Deal Me In – Week 26 Wrap Up – and Mid-Year Survey!


Well, we’ve made it to the halfway point, and if you’ve made it this far you know that you’ll be able to make it the rest of the way. 🙂

Below are links to new posts since the last update and also a survey about what you think of the challenge so far and of the stories you’ve read. Participation is optional, but I would enjoy reading some feedback. You can either participate via the comments or via a separate post on your own blog.

James found an easy connection between his stories this week, reading Ernest Hemingway’s “A Canary for One” and Charles de Lint’s “A Tangle of Green Men”

Dale read Truman Capote’s “A Diamond Guitar”

Katherine drew the mustache-less King of Hearts and read the Kevin J Anderson story “Technomagic” which included a nod to the great Arthur C. Clarke. Oh, and another card trick video as well 🙂


Pour moi, it was another new-to-me author as I read Eric Puchner’s strange story “Beautiful Monsters”

Mid-Year Survey:

1. Do you have a favorite story or author so far?

2. What is your major “discovery” from DMI this year? Either from the posts of fellow participants or from your own story roster – or both.

3. Would you participate in the challenge again in 2015?

4. Do you think a weekly wrap-up post is necessary? Would you prefer a monthly wrap-up?

5. Do you have any good ideas for suit “themes” to share for others who might try the challenge again?

6. Have you gotten much of a response from other readers of your blog (other than fellow DMI’ers I mean)?

7. Can you recommend any good resources (on line or otherwise) for those looking to populate their DMI roster?

8. Does DMI rate favorably in comparison with other book blogging challenges in which you’ve participated? Why or why not?

9. What is/are your favorite part/parts about The Deal Me In challenge?

10. Conversely, what do you NOT like about the challenge or what would you change about it?

11. Feel free to add any other general comments.

Thanks for participating!

My answers:
1. I have several. Two that really stood out are Leonid’s Andreev’s “Lazarus” and Katherine Vaz’s “Undressing the Vanity Dolls.” In general, the Russian Authors (“clubs”) that I’ve read have been my favorites.
2. Too many to mention. One that springs to mind immediately is Grace Paley, much lauded by James at JamesReadsBooks. I’ve also enjoyed learning and reading about some of the African Authors at Returning Reader’s blog.
3. Absolutely! 🙂
4. I think I’d prefer a monthly wrap-up (less work for me) or some kind of Linky widget-y thing (where participants would be responsible for linking in their posts), which I don’t think is available for my “free” version of WordPress. Any shared expertise on this possibility would be appreciated.
5. I’ve thought about a classic fairy tales suit a couple times but never did it, since I fear that would be committing too many of my choices to less “meaty” works. I’ve also thought about a “New Yorker Stories” suit since I’m a subscriber. Another idea is a suit dedicated to authors with a local connection; one of the unstated missions of Bibliophilopolis is to support writers in my area. My favorite idea is a suit of stories I learned about from my fellow DMI participants this year.
6. Most seem to think “That’s a great idea.” A few authors that I’ve communicated with really like it too. One even said she might use it for her students.
7. I’m a big fan of library book sales and used bookstores. I pick up a couple cheap anthologies a year at those. I have ample fodder to last the rest of my short story reading life I think. 🙂
8. I’ve basically only done “read-alongs” and in my “completely objective” opinion DMI is much more fun.
9. I love the randomness and “the hand of fate” participating in deciding when I read something. “Strange coincidences” seem to often occur. I also have loved seeing some of the unique playing cards others have pictured and how others have put their own stamp on the challenge, or have come up with their own variants. And Katherine’s sharing the videos of card tricks.
10. I wish I had specifically stated that participants aren’t necessarily “required” to write a post about every story they read. Being committed to a weekly post can begin to feel like a burden. The real goal should remain just reading 52 stories. The more you post about, the better, but you don’t have to post about every one. 🙂
11. I’ve really enjoyed Deal Me In’s becoming a shared experience the past couple years. Was it Oscar Wilde who said that “a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled?” – sounds like him but I’m not sure…

Mid-year trivia: can you name the movie that included the scene below? (It’s relevant to this week’s wrap-up…)


“Beautiful Monsters” by Eric Puchner


It’s the midway point in my 2014 Short Story Reading challenge. For week twenty-six I drew the three of spades. Spades are designated for “darker” stories, and this one certainly qualifies. I own it as part of the 2012 volume of The Best American Short Stories series, which I heartily endorse as a good investment if you’re a fan of the short story form.


