’ve never been) and after this month’s meeting, eight of our members adjourned to an afterparty featuring a walking ‘ghost tour’ of the area.  This event was sponsored by the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library in conjunction with one of the books (dealing with “haunted Indiana”)  in their summer reading program. The tour itself – though I found it very interesting – provided few true frights.  The Riley home was the last stop on the tour, and we learned that some visitors have reported seeing the ghost of “The Hoosier Poet” on the grounds.

(below: one of my awesome book clubs at a recent meeting at the Rathskeller; I think we set an attendance record that night) 

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“Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often” by David Hoppe – selection #29 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠J♠ Jack of Spades (found one with a bit of a “Colts Blue” thing going on🙂 )

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “Indiana-related Short, Non-fiction Works”

The Selection: “Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often” from the book of short essays, “Personal Indianapolis.”

The Author: David Hoppe. He has lived in Indiana since 1980 and is a contributing editor and regular columnist for the Indianapolis alternative weekly magazine, Nuvo. Find out more about him at his website: http://www.davidhoppewriter.com/index.html – you may also see and read some of Hoppe’s recent work at http://www.nuvo.net/blogs/Hoppe/

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

 

“Peyton Manning – Champion”

“He grew up in New Orleans and came of age in Tennessee. Who would’ve guessed that Peyton Manning had so much Hoosier in him.”

Okay. Full disclosure time. I’ve been a pretty rabid Indianapolis Colts fan ever since their relocation in 1984. I suffered through some horrible seasons with them early on, saw some brief glimpses of the glory possible (the Ted Marchibroda/Jim Harbaugh-led run to the almost Super Bowl in 1995, then finally in the 2006-07 season got the payoff with our only Super Bowl win. In the past ten or twelve years I’ve been a regular attendee of the games and have been a season ticket holder for most of that time. SO… I was really interested to read this piece by writer David Hoppe.

I enjoyed Hoppe’s describing how “a certain alchemy” can occur between a (great) athlete and the city he represents. And his claim that a “true champion” like Manning goes beyond even that. He lauds Manning’s charity work, his ability to “make teammates better” and his self deprecating humor, on continual display through tv commercials or even a Saturday Night Live appearance (a classic!)

This piece was written in early 2012, when the handwriting was beginning to appear on the wall that Manning’s time in Indy was likely coming to an end (“unceremoniously by injury”). The decision to let Manning go and draft Andrew Luck was divisive to Colts fans in Indiana. Many felt he “deserved better” or saw it as another opportunity to denigrate our somewhat troubled owner, Jim Irsay, for “letting him go.” Those of us fans who have an understanding of the NFL beyond the personal, emotional attachments that surround players who are your favorites knew that the “Manning, Out – Luck, In” transaction was likely more the result of circumstances beyond both sides’ control.

Hoppe also talks about how his (now-adult) son he grew up during Peyton’s tenure in Indy. His concluding remarks pretty well sum up the way many in town came to terms with the changing of the guard:

“My son also knows that this is the way things go. Change happens, usually in ways we can’t control. You get used to it the best you can and try to look forward to what comes next. Losing a champion, though, is tough to take.”

Agreed, but I also feel the future is bright for the Colts, with the potential of having two superstar quarterbacks back-to-back. Still, though, for Peyton’s last visit here in November of 2015 (as quarterback of the Denver Broncos, where his NFL career enjoyed what must have been a truly gratifying Indian Summer) I, as always, donned a Colts jersey for that game, one that I rarely wore in the past because “everyone else was wearing it” -one featuring the number 18…

♫ Personal Note: (actually, most of this entry feels like personal notes!) Our new quarterback is also great – even literarily speaking. Did you know that he has a public, on-line book club?! I’m not kidding! Check out http://www.andrewluckbookclub.com for the details. As Terrell Owens would say, “That’s my quarterback!”

Image below from andrewluckbookclub.com (I read both these books and have read 5 of the 6 selections he’s come up with so far.

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Schliemann in Indianapolis by Michael Martone – Selection #28 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦10♦ Ten of Diamonds.

