Deal Me In 2014: Week 4 Wrap-up

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Below are links to new posts since last week’s wrap up post. If you have one to add, either leave a link in the comments here, or I’ll include in next week’s wrap up. Great stories this week, everyone! I really enjoyed browsing through the posts!

Candiss at “Read the Gamut” offers up a triple header, reviewing Eudora Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.”, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols,” and The Ambrose Bierce classic, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”
http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/deal-me-in-challenge-hit-me-for-three-stories-4-3-and-2-with-bierce-welty-and-nabokov/

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Dale at Mirror with Clouds tackled Graham Greene’s humorous story “A Branch of the Service
http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/a-branch-of-the-service-by-graham-greene/#comments

Katherine at The Writerly Reader writes about one of Ray Bradbury’s “darker” stories, “Quicker than the Eye”
http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/deal-me-in-week-4-quicker-than-the-eye/

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The Returning Reader read another one from The Granta book of the African Short Story, this time drawing Ivan Vladislavic’s “Propaganda by Monuments
http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/short-story-4-propaganda-by-monuments-ivan-vladislavic/

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James at Ready When You Are, C.B. tries to find a connection between Isak Dinesen’s “The Dreaming Child” and George Orwell’s “Inside the Whale.” Will he succeed? Click below and find out.
http://readywhenyouarecb.blogspot.in/2014/01/deal-me-in-short-story-challenge-george.html

Hanne at Reading on Cloud 9 shares with us the story, “Celio Falls” by Heather Brittain Bergstrom
http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/celilo-falls-by-heather-brittain-bergstrom/

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) found himself back in Mother Russia for the second week in a row with Maxim Gorky’s “Twenty-Six and One
https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/but-of-tanya-we-never-spoke-ill/

“But of Tanya we never spoke ill…”

Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge 2014: Story #4

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This week I drew the King of Clubs and checking my roster of stories was led to this one. Though it’s still early in the year, Maxim Gorky’s story, “Twenty-six and One” has been my favorite of the four stories I’ve read thus far. I also read Gorky as the final story of DMI2013, and enjoyed immensely his story “One August Night.”

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I also like stories that have a somewhat mysterious title. “Twenty-six and one?” What could this be about? A successful season of Gorky’s favorite football team? No, of course not that. The twenty-six and one are people. The twenty-six being the “employees” of a bakery, who spend an existence of dull drudgery in the semi-basement workroom, kneading dough for biscuits day after day, month after month, year after year. Among of the twenty-six is also our story’s narrator. And who is the “one?” She’s a lovely sixteen year-old chambermaid who lives in the same building the houses the bakery. Every day she visits the “little prisoners” – as she affectionately refers to the workers – stepping down the four steps into their cellar and playfully demanding “give me biscuits!”

This is Tanya, the one thing that makes their dreary existence bearable. Gorky describes the situation this way: “…though our hard labor turned us into dull oxen, we nevertheless remained human beings, and like all human beings we could not live without something to worship.” It seemed to this reader that the environment which Gorky has depicted has reached something of an equilibrium. Though unhappy or even miserable, the workers would never leave their precious Tanya. In their conversations while at work, they often discuss other, “low” women in rude and disgusting terms, but “of Tanya we never spoke ill.”

This equilibrium may have lasted years. May have. A catalyst for change is introduced, however, when one of the other employees (not from the twenty-six, but in a higher, “white bread baker’s” position) is fired and his replacement turns out to be a somewhat dashing former soldier. The former soldier wears a “satin vest and a watch with a gold chain” and, though a bit of a dandy, is friendly to the twenty-six (not condescending like the other white-bread bakers). In conversation with the twenty-six the soldier admits “How lucky I am with women, eh? It is very funny. Just a wink and I have them.” One can guess in what direction this story might go, no? The soldier’s successes thus far have been with the tawdry “embroidery girls” who also work in the building. Upon listening to the soldier boast of his conquests, the baker that supervises the twenty-six’s work is foolish enough to comment to him that, “You need no great strength to fell little fir-trees, but try to throw down a pine…” Suddenly Tanya’s virtue is threatened… Whether it’s a happy ending or not I won’t say. I will say that Gorky’s depiction of the workers’ condition and their psyche rang very true.