This is also my first reading of Los Angeles author Eric Puchner. He has also published a well-received collection of stories titled “Music Trough the Floor” (love that cover picture) and the novel “Model Home.”


This particular story was first published in Tin House.


In the Contributors’ Notes section of the Best American Short Stories collection I have, Puchner writes that this story “…was a real departure for me. I’m not a big reader of science fiction, though the first stories I fell in love with as a boy were Ray Bradbury’s magical Martian creep-outs.” Being a Bradbury fan myself, that was certainly a point in his favor and part of the reason why I added this story to my Deal Me In roster this year.

Beautiful Monsters is a story about an (unnamed) boy and girl who are “Perennials,” the primary citizens of a future world where aging has been determined to be a disease, cured scientifically by fixing the age of children just before adolescence. The children of this world, however, hold jobs and take care of themselves and each other just like adults in our own familiar society. The world of the boy and girl is disturbed one day, however, when they see an “old” man in their yard, eating apples directly from their tree. In the future world of this story, there still exist people who have not been cured of the aging “disease” and are the pariahs of society. They have their own camp in the hills near the city of children, but a forest fire has apparently destroyed their reserves of food, leading them to forage nearer the civilized parts of the world and encroach upon the dominion of the Perennials.

The two children see that the old man in their yard is also injured and help him, at least initially. They become fond of him by degrees, even though, as an adult, he exhibits many traits strange and unfamiliar to them. At one point, they put on a puppet show for the old man’s entertainment, pretending to be children from the man’s world, and reveal something of the nature their strange world:

“Hello, red puppet.
Hello, white puppet.
I can’t even drive.
Me either.
Let’s play Capture the Graveyard.
In seventy years I’m going to die. First, though, I will grow old and weak and disease-ridden. This is called aging. It was thought to be incurable, in the Age of Senescence.
Will you lose your hair?
I am male, so there’s a four in seven chance of baldness.”

And later in the puppet show:

“Everyone will have to pay more taxes, because we’ll be too feeble to work and pay for our useless medicines.”

I suspect this last is how their world came about. The aged have become too much of a burden on society as a whole. A chilling thought to ponder in today’s real world, where the future of health care is a frequent topic of conversation and debate.

I should point out that the story features the annoying (to this reader) quirk of not using quotation marks for dialogue. What’s up with that? To me it’s just a gimmick that distracts from the real story. This wasn’t one of my favorite short stories in this year’s project, but I think that’s more because of the subject matter since I found the writing to be quite good.

Have you heard of – or read anything by – this author? Have you explored any of the Best American Short Stories of ____ series? What short stories have you read lately?

(below: Eric Puchner )


Deal Me In – Week 25 Wrap Up


Week 25 finds me delinquent again, and it was kind of a slow week for us, posting-wise, but below are links to new Deal Me In entries since our last update:

Dale spends time with Jack London again, reading his short story “Negore the Coward.” Read what he thought about it at

Katherine read “The Sepia Postcard” by Steven Millhauser (our group’s most-read author so far this year) and includes a great card trick by David Copperfield featuring a young Jane Seymour

I drew a wild card (two of hearts) so decided to indulge my penchant for exploring lesser-known authors with a local connection, reading Joanna Parypinski’s “The Garden

Well, that’s it for this week. See you next time for week 26 – the halfway point!

