Deal Me In – Week 21 Wrap Up

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Below are links to five new DMI 2014 posts this week. I hope everyone is enjoying a nice long holiday weekend!

Dale read Graham Greene’s “Alas, Poor Maling” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/graham-greene-alas-poor-maling/

Returning Reader has a new favorite story of the year, Henriette Rose-Innes’s “Promenade” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/short-story-18-promenade-henrietta-rose-innes/

Katherine read “Humpty-Dumpty was a Runner” by Janet Berliner http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/deal-me-in-week-21-humpty-dumpty-was-a-runner/ as an added bonus, she shares another video of a Penn & Teller “card” trick you won’t want to miss!

I posted about two stories this week: Roxane Gay’s North Country” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/north-country-by-roxane-gay/ and George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/george-saunders-tenth-of-december/

That’s it for this week. Until next time – happy reading!

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George Saunders – Tenth of December

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Represented by the eight of spades, this is my 21st story form my 2014 Short Story Reading Challenge, “Deal Me In.” My complete roster of 2014 stories may be found here.

This was only my second foray into the writings of George Saunders. Last year, I found his story “Escape from Spiderhead” largely incomprehensible and never even posted about it as part of DMI2013 (though, in its honor, I did pick a spider-laden eight of spades image to use in this post). This story kind of started out the same way for me, but I think, before it ended, I was just starting to “get” Saunders (pictured below)  a little better.

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Saunders seems to be one of those writers who leaves most of the work “connecting the dots” of a story to the reader. He doesn’t spell out many details, at least specifically, or maybe they are only revealed slowly. Encountering this technique has often made me read a story twice, the second time enabling me to pick up on clues that were not obvious on the first pass. I must say this seems an unfair thing to do to your readers, though. What you thought was a story of 22 pages is really a reading burden of 44 pages. How inconsiderate! 🙂

I must say I liked the structure of this story, though. Told from two viewpoints, one of a young boy – a social outcast with a vivid world of his imagination, in which he is acting out an adventure when he sees an older man. We learn the man is suffering from a brain tumor and has ‘escaped’ his caretakers as part of his own adventure manufactured by his own vivid imagination. The boy tries vainly to incorporate seeing the older man into his fantasy adventure, but an emergency situation arises which, at least temporarily, has the power to yank them both back into the real world.

I own this story as part of the The Best Short Stories of 2012 anthology. (It was in the 2011 edition of this series where I read my other Saunders story)

The Tenth of December is also available online at http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2011/10/31/111031fi_fiction_saunders?currentPage=all
You may need a New Yorker subscription (I don’t think I was logged in as such when I found this page, but sometimes it seems to ‘remember’ me from my previous visit, so maybe it only let me view it because I’m a digital subscriber)

It’s also available as part of Saunders’ collection of the same name.

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(Below: one of several go to short story anthologies in my library)

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North Country by Roxane Gay

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I drew the ten of hearts for week 20 of my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. I own North Country as part of the 2012 Edition of “The Best American Short Stories” series, several volumes of which have provided fodder for my Deal Me In challenges over the past few years. I don’t think it is currently available for reading online anywhere, but spending a few bucks on The Best American Short Stories of 2012 isn’t a bad idea. 🙂 In selecting stories from this collection to include in my Deal Me In roster, I made use of the Contributors’ Notes section of the book. Here’s what Roxane Gay said about her story:

“I moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to pursue a Ph.D. and realized I had moved into a different world, one where it was cold and snowy and where nothing made sense. Everyone kept asking me if I was from Detroit, and it was confusing and irritating because I had never been asked such a thing in my life. I’m from Nebraska. Finally, a few months into my tour of duty, which would last five years, I realized, oh, right, the only black people they know are from Detroit. Then it became a game to see who would ask the question, how often, and how I might answer it. My responses got creative. In my fourth year, I met a logger who would do strange things like take me into the woods and bring me dead deer. I started to realize there was a lot more complexity and beauty in the U.P. than I had realized, so I wrote a story about it – a love letter to the North Country.”

I liked the story a lot and felt the author did an excellent job of capturing the feelings of alone-ness and isolation she must have encountered in her own situation. I loved the opening lines of the story:

“I have moved to the edge of the world for two years. If I am not careful, I will fall.”

Nice imagery. I also enjoyed how the author details how the narrator adapts to her new world, letting her guard down ever so slowly and never quite all the way. How her past “traumas” effect her current behavior, and so on. A good story, and one that made me want to read more by this author.