This story is available to read on-line in many places. One is http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/TwenSix.shtml

I also enjoyed reading the biographical info about Gorky in the introduction to my copy of “Twenty-Six and One (and Other Stories)” and learned a lot about him I didn’t know. He lived a large part of his life as a “tramp” wandering from place to place, yet always “reading and studying feverishly.” It is said thatit fell to him “to write the poem of vagrancy” and that “…the introduction of tramps in literature is the great innovation of Gorky.” What about YOU? Have you read Gorky? What do you know of him,and which works would you recommend?

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Deal Me In 2014 – Week 3 Wrap-Up

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Below are links to the new “Deal Me In 2014” reading challenge posts that I’ve found since my last update. Most are story #3 but participants are “permitted”/expected to read at their own pace. If I’ve overlooked a post by you, please share a link in the comments, and I’ll update the body of the post later to include it, otherwise I’ll just include the link in next week’s wrap-up post.

I’ve enjoyed reading about everyone’s stories and in some cases the curious coincidence of which story the luck of the draw has led them too. This latter is a fun part of the challenge for me. 🙂 I’ve also loved seeing the unique playing card pics with some posts. Keep them coming! Lastly, I hope all the participants will take a few minutes to check on what others have read and leave a comment or “like” their posts as well.

Returning Reader write’s about Uwem Akpan’s “An Ex-Mas Feast”
http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/short-story-3-an-ex-mas-feast-uwem-akpan/

Dale at Mirror with Clouds read Mark Twain’s “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg”
http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/the-man-that-corrupted-hadleyburg/

James at Ready When You Are, C.B. wrote about two stories, Tobias Wolff’s “The Night in Question” and Will Shetterly’s “The Sages of Elsewhere” (in James’ variant of Deal Me In, he’s reading two stories at a time and then challenging himself to find a link or connection between the two – great idea!)
http://readywhenyouarecb.blogspot.in/2014/01/deal-me-in-short-story-challenge-five.html

Hanne at Reading on Cloud 9 shares Isaac Babel’s “Guy de Maupassant”
http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/guy-de-maupassant-by-isaac-babel-deal-me-in-week-3/

Kate at The Writerly Reader posted about “The Magician of Karakosk” by Peter S. Beagle
http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/deal-me-in-week-3-the-magician-of-karakosk/

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Christmas Tree and the Wedding”
https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/deal-me-in-story-3-the-christmas-tree-and-the-wedding-by-fyodor-dostoevsky/

Deal Me In 2014: Story #3 “The Christmas Tree and the Wedding” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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(Above: Fyodor Dostoevsky)

This week, the six of clubs led me to read Dostoevsky’s short story, The Christmas Tree and the Wedding. I own it as part of my e-book, Best Russian Short Stories, a volume chock full of Pushkin, Gorky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev and Dostoevsky to name just the most luminous. I also “own” this in audio format via the Free Audio Books app on my iPhone and iPad. I both read and listened to this one – and for once the reader for the Librivox version was actually good! 🙂

Clubs are a “special suit” in my 2014 Deal Me In Sort Story Reading Challenge, representing stories by Russian writers. In last year’s edition of the challenge, I read stories by Turgenev, Gorky, and Pushkin, which only whetted my appetite for more. I’ve read a little Dostoevsky before, including the novels Crime and Punishment and The Idiot and also a short story (“The Grand Inquisitor?”) for my old book club’s annual short story month me year.

Dostoevsky begins the tale a bit cryptically: “The other day I saw a wedding… But no! I would rather tell you about a Christmas tree. The wedding was superb. I liked it immensely. But the other incident was still finer.” What do these two things have in common? About halfway through the story you will realize where it’s going…

The story’s narrator found himself (five years previously) at a Christmas Ball, hosted by an upwardly mobile member of the Russian upper class. The ball is but a thinly veiled excuse for him to rub shoulders with the well-to-do of the city, which include the portly and unctuous Julian Mastakovich. The narrator, only at the party by “coincidence” and not one of the host’s target demographic, has the opportunity to see all sorts of unsavory behavior by these pillars of society. Particularly disturbing was how the children in attendance received gifts specifically chosen to fit their “station” or the station of their families. The little boy of the host’s poor governess receives a used a practically worthless book with the covers missing and is expected to be happy with this treasure and leave the richer kids alone to play with their fine toys. In spite of all this, the narrator describes the children as “charming” and that “…they absolutely refused to resemble their elders.