“The Garden” by Joanna Parypinski


I drew the two of hearts this week for My Deal Me In challenge. “Deuces are wild” this year so I went in search of a story… I just happened to have my iPad in hand when I drew my card, and it was providentially opened to my Kindle app, where I have several anthologies downloaded and “in the queue.” One of these is “Suffer the Little Children” from Cruentus Libri Press.


In February, I learned from author Joanna Parypinski’s blog that this small indie press was closing down and that its ebook titles were available for free download. I’d previously read another one of their projects, Dead Sea, which I never blogged about but did briefly review on Goodreads: I had enjoyed that one enough to “take a chance” (and risk a few kilobytes of memory space) on a free download, and having read some of Parypinski’s other work (e.g. Her novel, Pandora, back in 2012) I picked her short story, The Garden, for my week 25 entry…

This story is about Lily, a young and lonely girl, who learns of a spell that might help her end her loneliness. The story centers around two curious stone statues in her (recently deceased) aunt’s garden. The statues are of two “sisters” who – legend had it (“The story of the sisters was as wondrously strange as the garden where they spent their days in stone.” I really liked that opening sentence!) – were turned to stone by the witch whose garden it originally was. It seems the witch had became jealous of the girls’ gardening abilities. What the witch didn’t realize was that she was only ensuring “an eternity of togetherness” for the girls. While in the garden, Lily hears whispers. Are they from the stone sisters, or from something else – something more … malignant?

The other force at work in Lily’s life is loneliness. After visiting her deceased aunt’s house, she returns to her family’s home in the country: “There was a lot of emptiness here. Even at school with rowdy kids crowding the halls, Lily could still feel the emptiness creeping in on all sides. Her classmates didn’t seem to know it was there, but Lily did. It was all around them, encroaching in the desolate gloom of twilight.”

Lily’s isolation – and a spectral visitor – lead her to seek to “ensure some togetherness” of her own, just as she imagines the stone sisters in the garden enjoy. She gets more than she bargained for, however.

I’m not sure if this story is still available for purchase anywhere now that Cruentus Libri Press is shut down. I will do some checking and update later if I find it.

I admit that this story didn’t immediately effect me that much, but stories can leave their mark on me in different ways. The way this one did is that it led me to thinking all week about statues, and humankind’s long and sometimes curious relationship with them. In fact, I probably lost more than an hour of my life surfing the Internet reading about different statues, ancient and new. Some I was already familiar with and some were new to me. Of particular interest were stories of statues that began their lives as living beings, as did (allegedly) the stone sisters in this story. Take a moment and think about it – how many examples can you think of in literature and legend? Lot’s wife, anyone?


Another interesting – though not surprising – fact is how people often begin to think of human-shaped statues as being “real” humans, perhaps with personalities of their own, perhaps treating them with undue reverence, considering they are actually only stone, marble, bronze, or whatever. “Anthropomorphizing” isn’t exactly the right word for it, since the statues are already of people.

One of Indy’s suburbs has a Main Street that is peopled with a lot of human statues in everyday poses (like the lady with the groceries pictured below) that coexist with the town’s actual animate population. I admit that, for my part, this creeps me out a little bit. The statues, even though you KNOW they’re statues, have a way of continually tricking one’s senses. When they’re in your peripheral vision, your certainty of what is real and what is not blurs somewhat, and in a way that makes me uncomfortable. 🙂


For fun, here’s a list of the worlds “top ten statues”:

Colossal statues also fascinate me. Below, the giant Toltec statues at Tula are said to walk around at night(!) Woe to anyone who steps in their path.


Frodo and friends are braver than I, camping amongst the frozen statues of giant trolls.


The tallest human statue in the world, in Volgograd, Russia. Colossal!


The iconic Statue of Liberty sometimes takes a beating in film. “Cloverfield” and “Planet of the Apes” are two memorable examples.