I didn’t find the text of the story available online anywhere, but I did find a video of the author reading her work it’s about 25 minutes long and can be found at http://vimeo.com/53978525

(below: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The edge of the world?)

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Deal Me In – Week 20 Wrap Up

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I trust everyone is enjoying Short Story Reading Month? Below are links to new posts I’ve found since last week’s wrap-up. As always, please try to visit your fellow DMI-ers’ posts, leaving a comment or ’liking’ them if you can. 🙂

James at Jamesreadsbooks.com read two stories: Henry James’ “The Private Life” and Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain.” I hadn’t heard of the second story before, but the premise is fascinating. Check out his post at http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/05/13/henry-james-vs-tobias-wolff-a-deal-me-in-short-story-chalenge/

Dale of Mirror With Clouds read Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet”http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/anton-chekhov-the-bet/

Candiss at Read the Gamut is in the midst of the Bout of Books Readathon. She found time to read Ted Chiang’s ” The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling.” Her post will be forthcoming after the BoBR has been completed.

Katherine at The Writerly Reader drew a winner with her ten of hearts (same card I drew this week!) and read George Guthridge’s “Chin Oil.” Read her post at http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/deal-me-in-week-20-chin-oil/ to find out more about this story

Returning Reader rejoins us with two stories: James Joyce’s “Araby” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/short-story-16-araby-james-joyce/ and Maaza Mengiste’s “A Good Soldier” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/short-story-17-a-good-soldier-maaza-mengiste

Susan at Avid Series Reader add a couple more reviews on Shelfari scroll down to the bottom to see her thoughts on Doran Larson’s “Morphine” and Bliss Broyard’s “Mr. Sweetly Indecent” at http://www.shelfari.com/books/16334/The-Best-American-Short-Stories-1998/reviews/4410861

I read a new-to-me author Roxane Gay and thoroughly enjoyed her story “North Country.” I hope to have my post up later tonight or tomorrow morning. 🙂

That’s it for now. See you next Sunday with another wrap up. In the meantime, keep those cards flying!

Deal Me In – Week 19 Wrap Up

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Below are links to new Deal Me In-related posts since last Sunday. I’m happy to relate that Risa, a fellow “friend of the short story” with whom I go way back to the “Short Stories on Wednesdays” era, is now joining the DMI crew. Welcome, Risa!

Also, last week, I mentioned that Cedarstation was adapting Deal Me In to help “clean up” her TBR list of books. Another blog, Plethora of Books, has now also taken up that variant (“reading roulette”) of the Deal Me In challenge. http://bookchallenges.weebly.com/9/post/2014/05/reading-roulette-card-1.html
Initial post: http://bookchallenges.weebly.com/9/post/2014/05/reading-roulette.html

Dale reads one of the titans of the short story form: Ernest Hemingway (and his story “Soldier’s Home“) http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/ernest-hemingway-soldiers-home/

Risa of Breadcrumb Reads joins us with her first post – on the fantasy story “The Wizard’s Coming” by Juliet E. McKenna http://breadcrumbreads.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/the-wizards-coming/

I posted about two of my stories this week: Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/all-summer-in-a-day-by-ray-bradbury/ and Nikolai Gogol’s “St. John’s Eve” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/st-johns-eve-by-nikolai-gogol/

Katherine read Robert Weinberg’s “Dealing With the Devil” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/deal-me-in-week-19-dealing-with-the-devil/

Also, C.A. Talks a little about short story month and has some helpful links at https://bonesparkblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/knight-time-rewind/

That’s it for this week. & Good luck to those hearty souls participating in the Bout-of-Books Readathon. Happy reading to all!

“St. John’s Eve” by Nikolai Gogol

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(Above: St. John the Baptist)

This is the second week in a row that I’ve drawn a club for my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge For this year, clubs are my designated suit for “stories by Russian authors,” and all I have read thus far have been excellent. This week’s draw, the nine of clubs, was assigned to the Nikolai Gogol story, “St. John’s Eve.” I haven’t read much Gogol, but his famous story, “The Cloak,” is also on my list for this year, waiting patiently to be drawn.

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St. John’s Eve – for any fellow heathens who don’t know – is a religious holiday (celebrated on June 23rd) in honor of John the Baptist. St. John is famous for his wildness and zealousness, and those same qualities could be said to suffuse this story of a small village in Russia that is plagued by a strange man, Basavriuk, who seems to appear and disappear out of/into nowhere. Many believe him to be the devil incarnate. He tempts villagers with gifts that they are both afraid to refuse and accept, for if some trinket was accepted, “the next night some fiend from the swamp, with horns on his head, came and began to squeeze your neck, if there was a string of beads upon it, or bite your finger if there was a ring upon it, or drag you by the hair, if ribbons were braided in it.”