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One elder, however, callously invades the sanctity of the children’s world. The narrator sees his motives clearly and even attempts to expose him to shame with an indiscreet comment. None of this derails the plans of the elder, though, as we learn at the story’s conclusion.

What story did you read this week? Do you have any favorites from among Dostoevsky’s shorter works?

If you are interested in reading this story, it maybe read online for free at: http://www.classicreader.com/book/2169/1/

Care to listen to it instead? Here’s a version on YouTube http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr5fTSnAd6g&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DLr5fTSnAd6g

Deal Me In 2014 – Week 2 Wrap-Up

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Below are links to posts by participants that have been published since my last weekly wrap-up. (Most are participants’ 2nd short story but not all are – there is no formal deadline for when you read and post about your stories) If you wrote a post that I somehow missed, please let me know in the comments and I will promptly add the link in the body of this post. It also seems that a few who have signed on are treating the challenge as simply to read 52 stories this year. That’s fine too. I will still look for related posts from you and include in the weekly round-up.

I encourage everyone to check out their fellow participants’ posts – who knows what new authors or stories you might be led to, or what new reading ideas they might spark…

Katherine @Writerly Reader – Larry Bond’s “Expert Advice” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/deal-me-in-week-2-expert-advice-2/

Hanne @Reading on Cloud 9 – Annie Proulx’s “Heart Songs”
http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/heart-songs-by-annie-proulx/

Returning Reader – Alice Munro’s “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/short-story-2-the-bear-came-over-the-mountain-alice-munro/

Candiss @ Read the Gamut – Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds”
http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/deal-me-in-challenge-story-1/

Mannomoi @ Dilettante Artiste is in the midst of TheBout-of-Books Readathon. She read P.G. Wodehouse’s “Misunderstood” but I don’t think a post is up yet.

Dale @ Mirror with Clouds – Kurt Vonnegut’s “The Powder-Blue Dragon”
http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/kurt-vonnegut-the-powder-blue-dragon/

Jay (that’s me!) @ Bibliophilopolis – Frank Bill’s “Amphetamine Twitch”
https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/amphetamine-twitch-a-short-story-by-frank-bill/

See you next week!

“Amphetamine Twitch” a short story by Frank Bill

Note: I’ll still be publishing a weekly wrap-up post for the Deal Me In 2014 Short Story Challenge this Sunday, with links to any new posts (since the last wrap-up) by the participants. Here’s my second story, though…

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Story #2 – “Amphetamine Twitch” by Frank Bill

This week I drew the two of spades for my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. Deuces are “wild” so I had no story assigned to this card. Spades are my suit for “darker stories” so I thought I’d try one from the acclaimed collection “Crimes in Southern Indiana” by Frank Bill. (Read the Goodreads capsule on this book at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10713935-crimes-in-southern-indiana?from_search=true ) Oh, and I live in Indiana too. Central Indiana, though. 🙂 I searched the contents and settled on this one based on title only. Like millions of others, last year I got caught up in the amazing AMC series, “Breaking Bad,” whose main character (if you’ve been living under a rock) Walter White “breaks bad” and becomes a methamphetamine cook. So, I opened my book to page 162 and started reading…

The first two sentences grab the reader instantly and paint a vivid picture: “Alejandro’s knuckles sprayed backdoor glass across kitchen tile. His fingers twisted red on the doorknob and deadbolt.” Pretty vivid imagery, huh? Alejandro is addicted to crystal meth but, as chance has it, his latest victims are the family of a member of law enforcement, detective Mitchell, who later blames himself for not being home when the break-in occurred. Heap this on top of his already soured outlook on what life “in these parts” had come to in the past few years when “…everything had become tense. Meth had scourged the land. Made working-class folk less human. More criminal,” and you have a character ready to exact some brutal revenge.

“Hollywood” has always seemed to make the drug trade somewhat glamorous, and of course it doesn’t always show the bottom line impact to normal people. Breaking Bad was for the most part like that. With the exception of a few interludes where Jesse was running his own private house full of drug-stupor-ed friends, we don’t see the countless working class people that formed the base of Walter White’s towering pyramid of cash. In this story, we do see a scene of those at the bottom when Alejandro is “holed up with a new crop of illegals in a one-bedroom shack. Men with frayed ends and raisin features plastered like the dead from a battlefield across the room.”