Deal Me In – Week 24 Wrap Up


I’m way behind schedule in posting this, but here are links to new posts by all the Deal Me In’ers since the last wrap-up. We’re almost at the midway point of the challenge! Note: for week 26, I’m working on a kind of “survey” about the challenge. I hope you’ll consider participating by answering a few questions, via which I hope to make improvements for DMI 2015 next year…

Dale wrote about Herman Melville’s “The Piazza” at

I wrote about Maxim Gorky’s “Her Lover” at

James posted about a couple stories, Grace Paley’s “The Pale Pink Roast” and Tim Pratt’s “Our Stars, Ourselves” from the Welcome to Bordertown anthology:

Candiss writes about Amy Bloom’s “Silver Water” at

Returning Reader read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Arrangers of Marriage”

Katherine tackles a classic, Edgar Allan Poe’s. “The Purloined Letter


“Her Lover” by Maxim Gorky


(Above: a contemplative Maxim Gorky)

The best authors – or at least my favorite authors – share an amazing ability to paint quite a vivid picture of their characters in just a few words. This trait is naturally very useful when writing short stories. Kurt Vonnegut comes to mind as one blessed with this faculty. I remember when the book club of The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library read “Sucker’s Portfolio” (his posthumously published collection of “new” short stories) thinking that, though the stories themselves were perhaps not up to his usual high standards, his characters were still often fully fleshed out in short, machine gun-like bursts of description.

Maxim Gorky also possessed this skill, and it is on display in his short story, “Her Lover,” which I had assigned to the ten of clubs and was the 24th story I read for my annual “Deal Me In” short story project. (See project details and my entire roster of 2014 stories here)

***Minor Spoilers follow (link to read the story online follows at the end if you’d like to read it first)***

The story’s narrator is a young student in Moscow, who occupies a garret apartment in a boarding house. His neighbor in the apartment on the other side of the attic is a woman of ill-repute:

She was a Pole, and they called her Theresa. She was a tallish, powerfully-built brunette, with black, bushy eyebrows and a coarse face as if carved out by a hatchet – the bestial gleam of her dark eyes, her thick base voice, her cabman-like gait and her immense muscular vigor, worthy of a fishwife, inspired me with horror.”

Over the course of the story, though, the student comes to learn more about this “mastodon in petticoats”(!) and overcomes his horror enough to grant a favor by writing a letter for his illiterate neighbor. A letter to “her lover” she has presumably left behind in Warsaw… The student’s relationship with this woman also leads him to gain some lessons that he likely isn’t being taught at school, such as how “the more a human creature has tasted of the bitter things the more it hungers after the sweet things of life.”

It also leads him to re-evaluate his judgmental attitude and quick dismissal he often feels toward others: “…I felt so sick, so miserable, so ashamed, somehow. Alongside of me, not three yards away, lived a human creature who had nobody in the world to treat her kindly, affectionately, and this human being had invented a friend for herself.”

I own the story as part of my great e-book “Best Russian Short Stories” collection – a perfect component of my Deal Me In project, since it pictures a Queen of Spades on the cover (for the Pushkin story of that name). 🙂


Have you read anything by Maxim Gorky? I’ve covered two of his stories on this blog before, One Autumn Night and Twenty-Six and One. Which authors do you think are best at writing great and short characterizations?

The story may be read for free online at

Up next week for Deal Me In 2014: The Two of Hearts – deuces are wild and hearts are my suit for women authors so all I can say at this point is story 25 will be one written by a woman…

(Below: Yes, it’s a mastodon. Sans petticoats.)


Deal Me In – Week 23 Wrap Up


Below are links to new posts and reviews since our last update. We’re nearly at the halfway mark of Deal Me In 2014! Please take a moment to visit and read the posts of your fellow challenge participants.

Susan read a few more stories from Alaska Traveler and commented on them at Shelfari:

Returning Reader shares two stories: Milly Jafta’s “The Homecoming” and the Flannery O’Connor classic “A Good Man is Hard to Find As an added bonus, the latter includes a link to an audio recording of the author herself reading it.