Enter a young man known as “Peter the Orphan,” a poor soul who labors for the Cossack, Korzh, who also happens to be the father of a lovely daughter, Pidorka. Gogol relates that “well, you know what happens when young men and maidens live side by side,” and the two youths, naturally, fall in love. Things are going okay until Korzh catches the unfortunate young lovers kissing, and Peter is promptly turned out and told never to show himself again.

Desperate about his lost love and concluding that he only lacks a fortune to be an acceptable suitor in the eyes of Pidorka’s father, who can Peter turn to? Basavriuk, of course. The story takes a horrific turn, which I will leave the interested reader to find out for himself – the story is available online at http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/1048/

I liked the final lines of the story: “…all appears to be quiet now, in the place where our village stands; but it was not so very long ago… that I remember how a good man could not pass the ruined tavern which a dishonest race had long managed for their own interest…”

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Have you read this story, or any others by Gogol? What do you think of the Russian authors? I admit I have become quite partial to them…

I own this story as part of my anthology “Great Short Stories of the World.”

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All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury

“All Summer in a Day”

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For “Week 17” of the Deal Me In 2014 Short Story Reading Challenge, I drew the four of diamonds, which I had assigned to a story I’ve really been looking forward to reading, Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day.” The director of The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies here in Indianapolis had tantalizingly summarized it for me one day after a meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s book club, so I added it to my DMI2014 roster and have been waiting patiently “all year.” I’ve mentioned before that he has a knack for telling one the gist of a Bradbury story in such a way that one really wants to read it (e.g. The Crowd, which I blogged about before). All he said about “All Summer in a Day” was that it was set on a world where summer lasts only a couple hours and comes only once every seven years, and a bunch of schoolkids lock a classmate in a closet so that she misses it.

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The planet in this story is Venus. It seems amusing to us now, with our current knowledge of that world, with its crushing atmospheric pressure and sulfuric acid rain, that it was once imagined to be swampy and jungle-like. Bradbury had not the advantage of this knowledge when he was writing stories like this and “The Long Rain”  (also set on a wet, rain forest-y Venus). In this current story, Venus has been colonized by Earthmen in spite of its meteorological shortcomings.

The story is joined with the colonists on the brink of experiencing one of their rare “summers” – a time when the sun comes out if for only an hour – and centers around one of the more recent colonists, Margot. She’s a nine year-old student in a school where she suffers the worst affliction of that age – being different. While she grew up on Earth, her classmates have all grown up on Venus and don’t know what it’s like to have frequent sunshine. When the sun does shine on Venus every seventh year, it is only just briefly.

Margot writes a poignant poem for class:

“I think the sun is a flower,
That blooms for just one hour”

Her classmates are jealous of her poem and accuse her of not writing it herself. The other children don’t like Margot for, as Bradbury says, “reasons of big and little consequence”

“There was talk that her father and mother were taking her back to Earth next year; it seemed vital to her that they do so, though it would mean the loss of thousands of dollars to her family. And so, the children hated her for all these reasons of big and little consequence. They hated her pale snow face, her waiting silence, her thinness, and her possible future.”

First the other kids, crowded expectantly by the classroom windows waiting for the first glimpse of the sun, try tormenting Margot by saying that “it was all just a joke” and that the sun isn’t really going to make its appearance that day. The “scientists were wrong.” When she protests, one boy suggests they lock her in the closet “before teacher returns.” Swept away by that peculiar, unfeeling cruelty that children alone seem masters of, they carry out their plan…

Bradbury includes some great description of the effect of this rare summer event on the planet and its life forms, but for me the story was about the feelings it elicited. The despair of Margot, the realization of the other children of the magnitude of what they’ve done (or do they?). Only four pages, it’s a story you should certainly make time to read.

I don’t know if it’s an “authorized” site, but I did find this story online at http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/English%20Department%20LVillage/RT/Short%20Stories/All%20Summer%20in%20a%20Day.pdf

Watch a film version of the story (but READ it first, the film takes too many liberties imho) on YouTube  (thanks, Megan)

(below: The Planet Venus – the un-colonize-able version)

 

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Deal Me In – Week 18 Wrap Up

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Below are links to new posts this week. The blogs of a couple of our regular participants have been quiet in recent weeks, but for now I’m assuming they’re on holiday and will return with several short stories to share. 🙂 In other news, we’ve “inspired” one blogger to launch her own variant of Deal Me In – check out Julianna’s blog “Cedar Station” at  and her own DMI line-up at http://cedarstation.wordpress.com/reading-roulette/

Also, thanks to May being National Short Story Month, DMI got some recognition courtesy of C.A. LaRue and her blog, Bonespark. Check out her post at https://bonesparkblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/selections-for-short-story-month/ where she provides links to some great recommended stories.