No punches are pulled in this story. The realities are harsh and violent, which makes it a hard story to like, but what’s not hard is appreciating the gritty and powerful writing. My only problem with it was that, in my opinion, the plot of this particular story itself didn’t seem up to the level of the writing. It’s a relatively basic story of revenge but not much more. Still, I’ll be reading the rest of the stories in the book at some point.

What short stories did YOU read this week? Had you heard of this author before? (I hadn’t until a couple months ago) Were you also a fan of Breaking Bad?

Below: Bryan Cranston would never have made that kind of money as Jerry’s dentist on “Seinfeld” would he?

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“Bookish” questions on Last Night’s Jeopardy! Online Test

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This Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday mark the latest round of the online tryouts for the TV game show, Jeopardy! As a lifelong triviaphile and someone who now and then is blessed with episodes of ’Rainman’ memory, I’ve tried out twice before, making it “all the way” to the contestant pool both times. I was never called up to the show, though (I did the math once and figured the size of their contestant pool might be ten times the number needed, so even if you make it “all the way” in their audition process, it’s still a bit of a lottery).

If you’re interested in taking the test, you still have one night left to try. You have to register first, which takes about 5 minutes. The tests are run at a specific time (it was 8 p.m. eastern for me) so its a good idea to register earlier in the day to make sure you know what time you need to log on. Here’s a link and good luck if you give it a go: http://www.jeopardy.com/onlinetests/adult/

So, someone was kind enough to post the 50 questions (and answers, which I’ll share below) on the show’s online forums last night. As in prior times I’ve taken the test, books and literature comprised a significant percentage of the questions. I’ve bold-faced the ones that had a book or literary component below – quite a few, eh? I scored comparably to the last time, which resulted in an invitation to the in-person phase of the audition, where you have to take another fifty question test, be photographed and interviewed, and play an abbreviated version of the game with two other candidates.

Take a gander at the questions and see how many you know. (I’ll post the answers “below the fold”) Sony Television is very cagey about sharing how many you have to get right to “pass,” but based on prior experience I suspect it’s at least 35 or maybe as many as 40. When you take the test online, you only have 15 seconds to type in your answers. Pressure!

Have you ever tried out for Jeopardy!? What was your experience like? Do you watch the show? How many of the “bookish” questions below did you get?

Below is an image of what the testing screen looks like:

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And now the test:

1. Explorers
In 1724 Peter the Great commisioned this Dane to explore the Pacific coast of Siberia

2. TV Dramas
Claire Danes plays the Emmy-winning role of CIA agent Carrie Matheson on this Showtime drama.

3. Fashion
In bridal fashions, blusher, cascade, & birdcage are types of these

4. Bestsellers
The TV series “Under the Dome” is based on a bestseller by this author

5. Bodies of Water
The Gulf of Finland is an arm of this sea

6. “A” in Mythology
In Greek myth, Jason led this famous group of sailors

7. General Science
Nearly all of the Earth’s weather occurs in this layer of the atmosphere below the stratosphere

8. 20th Century Playwrights
“Glengarry Glen Ross” about desperate real estate salesmen, won him a 1984 Pulitzer Prize

9. 10-Letter Words
This “botanical” interchange is where 2 highways meet

10. Memoirs
She wrote the 2009 memoir “Going Rogue: An American Life”

11. Single-Named Performers
Marshall Mathers goes by this stage name

12. Trees
Brought over from Australia to the US, Blue Gum is a common variety of this tree

13. American History
In November 1906 Teddy Roosevelt left the US to personally see the progress on this engineering project

14. Language Lessons
It’s the Spanish word for the midday rest

15. Art
A rich auburn color is named for this Venetian artist, who favored that hair color in his paintings

16. First Names
One of the top 5 for US girls born in 2012, it also belongs to a Jane Austen heroine

17. Books & Authors
He reworked a novel called “Stephen Hero” into “A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man”