Dale read G.K. Chesterton’s “The Song of the Flying Fish”

I read Mary Gaitskill for the first time and found her story “The Other Place” extremely good, if disturbing…

Katherine read an Edgar Allen Poe story featuring “detective” Auguste Dupin: “The Mystery of Marie Roget

Candiss merges Deal Me In with Angela Carter Week ( ), reading that author’s “The Fall River Axe Murders

Mary Gaitskill’s “The Other Place”


I drew the Queen of Hearts this week for my Deal Me In short story reading challenge. Back when I was planning my roster for this year (and prior years) the name of author Mary Gaitskill kept coming up as a recommendation. When I saw that one of her stories was included in my copy of The Best American Short Stories of 2012, I quickly reserved a place for it on my list.


“The Other Place” is, frankly, a disturbing story to read. It deals with a man who, in outward appearance at least, appears to be “just a normal guy.” One like many men these days, who are troubled about their children’s fondness for the violent video games, movies, or music of today’s world. The story takes on a chilling nature, however, when we learn that the narrator himself has “a past” which included violent fantasies – fantasies that he came within a hair’s breadth of acting upon.

The “other place” in this story’s title refers to that realm where the narrator’s darker thoughts could take on a reality of their own. In his past, certain situations would arise – or be sought out by the narrator – where “The Other Place” was readily accessible. Once, for example, while “following” female students at a nearby college he says, “I’d feel the other place running against the membrane of the world, almost touching it.” Creepy.

This story makes one think – or realize – that there is a thin line between violent thought or fantasy and violent action. How many people are there “out there” like this story’s narrator? People who just barely hold it together in their lives? It’s an unsettling question to ponder, but through it all, I found Gaitskill’s treatment of this difficult subject matter quite masterful, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

This story may be read online at

Or, listen to this story (read by Jennifer Egan) at

Or, better yet, watch the author herself reading it at an appearance at Rutgers University:

I also found an interview with the author in the New Yorker to be very interesting:
I’ll share one quotation here:

“It’s one thing to entertain an idea, even to feel it physically, quite another to act on it. Our culture encourages people to entertain these feelings; I realize that this is old-fashioned of me, but I sometimes consider that a sign of decadence, playing with something that shouldn’t be played with. At the same time, it is an attempt to sort something out, to grapple with the reality of these feelings. In this country, apparently normal family men joined lynch mobs, and normal communities went along with it; we all know what happened in Rwanda and Bosnia. Of course, we want to understand this, or to cope with it somehow, because it’s frightening.”

Gaitskill’s “contributors note” in the back of the Best Short Stories of 2012 collection:

“I wrote “The Other Place” for a very simple reason. I was afraid. I was living alone in a flimsy fishbowl house on a college campus that, as far as I was concerned, was a pervert magnet. The climactic scene of the story came to me before I had any intention of writing a story; I think it appeared in my mind because I wanted to imagine killer and victim coming right up to the crucial moment and the both walking away unharmed. At some point after that, the story formed.”

What about you? Have you read anything by Mary Gaitskill? Any works you’d recommend I follow up this reading with?

(Below – from Wikipedia – author Mary Gaitskill)


Indian Summer – a novel by William Dean Howells


Ive always been fond of the term “Indian Summer – (both definitions, though only one applies to this book):
(From Merriam Webster)
1 : a period of warm or mild weather in late autumn or early winter
2 : a happy or flourishing period occurring toward the end of something

If you are like me (or at least like I was until several years ago) William Dean Howells may be one of the best/most renowned American authors you’ve never heard of. In addition to being a prolific writer, Howells was also good friend of Mark Twain and an esteemed editor of the Atlantic Monthly. I came to know of him a few years back when executing a “raid” on one of the local used paperback bookstores “Book World” on Indy’s east side when, as usual, I made a beeline for the “classics” rack.  I used do this once or twice a year, giving that section a chance between visits to recuperate from my last pillaging. I’m sure I have dozens of paperback classics in my library that came from those purchasing sorties.