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

The Selection: “Schliemann in Indianapolis” from “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List: Indiana Stories” I own a hardcopy, purchased at Bookmama’s Bookstore in Irvington (Indianapolis)

The Author: Michael Martone (picture at left from IUpress.typepad.com). 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.  I just noticed this week that he is teaching a one-day class at the Indiana Writers Center this fall.  Maybe I will try to attend…

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

 

Schliemann in Indianapolis

“No one must know the real purpose of my presence here.”

I really liked this one! It was almost a custom-written story for me, as someone who has read The Iliad of Homer multiple times and even minored in Classics at Wabash College right here in Indiana.  But I guess I should check first, do you know who Heinrich Schliemann is? He was a famous “Bulldozer Archaeologist”/Treasure Hunter of the 19th century, whose claim to fame was the discovery of the ruins of ancient Troy in Turkey.  Until his time, the going opinion was that The Iliad was largely a work of fiction and that there was no actual “Trojan War” that it describes.  Well, many parts of it may be still be fiction, but Troy was a real place – one Schliemann was convinced he could find and actually did. He also “excavated” the classical ruins of Mycenae in Greece, famously digging up the gold “Mask of Agamemnon” and making the massive “Lion’s Gate” of that city (drawing, from Wikipedia, below) famous.

At this point you may be wondering why on earth there would be a story titled “Schliemann in Indianapolis.” The fact is, Schliemann did spend time in Indianapolis in 1869. He was here because he had heard that Indiana was a good state to get a divorce in – something he was desperately seeking, since he married hastily in his youth and later learned to his chagrin that his Russian bride shared none of his Classical interests and refused to let their children accompany him on his travels.  Martone’s story is the manuscript of an imagined journal that Schliemann kept during his time in Indiana’s capital, where he was waiting for a tenuous legal process to make his divorce official…


(I still have the title story from this collection waiting to be drawn in this year’s Deal Me “IN” project & I’m looking forward to reading it (and the rest!) as well.)

We get to see the city of Indianapolis in its early years through the eyes of a wealthy European: “The city was built overnight. It is the newest of cities in the state, evolved from nothing save a swamp. There was not even an Indian village on the site. No one had lived here before. It is an example of parthenogenesis and pride. I am taken by this. Here are a people who build cities for no other reason than that the locations are geographical centers of arbitrarily decided government regions.”  We also get “As a general rule, classic literature is despised here owing to the universal enthusiasm for acquiring material wealth; thus classical education is at a low ebb.” Easy for you (who was born wealthy and retired at thirty-six) to say!

Clearly, the Schliemann of this story has little, if any, residual affection for his first wife.  When reading letters from her where pet names are employed, he thinks, “Sometimes it is a curse to know all the different names for a thing. Husband. Wife. One longs for the dead tongues and a world that does not change.”

Part of the drama in this story is the danger that Indiana’s liberal divorce laws may soon change before Schliemann has time to finish his petition, etc. It seems a current cause celebre had raised public awareness about some potential unfairness or injustice to a woman being divorced (gasp!), and Schliemann has many anxious days praying that a change in the law would be delayed sufficiently for him to complete his “business.” This gives him a glimpse into the workings of the Indiana legislature, about which he shares his thoughts: “After all, I am very glad to have got an insight into the doings of these people’s legislative assemblies, which presents democracy in all its roughness and nudity with all its party spirit and facility to yield to lateral influences, with all its licentiousness. I often saw them throwing paper balls at each other and even the speaker.”

While all this is going on, Schliemann is also actively trying to  procure a new, more “acceptable” bride, enlisting the aid of a clergyman overseas. He has a laundry list of qualities that he requires and this part of the story feels really creepy to a modern reader. His self-centered-ness truly knows no bounds. He even proclaims,How like noble Paris I feel, choosing among the goddesses.” ‘Oh, that poor girl’ was all I could think…

♫ Personal notes: I was wholly ignorant of Schliemann’s time in Indianapolis until a few years ago, when I attended a special program exploring his time here at the Indiana State Library. Fortunately, this was after I became a “book blogger,” and I can refer you to that story by linking to my post from long ago. See here if interested. Also, there’s one final “personal note” that I’d like to share. The Schliemann of this story shares how the city was built on what was once swampland and frequently complains about the temperature, once saying: “On account of the humidity, the heat is unbearable and oppressive.” Some things haven’t changed in Indianapolis in the last 150 years….

 

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