Deal Me In – Week 17 Wrap Up

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A bit of a slow week for Deal Me In, but thanks to Candiss we still have five stories to share. Please take a moment to visit or comment on the Deal Me In participants’ blog posts, or just let “them know you were there” by liking their posts. If I missed anyone, feel free to add a link in the comments. Happy Reading!

Dale drew the seven of hearts and read Jack London’s “An Odyssey of the North” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/jack-london-an-odyssey-of-the-north/

Fresh out of the Dewey readathon, Candiss was in catch up mode and posted about three stories: Amy Hempel’s “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” then Stephen King’s “Harvey’s Dream” and also Oscar Wilde’s “The Nightingale and the Rose.” What did she think of them? It’s here: http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/deal-me-in-challenge-playing-catch-up-stories-15-16-17/

Katherine had a re-read of a story she liked in the past, Steven Millhauser’s “Eisenheim the Illusionist” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/deal-me-in-week-17-eisenheim-the-illusionist/

Me? Well, I did read my story, Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day” (twice in fact – it’s only four pages long), but I was gone all weekend wandering the woods of southern Indiana, so I’ll post about it later. 🙂 I was rewarded by spotting a Scarlet Tanager (below, and no, not my picture) in the treetops. Always a treat for a amateur bird watcher like me. 🙂

Update (4/29) I just now realized that, like the suits in a deck of playing cards, Scarlet Tanagers are … red and black! 🙂

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That’s it for this week. I’ll post another wrap up next Sunday afternoon/evening.

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Kurt Vonnegut’s “Sucker’s Portfolio”

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Sucker’s Portfolio is a collection of six complete short stories, one essay, and one unfinished short story (all previously unpublished – until November 2012) by Kurt Vonnegut. The book club of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library here in Indianapolis is reading this collection for our April meeting, which takes place… today! I purchased an e-version of the work via Amazon when it came out, and it was part of their “Amazon Serials” imprint. “They” sent you one story a week until you had the entire volume available to read on your kindle or other app. I admit I read the first one right away back then, but waiting patiently was never something I was good at so I decided to wait until I had the whole thing before I read on. And here – a year and a half later! – I finally get back to it. 🙂

I’m not, at least philosophically speaking, a big fan of literary work that is posthumously published. I always want to say, well – it probably wasn’t published for a reason: the author wasn’t happy with it, potential publishers didn’t deem it “ready,” and so on. Then I think about authors who, once they’ve “hit the big time” have no trouble getting anything they write published. Publishers are less strict about quality at that point since they’re selling the name. Considering that, ALL of the short stories in this collection would have had no problem being published. And, for my part anyway, they actually are worthy of being published on their own merit (without the Vonnegut name attached to them). They’re a heck of a lot better than a lot of other stories that are getting published, in my opinion anyway.

Most of the stories are typical of his early work for “the slicks” – major magazines of the day that frequently published short fiction. Several are somewhat romantic tales with a tincture of the dark humor he became best known for later in his career. Okay, maybe more than a tincture. 🙂 I liked almost all of them. The first, “Between Time and Timbuktu,” explores the near-death experience – after the main character, David Harnden, witnesses a doctor revive a supposedly dead-by-drowning man by the pond near his home. It contains a lot of ruminations on Time and one can almost see some of the ideas of time as viewed by the Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse Five beginning to coalesce in the author’s mind. The character in this story “ached to understand time, to defy it, to defeat it – to go back, not forward.” He is told by the doctor that a large percentage of ‘near death’ victims say the phrase “my whole life flashed before my eyes” and Harnden begins to wonder if such is the case, can that condition be artificially created so that, for example, he could go back and see his deceased wife. The doctor warns that time travel is too paradoxical citing for example that if you “knock of Charlemagne, and you kill about every white man on earth.” (!) Harnden realizes though that, in the case of the near-drowned man, “if he really did travel through time, (he) didn’t go anywhere but where he’d already been,” thus eliminating the possibility of interfering with history, I guess(?). An entertaining little story, which includes the great observation that “time – not cancer or heart disease or any other disease in his books – was the most frightening, crippling plague of mankind.”