18. Deserts
This desert forms the triangular southern half of Israel

19. Actor-Directors
He wrote & directed 2013’s “Blue Jasmine” but doesn’t star in it

20. Physics
“Planck” down this term for the smallest amount of energy that can be emitted as electromagnetic radiation

21. Architecture
The 3 orders of ancient Greek column were Doric, Ionic & this ornate one named for a city

22. Compound Words
It’s an apartment house owner who overcharges tenants while allowing the property to deteriorate

23. Name the Work
1902: “The horror! The horror!”

24. Entrepreneurs
In the 21st Century he kept dazzling visitors to Vegas with the encore as well as the casino that bears his name

25. Current World Leaders
He served in the KGB from 1975 to 1991

26. The Solar System
Triton is the largest moon of this planet

27. US Presidents
He was President when the 20th Century began

28. Flags
4 white fleurs-de-lis appear on this Canadian province’s flag

29. English Literature
According to a George Eliot title, the Tullivers own a mill on this river

30. Classic Movie Actresses
She played Isla in “Casablanca”

31. Alliteration
Bovine term for a business product that is a dependable source of income

32. Shakespeare’s Women
While sleepwalking she yells, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

33. 4-Letter Capitals
It’s the Capital of Latvia

34. Tech Stuff
In 2013 Susan Bennett was revealed to be the original vocie of this iPhone assistant

35. Colonial America
The Pilgrims formed Plymouth Colony & this religious group founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony

36. Ancient Greeks
At age 70, he was put on trial for “Not believing in the gods the state believes in”

37. Nonfiction
His books included “Diet Revoluion”, “New Diet Revolution” & “Health Revolution

38. Anatomy
The name of this jawbone is from the Latin for “To chew”

39. World Cities
Located at the south end of the Bosporus, it’s the only major city to lie on 2 continents: Asia & Europe

40. American Lit
This author’s “House of the Seven Gables” tells of the cursed Pyncheon family

41. Legal “E”s
Often issued in times of war, this order prohibits ships or goods from leaving a port

42. Bible Books By Story
3 friends are thrown into a fiery furnace in this biblical book

43. College Bowl Games
Since 1975 this New Year’s college bowl game has been played at the Superdome in New Orleans

44. Literary Trilogies
“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” completed the trilogy about a hacker from this country

45. Health & Medicine
It’s the learnign disability in which sufferers reverse words like “was” & “saw”

46. The French Revolution
During this bloody period of the revolution, at least 17,000 people were executed

47. Politicians
This Senator’s memoir “An American Son” covers his family’s journey from Cuba to Florida

48. The Western Hemisphere
The West Indian island of Aruba is a self-governing part of this European country

49. Such a Character!
Robert Bloch based this motel owner in his novel “Psycho” on convicted Wisconsin killer Ed Gein

50. Double “L” Words
Hairstyle described as “Business in the front, party in the back”

1. Bering
2. Homeland
3. Veils
4. Stephen King
5. Baltic Sea
6. Argonauts
7. Troposphere
8. David Mamet
9. Cloverleaf
10. Sarah Palin
11. Eminem
12. Eucalyptus
13. Panama Canal
14. Siesta
15. Titian
16. Emma
17. James Joyce
18. Negev Desert
19. Woody Allen
20. Quantum
21. Corinthian
22. Slumlord
23. Heart of Darkness
24. Steve Wynn
25. Vladimir Putin
26. Neptune
27. William McKinley
28. Quebec
29. Floss
30. Ingrid Bergman
31. Cash cow
32. Lady Macbeth
33. Riga
34. Siri
35. Puritans
36. Socrates
37. Atkins
38. Mandible
39. Istanbul
40. Nathaniel Hawthorne
41. Embargo
42. Daniel
43. Sugar Bowl* (Question is incorrect as the 2006 Sugar Bowl was played at the Georgia Dome)
44. Sweden
45. Dyslexia
46. Reign of Terror
47. Marco Rubio
48. Netherlands
49. Norman Bates
50. Mullet

Deal Me in 2014 weekly wrap up (and my selection, “Miracle Polish” by Steven Milhauser)

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As I noted in the sign-up post, I’ll be posting a weekly update for the Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. I’ll try to do these regularly on sunday evenings, and will include links to what others have posted since the last update.