On that particular visit, I procured a copy of Howells’ most popular novel, “The Rise of Silas Lapham.” Published in 1885, it’s a quintessential rags to riches story, and, like many who have never had riches, I was easily swept away by it. Since that reading, however, Howells had retreated to the borderlands of my memory, until I saw a post about Indian Summer at The Literary Sisters blog That post piqued my interest, as the main character of this book was somewhat relatable for me, being a middle-aged guy myself… 🙂

***Spoilers follow***

The middle-aged character in the book, Thomas Colville, experiences something of a mid-life crisis (in an era before that term had been invented). Colville has been scarred by a failed love affair in his youth and has never married. After he turns forty, he “returns to the scene of the crime” – or at least to the scene of that romance of his youth – and visits Florence, Italy. Who does he meet there but Lina Bowen, the best friend of his erstwhile object of affection. Mrs. Bowen is also widowed. Hmm…

A more trusting reader might assume that a romance would soon develop between these two. He MIGHT assume that until Colville meets Lina’s guest for the season in Florence, the young and beautiful Imogene Graham. Though nearly twice her age, Colville is won over by her charming youth and beauty. Indeed Imogene also becomes infatuated with this “droll” older man. It’s understandable, as Colville, is quite witty and comfortable in social circles. He holds his own with those younger than he – until (against his better judgment but in order to be closer to Imogene) he makes the mistake of agreeing to join in a dance, the Lancers(?), which he apparently used to know but has forgotten everything about it and makes a fool of himself:

“He walked round like a bear in a pen: he capered to and fro with futile absurdity; people poked him hither and thither; his progress was attended by rending noises from the trains over which he found his path.”

If you have to know the truth, I’ll have to admit that I found this experience somewhat relatable as well. 🙂 Somehow, though, his esteem in the eyes of the young Imogene survives this bump in the road and romance progresses. Colville is also very conscious of the awkwardness of their situation, given his past “history” with the older Mrs. Bowen. As you might expect, this new romance does not quite succeed. I was kind of rooting for him (gee, I wonder why… 🙂 ) too, but the ending of the book was hopeful if somewhat bittersweet. His romance with Imogene is looked back upon without ill-feeling as “…a thing that happened, but one would rather it had not happened.”

I’m glad I read this one and look forward to seeking out other works by Howells (below) in my future reading. What about you? What have you read by William Dean Howells?


(Below Howells also had a nice house in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1870’s)


Deal Me In – Week 22 Wrap Up


It was a busy week for the DMI2014 group! Below are links to the nine stories (and counting!) our group has blogged about since the last update. Happy reading!

JamesReadsBooks posted about Tobias Wolff’s “The Other Miller” and Grace Paley’s “In this country, But in Another Language, My Aunt Refuses to Marry the Men Everyone Wants Her To.” (That second title’s a mouthful, eh?)

Dale read George MacDonald’s “The Gifts of the Child Christ”

Katherine Read Dave Wolverton’s “In the Teeth of Glory” and links to another card trick video you don’t want to miss!

I went back to Mother Russia for Alexander Kuprin’s “The Outrage – A True Story”

Candiss and Returning Reader are both in “catch-up mode” and are sharing several stories this week. Candiss’s will all be in one post at starting with O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief

Returning Reader’s stories are as follows:
The Vladimir Nabokov classic, “Signs and Symbols

Aminatta Forna’s Hayward’s Heath”

And Abdulrazak Gurnah’s “Cages”

There. That should keep you busy for awhile! :-). As always try to take a moment to visit/comment/like the blog posts of your fellow DMI participants as you see fit.

And what about you other readers who are not “officially” part of the Deal Me In Short Story reading challenge? Did you discover any new stories this week that you’d like to recommend? We’d love to hear about them… 🙂

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