The second story, “Rome,” deals with a small town play which is being produced with an unlikely ragtag cast. “Rome” is the name of the play, and its four characters include a naïve and simple-minded young man, a world-wise and cretinous young man, an innocent and pure young girl who happens to be the daughter of an irredeemable crook (but who also blithely believes him to be the greatest man on earth – e.g., when he shows up at rehearsal reeking of alcohol she exclaims, “Oh, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, you’ve got too much aftershave lotion on again.”), and our narrator, who is placed there to detail the action for us…

Another good story is the title piece, “Sucker’s Portfolio,” about a financial advisor who is hoping to save a young heir from squandering a $20,000 portfolio which has been painstakingly built up over the years. Odd requests from the young man for money and a sense of urgency would lead one to the natural conclusion that ‘something’s up,’ but maybe just not what we think. I guessed the ‘mousetrap ending’ to this one long before its unveiling occurred, but it was still an enjoyable story nonetheless.

Maybe my favorite story was the sixth one, titled “Paris, France.” Three couples share a cabin on a train during a journey from London to Paris, each making the trip for widely different reasons, AND the members of each couple also have different expectations for the trip. One couple is described as “two old and demoralized tourists from Indianapolis” which, being from that city myself, I enjoyed. 🙂 One husband is particularly irascible and wishes he had “stayed put” and not gone on a trip. He points to two empty seats and says, “There’s the seats of the two smartest people.” Nice. One of my favorite lines was describing one couple on a shoestring budget, when upon seeing the older couple Vonnegut relates, “Growing old was even tougher on Harry and Rachel than being broke all the time. Coming across really old people had the same soothing effect on them as easy credit.” Ha ha! I thought this was a great story which showcased Vonnegut’s skill at brief but effective characterizations of the principal characters.

The non-fiction essay, “The Last Tasmanian,” was an incisive almost stream-of-consciousness polemic decrying how big a mess we humans have made of things. Sprinkled with his usual RDA of humor, it wasn’t too different from a lot of other non-fiction Vonnegut I’d read in “Man Without a Country.” The title refers to the fact that the aboriginal peoples of the island of Tasmania were quickly wiped out by their European discoverers and how, a while after the arrival of the “civilized” people, they lost the will to even reproduce, not wanting to bring a new generation into existence. I don’t know if this really happened or if it is an exaggeration by Vonnegut (but he was an anthropology student at the University of Chicago…). He comments that the native Tasmanians hadn’t even domesticated fire, which sounds outrageous as well.

The unfinished story fragment, “Robotville and Mr. Caslow” is tantalizing and stops almost mid-sentence. It really made me want to see where he was going to take the rest of the story had he completed it. It takes place sometime after “World War III” where many of the veterans living in town served as “robots” in the war. Some still have a kind of antenna implant in their cranium, via which they used to receive instructions during the war, and there is a movement afoot trying to get them some kind of work where they can once again be told via transmitter what to do and when to do it, etc. I also found it interesting that Vonnegut chose to write this fragment in the 2nd person. As if the reader were receiving transmissions of his own…

All in all a fun volume to read my way through. Is it Vonnegut’s best work? No. Is it worth reading? Definitely.

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What about you? Have you read this or other Vonnegut works? How do you feel about all the posthumous publishing that takes place?

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Characters Who Have Perished in A Song of Ice and Fire

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (an popular meme hosted by the blog, The Broke and The Bookish) theme was “The Top Ten Characters Who _____” and we are left to fill in the blank. Naturally I went with Top Ten Characters who Died Memorably in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (and its television counterpart, Game of Thrones). My ground rules for inclusion: the death is significant to the story, shocking, gruesome, or involved a main character. As far as the George R.R. Martin books vs. the HBO Series, I guess I’m using both – mostly the series, though, as it’s fresher in my mind. (They’ve become hopelessly mixed together in my brain anyway) I will say all occur before where we are in the series now, and what the series reflects up to in book three, “A Storm of Swords.” I did notice in my research too that “Access Hollywood” kind if scooped me in this area, but there’s room for everyone on the GoT bandwagon, right? And – do I even need to say it? – MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

11-13 (Honorable mentions) Beric Dondarrion
How many times has “The Lord of Light” brought him back now? Maybe this should be 11th thru 14th?