I’d also like to thank Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste for upgrading our unofficial logo (pictured above) for this challenge.  I love it! Feel free to use it in your weekly posts if you’d like.

So, What are other Deal Me In 2014 participants reading this week? See the following:

Dale at Mirror With Clouds on Saki’s “The Recessional”

The Returning Reader ‘walks into Omelas’ for the Ursula K. LeGuin Classic “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

Hanne at Reading on Cloud 9 shares her thoughts on Steven Milhauser’s “Thirteen Wives”

Katherine at Writerly Reader read the classic M.R. James ghost story “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”

These are the posts I found as I went to press with this post.  If you finished a post on another story for your week one, you can also link to it in the comments to this post.

So, we’re off and running with DMI2014! As I said I’ll be doing a kind of round up post on Sundays.  We’re a small enough group I can probably just manually do these posts with the links.  If you’re a regular reader who’s not taking part in the challenge, please consider visiting some of these other blogs written by fellow fans of the short story.

Now for my week 1 entry:

“Miracle Polish” by Steven Milhauser

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Story #1 of my fourth annual “Deal Me In” Short Story Reading Project (see here for details on the project). This week I drew the Jack of Spades, which I had assigned to this short story – first published in The November 14, 2011 issue of The New Yorker – from Steven Milhauser. I first discovered Milhauser via his excellent short story, “Phantoms,” which was part of my project last year. I own “Miracle Polish” as part of The Best American Short Stories 2012 anthology. As of this writing, it can be read for free online here

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“Miracle Polish” is the story of an unnamed narrator who, against his better judgment, allows a traveling salesman admittance to his house. The salesman sells bottles of a mirror cleanser called “Miracle Polish.” Milhauser’s skills and attention to detail are on display in the opening of the story, especially in his descriptions of the salesman. How carrying his heavy suitcase has “pulled him a little to the side, so that one of his jacket cuffs was higher than the other…” Pitying the salesman, he resolves to buy a bottle. The stranger seemed “surprised, even suspicious, when I said I’d take one, as if he wandered the earth for years with the same case filled to bursting with unsold bottles.”

Though the narrator is by all accounts a fully rational man (“I wasn’t the kind of man who looked at himself in mirrors. I was the kind of man who spent as little time as possible in front of mirrors, the kind of man who had a brisk and practical relation to his reflection.”) he notices something strange when he first uses the polish to clean a smudge on a mirror. Realizing that now the REST of the mirror looks dull, he cleans the whole thing. That’s when the fun begins.

Something “magical” happens to the reflection of the narrator. His “new” reflection is clearly him, yet a different him, full of potential and promise. A “man who believed in things.” He begins to become obsessed with mirrors, buying one after another and treating them with the miracle polish. His relationship with his girlfriend, whose image is also enhanced by the miracle polish-treated mirrors, is affected. Concerned with his seeming obsession, she even goes so far as to say “You know, sometimes I think you like me better there (pointing to a mirror) than here (pointing to herself)”

Predictably, things cannot go on this way,and the story reaches a disturbing(?) climax. At least I thought it did. Others may feel differently. I also got the feeling while reading that the story would be easily adapted into a script for the old Twilight Zone series.

In the “Contributor’s Notes” section of my book, Milhauser himself says of this story: “I was seized by the desire to write a mirror story, but that was as far as things went. Every possibility seemed boring or frivolous. I turned my attention to something else. One day it came to me: the mirror shouldn’t be a gateway to a fantastic world, but should behave very quietly. This thought, or instinct, propelled me to this story.” Nice.

What about you? Have you read anything by Steven Milhauser? What do you think of him? What short stories have YOU read lately.

For another great “mirror story” try Haruki Murakami’s “The Mirror,” which I wrote briefly about in 2012

Would you like to join the “Deal Me In 2014” short story reading challenge? “Late-joining” is allowed! 🙂 See the challenge home page

Some other bloggers’ thoughts that I found on this story:
http://sloopie72.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/bass-2012-steven-millhauser-miracle-polish-from-the-new-yorker-111411/

http://perpetualfolly.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-yorker-miracle-polish-by-steven.html

http://www.ann-graham.com/2013/02/steven-millhauser-miracle-polish.html

http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2011/11/11/steven-millhauser-miracle-polish/

(below: Will NOT cause supernatural results)

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(Below: MAY cause supernatural results)

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Happy Blogoversary to Me!

