Deal Me In 2015 – Week 20 Wrap Up


Below are links to new posts since our last update:

Randall at Time Enough at Last read Amy Hempel’s “Today Will be a Quiet Day”

Katherine at The Writerly Reader had her first DNF of the year. Read what she thought about Rick Moody’s “The Albertine Notes” at

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Mary Lerner’s “Little Clouds”

Also, check out his “Bradbury of the Month” story, “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl” at

“o” at Behold the Stars read William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”

I read “The Journey” by Mary Susan Buhner, and am working on a brief post about it today. :-)

So… what short stories did YOU read this week?

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 19

IMG_3919Below are links to new posts by our group since the last update. Enjoy!

I read Jason Sizemore’s “The Sleeping Quartet” and haven’t had a good night’s sleep since. :-)

“o” at Behold the Stars goes classical again, this time reading the Plutarch essay “On the Avoidance of Anger”

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery covers Connie Willis’s “Even the Queen”

Dale at Mirror with Clouds checks back in with F. Scott Fitzgerald, posting about his “An Alcoholic Case”

Katherine at The Writerley Reader explores a lesser known Mary Shelley work, “The Transformation”

Randall at “Time Enough at Last” drew a winning card when his two of spades led him to read Bernard Malamud’s “The German Refugee”

Can you identify the author below who was featured in one Deal Me In-er’s week 19?


“The Sleeping Quartet” by Jason Sizemore

“A Thousand Little Deaths”

Jack Taylor’s wife tells him that hearing him struggle with sleep apnea night after night is “like listening to you die a thousand little deaths.” It is this statement that leads Jack – one of probably millions who fear going to see doctors – to schedule an appointment at a sleep clinic. How bad could that be? The reader will soon find out.

White_deck_3_of_spadesI read this story for week 19 read of “Deal Me In.” I own it as part of the author’s dark collection “Irredeemable,” which I have been looking forward to exploring. When it came time to come up with my list of stories for my annual Deal Me In short story reading project (explained here), I added a couple tales from it to get my feet wet – this story and another, “Yellow Warblers”; how scary could that one be, right? If “The Sleeping Quartet” is representative, I’ll be in for a treat when that one comes around later in the year.

Jack’s visit to the clinic starts out in a fairly ordinary way. In the waiting room with three other patients, he spends his time checking out the others (we’ve all done that, yes?), noting their peculiarities and physical features with disgust. Things take a turn for the worse when they’re led to the “lab” by a nurse that tells them they’ll have to pose any of their questions to the lab technician. When this same lab technician later responds to their queries dismissively, “Sorry, any questions you had should have been addressed by the nurse,” you begin to suspect this “clinic” isn’t what it appears to be on the surface.

Is what follows (probably the longest night of Jack’s life) only an extended nightmare, or do the events we read of really take place? Maybe some of them were real and some not? One physical manifestation is explained away the next morning when he is released, making you wonder further. I think this decision is purposefully left to the reader, and I like that. My favorite feature of this story is that it plays upon a fear many of us have – that of surrendering control to others. Something hard enough to do in normal circumstances but even harder when in your most vulnerable state – sleeping.

If you’re interested, this book is available at Amazon. The kindle version (the format I own) is currently only $3.99

So, how did you sleep last night? A staple of Comedian Stephen Wright’s (below – remember him?) act used to be when he would say “Someone asked me, ’Did you sleep good?’ I said ’No. I made a few mistakes.’” :-)

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 18 Wrap Up

Our first wrap-up of May (short story month!) includes posts on seven new stories for your perusal. See the links below:

“o” at Behold the Stars posted about Miguel de Cervantes’ “The Glass Graduate”

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery read J.D. Salinger’s story “For Esme, With Love and Squalor

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s “Old Woman Magoun”

Katherine at The Writerly a reader posts about Margaret Oliphant’s “The Secret Chamber Also, you won’t want to miss her fifth “lunar extra” tale, “The Ensouled Violin” by Maria Petrova Bavlatsky

Randall read Kent Nelson’s “Invisible Life from the 1986 edition of Best American Short Stories

Me? I “read local” – selecting Amy Sorrells’ poignant “Finding Eudora”

Below The “Glass Delusive” Charles VI :-)

“Finding Eudora” a short story by Amy Sorrells

It’s week 18 of the 2015 edition of the Deal Me In short story reading challenge. I drew the ten of diamonds, the second ten in a row that I’ve drawn from my short story deck.  In 2015, I’ve reserved the diamonds suit for stories included in the local anthology, “Indy Writes Books” – A volume of which Bibliohilopolis is a proud “first edition sponsor.” :-) The local author contributors to this collection were asked to provide work that had “something to do with reading, writing, literacy, books, or bookstores.” This story, whose narrator is a librarian, certainly meets that criteria.

Zoe’s job at the “Whitcomb Street Library” (in an economically depressed part of town) was the only one she could find “with benefits” after a standout college career where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Creative Writing. She’s become jaded about literature and a career in letters. She laments how Fifty Shades of Grey has a waiting list a mile long at her branch while the covers of books with quality literature remain shiny and new. She also wishes more kids came to the library. One kid who does, though, is Veronica Hyatt, a thin girl who’s reading through the library “A to Z,” checking out books in authors’ alphabetical order, ostensibly to read for her grandmother.