10. John Arryn (poisoned)
This is “The Death that Starts it All” and leads to the calamitous events that are still befalling the Stark family and the rest of Westeros.

9. Sansa’s direwolf, Lady (put down)
If there was any doubt at the Lannisters being “The Bad Guys” (and there shouldn’t have been at this point), Cersei’s insisting that Ned kill Sansa’s direwolf should have removed them.

8. Ser Hugh of the Vale (jousting “accident”)
Setting the standard (and I’m talking more about the series here) for an incredible run of blood gushing, opened throats that will greatly shorten broadcast times when they are removed to make the series suitable for network television.

7. Doreah and Xaro Xhoan Daxos (entombing)
We gain further evidence that Daenerys is not to be trifled with. Man, I hated to see Doreah go, though (at least in the series, where she is portrayed by actress Roxanne McKee)

6. Kraznys (incinerated)
See sentence one of the previous entry.

5. Polliver (sword through the throat)
I wanted to rank this one higher, but it bothers me that I liked this scene where young Arya Stark avenges the death of her friend Lommy by using the same words his killer did.

4. Viserys (“crowning” with molten gold)
Yep. No one was sorry when this happened. Daenerys is free to be her own person (and is now the rightful heir to the Iron Throne) when Viserys suffers a Crassus-like fate at the hands of the Parthians, er, I mean Dothraki.

3. Robb & Catelyn Stark (crossbow bolts and knife wounds)
I still wonder what people who hadn’t already read the books thought about this episode. Roose Bolton’s “The Lannisters send their regards” line as he delivers the coup de grace to Robb was one of the most memorable in the series. And Catelyn? What was I saying about opened throats earlier? We get a two-fer with her death, and though Ser Hugh’s might have been best in gruesomeness, Catelyn wins the blood spurting distance category. Did she have high blood pressure?

2. Eddard “Ned” Stark  (beheading)
This was a shocker both in the book and the TV series. Appropriately, we first meet Ned when he is beheading a deserter from the Night’s Watch. What goes around comes around?

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1. Joffrey (poisoning)
Maybe I’m ranking this number one because it “just happened” (in series broadcast time anyway) or because I hate Joffrey so much. I mean, who are viewers/readers going to focus their hate on now? As Joffrey choked and Cersei lamentingly wailed, I kept hearing Jerry Seinfeld’s “That’s a shame…” line in the back of my mind.

Are YOU a reader/watcher of these books/this series? Which are in your top ten character deaths? If you’re not, what kind of “top ten characters who ____” did you decide to do?

 

Deal Me In – Week 16 Wrap Up

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Happy Easter to all! I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend and maybe some nice spring weather like we had here in Indiana today. Below are links to the new posts I’ve found since the last update. Please take a moment if you can to visit your fellow Deal Me In-ers blogs and explore what stories they read this week – maybe you’ll find one you’ll want to add to your list. 🙂

Dale’s ten of spades was Graham Greene’s “The End of the Party” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/graham-greene-the-end-of-the-party/

James paired Haruki Murakami’s “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” with Christopher Barzak’s “We Do Not Come in Peace”
http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/04/15/haruki-murakami-visits-bordertown/

I read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Mrs. Bullfrog” as prescribed by my six of spades https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/mrs-bullfrog-by-nathaniel-hawthorne/

It’s the jack of hearts and Robert Silverberg’s story “Crossing Into the Empire” for Katherine this week: http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/deal-me-in-week-16-crossing-into-the-empire/

And, from Hanne, the queen of spades yielded Lorrie Moore’s “How to Talk to Your Mother” http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/how-to-talk-to-your-mother-by-lorrie-moore/#more-1283

The Easter Egg by Saki

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I was looking around for some “Easter-type” short stories to read for this weekend and found one on line, H.H. Munro’s (a.k.a. Saki) “The Easter Egg” that I thought would fit the bill. I was actually looking more for stories in the “spirit” of Easter than this one turned out to be, but I’m glad I read it nonetheless…

Madame Barbara is ashamed of her son, Lester, who has proven time and time again that, unlike the “good fighting stock” of the family which he was born into, he has all the worst qualities of a coward. Saki describes Lester and his shortcomings wonderfully:

“As a child he had suffered from childish timidity, as a boy from unboyish funk, and as a youth he had exchanged unreasoning fears for others which were more formidable from the fact of having a carefully-thought-out basis. He was frankly afraid of animals, nervous with firearms, and never crossed the Channel without mentally comparing the numerical proportion of life belts to passengers. On horseback he seemed to require as many hands as a Hindu god, at least four for clutching the reins, and two more for patting the horse soothingly on the neck.”