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Bibliophilopolis is Four!

I almost forgot my blogoversary, which was January 2nd. I had no idea how long I would be doing the blogging thing when I started on 1/2/2010 and, frankly, I’m kind of surprised I’ve kept at it this long. I guess the obvious reason is that I’ve kept it up because I have found the experience so rewarding. I’m also closing in on my 500th post, with 496 already published (well, 497 if you count this one) and #498 scheduled for tomorrow. I’ve read over 200 books and probably more than 300 short stories during my blogging era, many of which I’ve discovered via fellow bloggers.

So, a hearty “thank you” to all who follow me or read my posts – and especially those who take the time to comment. I hope I’ve been able to – at least occasionally – return the favor and lead you to some great books or stories that you might not have otherwise discovered. Here’s to another great reading year at Bibliophilopolis!

-Jay

“The Shorties” my 1st Annual (ha ha) awards for short stories I’ve read.

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(Note that “shorties” is intended as a term of endearment not a politically incorrect disparaging remark about short people – though I am making Edgar Allan Poe’s character, Hop-Frog (below, at bottom right), my official ambassador for these awards.) 🙂

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Now that my 2014 version of my annual short story reading project is getting underway, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on stories I read in 2013, and recognize those stories and characters I now count among my favorites. All nominees are worthy, so my winners a more a matter of taste than anything.

The Nominees:

1. Best New (to me) Author:
a) Caitlin Horrocks (“The Sleep”)
b) Steven Milhauser (“Phantoms”)
c) Henryk Sienkiewicz (“The Lighthouse Keeler of Aspinwall”)
d) Claire Keegan (“Foster”)
e) Alice Adams (“Roses, Rhododendron”)

I’ll have to go with Steven Milhauser.  His story “Phantoms” was such a unique look at the possibility of ghosts and so wonderfully written I still think about it often.

2. Best Female Character
a) Amanda (“La Vita Nuova” by Allegra Goodman)
b) unnamed MC (“Foster” by Claire Keegan)
c) Mathilde Loisel (“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant)
d) Natasha (“One Autumn Night” by Maxim Gorky)
e) Aleksandra (“The District Doctor” by Ivan Turgenev)

I’m a sucker for stories of resilient young people, so I’m going to go with the main character (I believe she’s never named) in Claire Keegan’s “Foster.” She adapts to her circumstances and “gets it.” Her thought near the end of the story where she “realized it was my perfect opportunity to say nothing” gave me goosebumps.

3. Best Male Character
a) The Howling Man (“The Howling Man” by Charles Beaumont)
b) Monsieur de Mellet (“The Mysterious Mansion” by Honore de Balzac)
c) unnamed narrator (“The Town of Cats” by Hagiwara Sakutar)
d) Negore (“Negore the Coward” by Jack London
e) Joe (“My Old Man” by Ernest Hemingway)

I liked young Joe from Hemingway’s “My Old Man.”  Another resilient youngster. Take away everything he’s got, but he’ll still be okay.

4. Best Writing
a) Ernest Hemingway (“TheSnows of Kilimanjaro”)
b) Willa Cather (“A Death in the Desert)
c) J.D. Salinger (“The Laughing Man”)
d) Jack London (“A Relic of the Pleiocene”)
e) Algernon Blackwood (“The Willows”)

This is a tough one. Since I was so spellbound by Algernon Blackwood’s story “The Willows,” I’ll give it the nod.  His story merits that ultimate compliment to an author, “I felt like I was there.”

5. Favorite Story
a) “Phantoms” by Steven Milhauser
b) “The Laughing Man” by J.D. Salinger
c) “The Sleep” by Caitlin Horrocks
d) “The Town of Cats” by Hagiwara Sakutar
e) “A Passion in the Desert” by Honore de Balzac

Another tough one. All are worthy. If I had to pick one, I’d say Salinger’s “The Laughing Man.” That title character is actually a fictional character within the story, which is a nice added element. Anyone whose diet consists only of “rice and Eagle’s blood” makes for a good character and story. (That and how he lived on “the stormy coast of Tibet.”(!)

Those are some of my favorite stories read during the past year.  What were some of yours?