Veronica’s up to the “W”s when we meet her and is looking for something by Eudora Welty, who’s currently checked out to another patron (I guess at least some of them read actual literature!). Some time later, a family member of Veronica visits the library and inquires about Welty, saying “…we was looking for some of her short stories awhile ago, but they was checked out.” It is only then that Zoe learns the true story of the young girl and her “grandmother.”

A great short story, written in a kind of timeline format, with the the nice touch of the entry dates being listed as “Due Dates” as one would find in the back of an old library book. I’ll finish with a quotation from the story that comes after Zoe learns “The Rest of the Story” about Veronica.

“It struck Zoe then that it was in the knowing and getting to know, through the bumping together of words and lives that hope rises. The writer has little to do with it. The person who matters is the reader, turning the words until the heart spawns the fullness of their meaning. That was why she knew Walt Whitman. Not because she wrote a thesis on him, but because of the exquisite realization of the bones and the marrow in the bones he described.”

More about the Indy Writes Books anthology may be found at


What about you? What is your favorite story with a library setting among those you’ve read? Do you have any personal library stories you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them.

I’ve previously posted about a few other selections from this excellent anthology – linked below if you’d like to take a look:

Dan Wakefield’s Introduction “Corn, Limestone, Horseweed, and Writers”

“El Estocada” by John David Anderson and

“Anna’s Wings” by Angela Jackson-Brown

Below (from Wikipedia): Hoosier Literary Luminary James Whitcomb Riley – perhaps the inspiration for the Whitcomb Street Library name in the story… :-)


Deal Me In 2015 – Week 17 Wrap-Up

Congratulations to everyone who participated in Dewey’s Readathon on Saturday. I was an unofficial participant and had a blast, including in my reading seven short stories – none of which were on my Deal Me In deck, though. Plus, I got the idea to put a Deal Me In twist on the next Readathon in October, when I think I may come up with a Euchre Deck of 24 stories to take up my Readathon reading. Anyone care to play along?

Below are links to new posts this week:

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews summarizes her April DMI stories, which include “The Child’s Story” by Charles Dickens, “Curious if True” by Elizabeth Gaskell, “Death Ship” by Richard Matheson, and “A Correspondence and a Climax” by L.M. Montgomery

“o” at Behold the Stars writes about “How One Should Read a Book” by Virginia Woolf

Dale at Mirror With Clouds was quite taken with Annie Proulx’s “The Half-Skinned Steer”

Find out what “The Problem of Leon” (by John Shannon) is at The Writerly Reader

Randall at a time Enough at Last shares his thoughts about Tony Earley’s “The Prophet from Jupiter”

I read “The Science of Flight” by Yiyun Li

See you next week!

“The Science of Flight” by Yiyun Li

For week 17 of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge, I drew the 10 of Clubs. Clubs are my suit for stories published in The New Yorker magazine. This one is available to read online at

(Deal Me In is a weekly short story reading challenge explained here. If you’d like to see my roster of stories I’m reading, see this post.)

I got to play the “Guess The Origin of the Story Title Game” with this eminently sad story. Is it a scientific story? No. Is the main character, a Chinese immigrant named Zichen, fleeing (flying) from somewhere? Sort of. She’s not fleeing a geographic place, but rather she’s fleeing being forced to submit to social interactions. As we meet her in the story, she is working a drudgery-laden job in an animal research lab. She has two co-workers, Henry and Ted, who have become the closest thing to friends she has.

She invents cover stories of where she will spend her vacations. Stories that hopefully don’t arouse curiosity of Ted and Henry. One year, she claimed she was going to the East Coast to visit her (now ex-) husband, which wasn’t true. In reality, “Before the holiday weekend, she had purchased more food than she could consume, and for four days she had hidden herself in her apartment and worked slowly through a Latin reader of Cicero’s speeches.” We also learn that “Over the years she had become accustomed to who she was in other people’s eyes,” and customizes her cover stories to fit that profile.

At the end of the story, Zichen is planning a real (I think!) vacation to a bed and breakfast in England that one hopes may lead her toward a happier existence. As usual, she’s cagey with her coworkers about her trip and its purposes, telling a variation of a cover story that, according to the author “…was as close to the truth as she could get.”

Below: author Yiyun Li (from Wikipedia)


Deal Me In 2015 – Week 16 Wrap Up

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

Randall at Time Enough at Last shares his thoughts on “Proper Library” by Carolyn Ferrell

Katherine at The Writerly Reader steps back into the ring with “Long Odds” by Stuart Kaminsky

Dale of Mirror With Clouds posts about “Hell-Heaven” by Jhumpa Lahiri DMI’ers may also want to heck out his Bradbury of the Month post on the story “The Wilderness

Jason at Literature Frenzy tackles the Joyce Carol Oates classic “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?

“o” at Behold The Stars read Samuel Johnson’s essay “Why Pastorals Delight

That leaves me (Jay at Bibliophilopolis!) and I maintain my fanboy status with author Katherine Vaz, via her story “The Journey of The Eyeball

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

“The Journey of the Eyeball” by Katherine Vaz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Triple” Jeopardy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

david foster wallace

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

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

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

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

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