If the hapless Lester were not offered some chance to redeem himself for his life of craven timidity, this wouldn’t be a short story worthy of Saki, though, would it? The opportunity presents itself when he and his mother travel to Knobaltheim “…one of those small princedoms that make inconspicuous freckles on the map of Central Europe.” It seems the Prince, a steadfast representative of the old guard of Europe and opposed to “progress” is coming to town for some grand affair. Among the gifts for this dignitary is the Easter Egg in the title of the story. But something seems not quite right about this and Lester is the first to notice…

I’ll leave the details for those industrious enough to read the story. I was particularly fond of the last lines of this story, which are quite good and almost goose-bump inducing. A very short story and worth a read.

The story may be read at http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/EasEgg.shtml

Or listen via YouTube at http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wc6EUa7Mra4

I own a copy of Saki’s collected stories, pictured above, but rather than dig it out, I read this one on line at the link provided above.

(below: Illustration from Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant”)

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Two other short stories I like to read around Easter are Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant”  and Leo Tolstoy’s “The Three Hermits” (which I also once blogged about here). Both are quite good and are appropriate for the season, I think.

Have you read any of these stories? What do you think of Saki’s works? Do you do any special reading around this holiday?

(Below: gratuitous picture of my Mom’s Easter Egg tree.  Did anyone else grow up with an easter egg tree in the house each year?)

 

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“Mrs. Bullfrog” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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(I love African Bullfrogs)

For week 16 of the Deal Me In 2014 Short Story Reading Challenge, I drew the six of spades. Spades are my suit for “darker” stories and this one certainly qualified. For my complete roster of 2014 click here. Prior years’ rosters are accessible via the links on the left.

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(Six of spades image from theworldoftarot.wordpress.com)

The first sentences of this story certainly make you want to read on: “It makes me melancholy to see how like fools some very sensible people act in the matter of choosing wives. They perplex their judgments by a most undue attention to little niceties of personal appearance, habits, disposition, and other trifles which concern nobody but the lady herself.”

So this will be a story about a match that didn’t work out well? Maybe. The narrator, Mr. Bullfrog, actually admits that he could be counted among those fools: “For my own part I freely confess that, in my bachelorship, I was precisely such an over-curious simpleton as I now advise the reader not to be.”

Mr. Bullfrog, a fastidious shopkeeper, finds only somewhat late in life a woman who he feels to be the perfect match for him, and “within a fortnight” the two are wed. All is going well. At first. It is on their “matrimonial jaunt” in a carriage ride, that he discovers he has hitherto only seen one side of his bride. That would be her good side, naturally.

The careless driver, not mindful of a hazard in the road, allows the carriage to overturn, sending his passengers tumbling. Mr. Bullfrog says “What became of my wits I cannot imagine; they have always had a perverse trick of deserting me just when they are most needed.” Disoriented by the accident, he is amazed to see the coachman being chastised by a strange personage, one “of grisly aspect, with a head almost bald, and sunken cheeks, apparently of the feminine gender, though hardly to be classed in the gentler sex.” He also notices that his dear Mrs. Bullfrog is nowhere to be seen…

Not an overly long or particularly deep story, but I do enjoy Hawthorne’s deft command of the English language, and it is always a pleasure to revisit his work.

This story is available in the public domain and may be read online in many places, one of which is http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/148/

What about YOU? Have you read this story? What about others by Hawthorne? Which are your favorites among his works?