It’s always nice to discover other blogs that are “Friends of the Short Story,” and I hope you take a moment to visit them if you have the time.

Dale encountered a short story by Kurt Vonnegut: “Mnemonics” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/kurt-vonnegut-mnemonics/

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Katherine visits “The Barnum Museum” gaining her ticket from author Steven Millhauser – http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/deal-me-in-week-18-the-barnum-museum/

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James brings us another unlikely pairing with stories by Grace Paley (pictured below) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and explores their stories “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” and “The Thing Around Your Neck,” respectively. http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/04/29/grace-paley-vs-chimamanda-ngozi-adiche-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/

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Candiss at Read the Gamut read the Roald Dahl story “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.” http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/deal-me-in-challenge-story-18-the-wonderful-story-of-henry-sugar-by-roald-dahl/

I’m still playing catchup, with pending posts on Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day” and the Anton Chekhov classic, “The Black Monk.” Hope to have them up soon. 😉

See you all next week!

May Reading – The Month Ahead

I used to post fairly regularly near the start of a month about what was on deck for my reading but have kind of fallen out of the habit in recent months (years?). BUT, I was sitting here this morning thinking about my May plans (reading and otherwise) and thought I’d jot down what’s on my reading docket…

Books:
“The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science” by Will Storr
I actually just passed the halfway point in this book. It’s been fascinating reading thus far, especially the more “sciencey” sections discussing how the brain often conspires to delude us in our thinking. Storr, a journalist, seems to earnestly attempt to understand the thinking of a wide range of belief systems that fly in the face of facts and traditional evidence. Storr asks himself the question, “Why don’t facts work?” and the answers are unsettling thus far.

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2. “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen and “Northanger Abbey” by Val McDermid

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A friend just completed reading my copy of Jane Austen’s classic about the same time I heard of this new treatment of the story. I thought it might make for good blogging to read both and write about them in comparison. Oh, and it would be a good excuse to read some Austen for the first time in many years too. 🙂 This feels a little ambitious to read both, and I’m not sure I’ll find the time, but my instincts tell me it might be fun. We’ll see.

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3. “If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? – Advice for the Young” by Kurt Vonnegut
This book is a collection of graduation speeches by the late author, and it is the May selection for the book clubl at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library here in town. It includes an introduction by author (and friend of Vonnegut) Dan Wakefield, who is scheduled to join us at our meeting. Can’t wait to read this one.

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4. “Scapegoat of Shiloh: the Distortion of Lew Wallace’s record by U.S. Grant” by Kevin Getchell
I went to a lecture by the author a couple weeks ago. As a fan of Lew Wallace, I am interested in reading this.

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(above: two new purchases in April – see? I don’t only buy e-books, so get off my case!)

Reviewing books I’ve previously read:
A couple book clubs I (irregularly) participate in are discussing books that I’ve already read. Twice. The Carmel Clay Public Library is discussing Booth Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons” (set in Indianapolis) next week, and the relatively new book group at Indy Reads Books book store is discussing Carson McCullers’ “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” toward the end of the month. I won’t read these a third time, but I will certainly review them and revisit my “incisive underlinings” (ha ha) in my copies.

There’s also a new edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House” short story collection that I picked up at a book signing by author Gregory Summner, whose non-fiction work, “Unstuck in Time” has become a reliable reference work for me when dealing with Vonnegut’s novels. This new edition has some background info on how many of the stories came about, which I look forward to reading.

Other items:
Of course I’ll continue reading a short story a week for Deal Me In 2014, but fate determines which stories those will be. I have a strong roster, though, so I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

I want to get refocused on increasing my vocabulary. For several months starting back in October, I was creating monthly “bundles” or sets of flashcards on my iPad and reviewing them fairly frequently. Yeah, that only lasted through January, though. Seems my laziness knows few bounds. It was a good system, and I need to return to it(, dammit).

I also have a big backlog of blog posts to write or finish about books (-not short stories)  I’ve read. I’ve let my blog’s focus drift too heavily toward short stories and would prefer it to be more balanced. I need to post about some of these books(!)

Well, those are my reading/literary plans for May. What are YOURS? I’d love to hear about them…