 

 

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Deal Me In – Week 15 Wrap Up

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Below are links to the stories I found that are new since last week’s wrap up post. If I’ve missed one, or if you finished after my publishing this, you may share a link in the comments and/or I will include it next week. Until then, happy reading!

Oh, and as always I encourage everyone to read each other’s posts, leaving a comment or “some other evidence” of your visit. 🙂

James read Haruki Murakami and Grace Paley: “A Perfect Day for Kangaroos” and “Zagrowsky Tells“, respectively. http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/04/07/grace-paley-meet-haruki-murakami-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/

Dale read his four of spades entry, “Kaleidoscope” in Ray Bradbury’s classic collection, The Illustrated Man: http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/ray-bradbury-kaleidoscope/

Returning Reader’s nine of clubs was Dambuzdo Marechera’s story, “Oxford Black Oxfordhttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/short-story-15-oxford-black-oxford-dambuzdo-marechera/

My ten of diamonds led me from Transylvania to the Indian Ocean as I read Fredrick Marryat’s “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountainshttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/the-white-wolf-of-the-hartz-mountains-by-frederick-marryat/

Katherine presents another “magical” post, featuring “Disillusion” by Edward Bryant http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/deal-me-in-week-15-disillusion/

Hanne drew “Richard Wagner’s two of hearts” (from what has become my new favorite novelty deck of cards) and read the Louise Eldrich story, “Love Snares.” http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/love-snares-by-louise-erdrich/

If you’re looking for some extracurricular short story reading and are a fan of dystopian literature, check out my preceding post about the anthology, “Perfect Flaw.”

“Perfect Flaw” a superior Anthology of Dystopian Short Stories

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(Love the cover art!)

I just recently finished this anthology of Dystopian stories, published by Seventh Star Press and edited by Robin Blankenship. Overall, I found it to be quite strong, liking almost all of the entries, and I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of dystopian literature.

Before I began reading, I was perhaps most looking forward to seeing what type of worlds the authors would build in each story. It kind of reminded me of an extended “speed dating” session, but with spending a little longer 30 minutes or so with each dystopia, trying to decide which ones were the most expertly constructed, or most likely to be able to happen somewhere in our actual future. To continue that analogy, however, after this speed dating session, I wanted to explore many of the worlds in more depth and couldn’t easily pick just a few if I were to be charged with that task.

In these types of stories, other characters are not necessarily the source of “stress” for the main characters. True, they may be one source, but it is the environment itself which is the primary stressor; this makes for interesting reading, I think. The downside of reading this collection, though, is that these stories are almost universally NOT hopeful stories. “Happy” endings here may just mean that the man character has survived with his life. I.e., I didn’t find myself wishing I was the main character in any of these stories. But that’s what one expects when reading dystopian literature, right? It just means that the authors have done their job well.

I love some of the great names of dystopian institutions and governments that these authors have come up with too. For example, in Carolyn M. Chang’s story, “Smilers,” in the year 2059, it’s not a “PC” climate that has become oppressive, but a “PE” culture – “Positive Emotionality” – those who aren’t cheery are “sent away” to be trained to become so. This story also includes the great exchange:

“What if I prefer to stay as I am?”
“Miss Volenda, that is completely unacceptable.”

In Herika Raymer’s story, “Seventh Degree” we learn there is an event in that world’s history known as “The Decay,” from which civilization is still recovering and after which reproduction is strictly regulated. There are the mechanical “Regulators” and “Arbitrators” in one of the best stories, Jason Campagna’s “Hope Unknown.” In the great story “The Bird Below Ground” by S.C. Langgle, time is measured in “P.E.” years. That’s “Post Explosionum” of course. 🙂 Then there’s the mess hall in the story “Cracks in the Concrete” by Frank Roger, where the music is turned up so loud that conversing with one’s fellow citizens is impossible. Raise your voice? They’ll just turn it up even louder. (Kind of reminds me of how I used to deal with the strange noises an old car of mine made.) There are also the Revivologists in the creepy story, “First Head” by H.H. Donnelly, who assist in connecting (literally!) newly unfrozen heads to new bodies.

The other thing that was common for most of these stories is that I felt most of the main characters were quite heroic. What could be more heroic than the struggle to retain societal freedoms or even the right to one’s own identity? Maybe the great character Mina in the first story, Cathy Bryant’s “Cost Benefit Analysis,” is representative when she asserts: “Well I wasn’t ground down yet. And I had a plan.” Right on, girl. Fight the power!

Some of my favorites:

There’s “The Job Hunter” by Shaun Avery. In the future world of this story, those unfortunate enough to lose their jobs and become unemployed have a limited time to find a new one, and the penalty for failing to do so is, um, extreme to say the least. The story also explores the “change of heart” that the main character undergoes as his perspective changes when he loses his job. He says that formerly “like the rest of the luckily employed, I resented the taxes that I was paying to keep them (the unemployed receiving benefits) in booze.” Even worse is a later passage: “I remember the Head of Government Earth, the day they’d brought in the Unemployment Death Act. We’d all cheered at that, Bill, Chester, Arnold and me. My friends. The guys I’d worked with. Drinking… down at the pub and laughing at the lousy jobless bum counting out his Job Hunt Allowance pennies to pay for the cheapest drink on the menu in the bar. We’d laughed and I’d said, ‘You know, he’d be better off dead,’ and you know something? I’d believed it.” Chilling stuff, yet those sentiments aren’t that far from some of the rhetoric flung around today, are they?

There’s “Hope Unknown” by Jason Campagna. Hope is the main character’s name, and she finds herself recently orphaned and being shipped off-world. She and the other girls on the “orphan run” don’t talk much lest they incur the wrath of “Regulator” – a “floating gray-ball shaped robot who administer a nasty shock to unruly little girls.” Hope carries a miniature model of the Statue of Liberty with her, as it is the only thing that belonged to her mother that she has left. Her ‘captors’ try to convince her to give it up. She wonders why they don’t just take it by force since obviously they could: “I know you could’ve taken it from me, but… why do you want me to give it up?” she asks. “It is hard to take freedom from someone who will not surrender it herself,” is her mechanical overseer’s response. Something to think about, no?

One story, “The Choosing” by Michael O’Connor has probably the best line in the whole anthology: the two-word “He screamed.” (With its context, of course) that concludes the tale. Though I saw the twist coming, I think O’Connor still pulled it off quite well.

There’s the quite disturbing “Your Comfort is Important to Us” by Tanith Korravai. Short but very effective, it seems at the onset to be a very clinical set of instructions for expectant mothers, but it turns darker by degrees, and the more you learn the more you wish you didn’t know. Quite effective.

A candidate for my favorite story would be the final one, “The Useless,” by Ellen Brock. Strategically placed at the end of the collection, it ends with an offer of some real hope. The premise is that of a society which literally discards its members who are deemed “useless.” The main character, Ishka, who is physically and mentally impaired as the result of a childhood accident, has reached the age where youths are chosen by one of the society’s “trades” to follow their most suitable career path. Sadly, and at great disappointment to her parents, she is not chosen for anything. She’s useless to “Our Great Nation.” She leaves home but fortunately falls in with some other useless members of society being sheltered in the basement of the city’s undertaker. (The non-useless citizens of the city have always assumed the undertaker is getting rid of them in his incinerator. Quite humane, huh?) Things go well for awhile until the undertaker dies and Ishka is forced to rally her limited intelligence to propose an alternative to the incinerator solution when they are discovered by the new, unsympathetic undertaker. Great story.

This post has turned out much longer than I hoped, but only because this is such a good collection. The Kindle edition of the anthology is only 3.99 and may be found here on amazon

I was lucky enough to learn of it at the time of a $0.99 sale – that’s less than six cents a story for some of these great works. Amazing.

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The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat

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“What matters it to us, whether we are tried by, and have to suffer from, the enmity of our fellow-mortals, or whether we are persecuted by beings more powerful and more malevolent than ourselves?”

This week for my 2014 Deal Me In Sort Story Reading Challenge I drew the ten of Diamonds, which I had assigned to the Fredrick Marryat story, “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains.” Diamonds are my suit for stories recommended by others, and I first learned of this story via Paula Cappa’s excellent blog and its weekly feature “Tuesday’s Tale of Terror” (see here for her post on this story.

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(Above: not the rampaging werewolf of this story, but perhaps its equal in gruesome-ness)

This is a werewolf tale, and apparently one of the earliest of that genre. It is contained within an almost (almost!) incidental framing story, where two mariners, “Philip” and “Krantz,” have lost most of their crew and are attempting to sail back to “civilization.” What a perfect opportunity for Krantz to tell his story:

“I take it for granted, that you have heard people speak of the Hartz Mountains,” observed Krantz.
“I have never heard people speak of them, that I can recollect,” replied Philip; “but I have read of them in some book, and of the strange things which have occurred there.”

It seems Krantz is the only surviving member of a small Transylvanian family whose history has been marked by violent death. A family whose father murdered the mother, after catching her in an act of infidelity, then fled north to the Hartz Mountains (Germany) of the story’s title. There they live a harsh and lonely existence that settles into routine until, while hunting one day, the father sees and pursues a white she-wolf. Just as he draws a bead on it and is preparing to fire his rifle, however, it mysteriously disappears. On the way back to the family’s cabin, though, he encounters a man and daughter, half-frozen, looking for shelter which he, naturally, offers.

(Below: a view of the Hartz Mountains)

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The man tells him that they too are fleeing Transylvania “where my daughter’s honour and my life were equally in jeopardy!” As one might expect, Krantz’s father falls for this young girl (Oh, I forgot to mention that she was beautiful 🙂 ) and they eventually marry. The strange girl’s father, oddly, insists on the vows being exchanged not including the phrase “by heaven” but instead “by all the spirits of the Hartz Mountains.” Reluctantly, the storyteller’s father agrees – but wouldn’t that be a red flag? Anyone?

The beautiful young woman becomes an “evil stepmother” to the storyteller and his siblings. The oldest brother begins to note her strange nocturnal disappearances where, upon returning, she invariably goes to wash herself. What could she be doing out there? Many of these nights of her absence are also marked by the howl of a wolf, seemingly just outside the window of the children. Hmm… Slowly, as the evil deeds of this “woman” mount up, young Krantz’s fear of her transforms: “…but I no longer felt afraid of her; my little heart was full of hatred and revenge.”

Since I’m providing a link to the text of the story, I won’t reveal the additional events that transpire at and around the cabin, but will say that as a result, Krantz lives under a curse. A curse that includes as part of his fate that “His bones will bleach in the wilderness…” Will he escape it, or will it find him even half way across the world. Why not read the story and find out?

Read the book free online here:

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater also produced an audio version of this tale that is available here:

This was the first story I’ve ever read by Fredrick Marryat. I enjoyed the almost fairy tale-like feel that it retained in spite of being somewhat gruesome. It seems that Marryat was something of a Renaissance Man as well, excelling in many fields (he also invented a flag-based signaling system for seagoing vessels and was in command of the ship the brought the news of Napoleon’s death back to Europe). What about you? Have YOU encountered him in any of your reading?

My roster of stories for DMI 2014:

(Below author Fredrick Marryat)

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Deal Me In – Week 14 Wrap Up

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We start the second quarter of Deal Me In 2014 with another eclectic group of short stories and thoughtful posts. Below are links to new posts by our participants since our week 13 update last Sunday. (I try to meet an unofficial deadline of five p.m. EST for these wrap-up posts)

Please consider taking the time to visit the other participants’ posts or even “like” them or leave a comment to share some feedback.

Dale posts about a baseball story by Zane GreyThe Redheaded Outfield http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/zane-grey-the-redheaded-outfield/

Hanne reads Alice Munro’s The Bear Came Over the Mountain http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/week-14-the-bear-came-over-the-mountain-by-alice-munro/

Katherine links to another card trick for her two of hearts, “16 Minutes” by Eric Lustbader http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/deal-me-in-week-14-16-mins/

My king of hearts led me to Katherine Vaz’s story “Undressing the Vanity Dollshttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/undressing-the-vanity-dolls-by-katherine-

Candiss of Read the Gamut drew the five of clubs and read Denis Johnson’s story, “Emergency” http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/deal-me-in-challenge-story-14-emergency-by-denis-johnson/

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